Law, Society & State: Cybercrime

Quick Info
(3520C.03)  Seminar
M. Fawcett; Adjunct Professor
3 credit(s)  2 hour(s);
Seminar-based lectures and classroom discussion
Upper Year Research & Writing Requirement

Cybercrime is on the rise. In fact, today, it is everywhere. It dominates the news. Ransomware attacks. Data breaches. Online sexual violence offences. Digital hate speech. Even our social media is now flooded with conduct that is arguably criminal. Consider the mocking Johnny Depp/Amber Heard TikTok videos, for example.

The law is playing catch up in this area, as judges, practitioners, and policymakers struggle to come to grips with how to best deal with the problem. As a result, some of the most challenging and interesting developments in our legal system now arise in the context of crimes committed via the Internet and computers.

This seminar will explore the legal and policy challenges presented by our online digital world. No prior knowledge of the subject matter is required. We will start with the basics and then move toward an advanced study of cyber-related law and procedure, focusing on how it ought to apply in the digital world. We’ll ask: “What is cybercrime?” What types of conduct ought to be criminalized? We’ll explore some of the key variants of offences that come up time and again, such as hacking and phishing, ransomware, and data theft. We’ll do a deep dive on cryptocurrency. We’ll look at the jurisdictional challenges created by crimes that run across national borders. We’ll look at the ways in which cybercrime differs from traditional crimes and the challenges it poses for law enforcement. And perhaps most importantly, we will devote a significant amount of time to exploring how the criminal law and policy concepts that you learned about in first year might be adapted to apply in the cyber context. Examples include: considering our expectations of privacy in the digital age; the application of traditional search and seizure concepts to online police work such as taking over Gmail accounts or acquiring a target’s Facebook messages; the right against self-incrimination and right to counsel when it comes to compelling passwords or forced biometric scans; regulating online speech; prohibiting ransom payments; allowing officers to pose online as sex trafficking victims to capture would-be online predators; monitoring and criminalizing the online distribution of intimate images; etc. In short: We’ll have a broad, discussion-based seminar in which we chat about the unique problems posed by this emerging area of the law and how society might choose to deal with them.