A student asked me today what I currently think are the most interesting First Amendment/technology law issues. I think the most interesting (and disturbing) cases arise from the USAPA (a better name for the Patriot Act) prohibitions on giving technical and expert assistance to terrorists. This has a big impact on freedom of speech and association, case as you can see in this prosecution. The jury subsequently acquitted this man.

I think another really interesting First Amendment/tech issue is the freedom to disclose technological information that could be used by terrorists or criminals. Is technological information dangerous or is it something that people/scientists need to both talk about and learn about? Download an interesting study of the issue here. See also an article by Beryl Howell in “Legal Times” talking about rules protecting critical infrastructure information from public disclosure, which is discussed here, but I couldn’t find it on line.

Finally, there’s the question of the right of the public to know, and to take advantage of communications technologies in disseminating important information. The government has been pulling information off of public websites and withholding rather than disclosing discretionary information under the Freedom of Information Act. People are not benefiting from the communications abilities of new technologies. On the other hand, as with putting Pacer records on line, there is a tension between speech and privacy that is greatly exacerbated by technology.