For years, about 7 now, I’ve always told anyone who cares to listen that I got my research topic from a classmate ( Hi Kedira - not his actual real name lol! :))
I knew I was going to do a research (dissertation) paper because I’d always known I was gonna do an LLM afterward. I also knew without a doubt that it was going to be on Intellectual Property and Information Technology and the topic Kedira gave me was right in the middle of that. Intermediary Liability for Internet Service Providers for Copyright Infringement. Kenya was just introducing the first intermediary liability provisions under the Copyright Act at the time through the Kenya Copyright Board (where I worked and loved, and still do! #TeamKECOBO).
And that started my journey on Intermediary Liability. Fast forward to my fellowship time at ARTICLE 19 where I spent two years assessing the liability provisions of technology service providers at the technical layer of the Domain Name System but mirroring that against the impact it has on Freedom of Expression. Really interesting work!
So it is without a doubt, full circle, that in my current role at RSM, I elected to keep on it but through a different lens - with more life experience; geographically, academically, and professionally.
So what am I working on?
Mapping all of Sub-Saharan Africa’s (East/West/Southern and Central Africa - post for another day on nomenclature) laws, regulations, policies, instrument proposals, and regulator and policymaker sentiments on Intermediary Liability.
I am literally undertaking a legal review, legal instrument by instrument analyzing the provisions of each country’s law and taking note of whether they have one of the two things that US Section 230 grants platforms; First, the protection from liability for actions undertaken on their platforms by third parties and secondly, a 'super power' to determine and decide what content stays up/gets taken down on their platforms depending on their rules.
Here's a snippet of Section 230
(c) Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
(1)Treatment of publisher or speaker No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
(2) Civil liability No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or (B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).
Currently at the data collection stage and it has been really interesting to observe the findings I am coming across so far.
First, contrary to what my preconceived perceptions and notions were, the data I’m collecting is telling of a different story - which I do guess is the point of research - but the fact that my preliminary findings are different from my preconceived notions is pretty exciting.
Secondly, having the right mentors, peers and advisors are so important. I did know how important it was to be in the right place but over the past few months, I’ve had conversations with impeccably talented people in this field with fantastic insights and input that I could not have gotten anywhere. I absolutely love being at RSM/BKC/Harvard, can you tell? :)
Lastly, it took a dear mentor for me to realize that I was literally in a new industry, which has its own norms, nuances, hierarchy, and mode of operation. Academia, Private Sector (or Industry as they call it in the US), Private Practice, and Public Sector each have their own ways as does any field of practice and I did have to learn that. I still am, getting there day by day, so send good vibes.
I had wanted to get this for a really long time and I finally did.
Though it’s pretty pricey, Masterclass is the life-learning platform you didn’t know you needed.
So I’ve been pulled into The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power watch party and my oh my! It’s so good! Granted, minus the dramatic, deathly, and violent scenes but most surprisingly has actually been the quotes. The writing is immaculately done and the language is beautifully expressed.