The Offensive Internet edited by Saul Levmore and Martha C Nussbaum: review – a timely study from the US looks at the questions arising from privacy and a lawless internet

Once upon a more hopeful time, technology provided a suddenly empowering means of communication which united friends, families and communities of scholars across the world, blew away clouds of secrecy, toppled autocratic governments (and many other good things). The internet was free, and offered freedom itself; a wonderful tool. And then the law – or, more accurately, lawyers – began to try to catch up.Enter a formidable core team of experts from the Chicago University law school, with guest players from Harvard, Columbia, Washington, Texas and Yale, all anxious to examine whether too much freedom damages psyches (as well as legal fee systems). It’s a fascinating task. We know that spreading paedophilia on the net is like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Why shouldn’t we be equally repulsed when false rumour spreads across Generation Google and blights an innocent life; when the “gender-objectification” of women (and their “huge fake titties”) is dirty bathwater on the worldwide web; when misogyny and anonymity are the digital dishes of every day; when privacy itself lies in pawn to the click of a button?

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