Scott Skinner-Thompson, ‘Agonistic Privacy and Equitable Democracy’

Privacy is paramount to ensuring that the public sphere is an equitable, heterogeneous environment where ideas can be contested, democracy realized, and society enhanced. As it stands, both the physical public square and the digital public sphere are characterized by unequal access, harassment, surveillance, and violence. The harms originating in each context rebound and intensify as the law often fails to appreciate the interconnectedness between digital and physical space. This cycle harms individuals, particularly those who belong to marginalized groups. But it also imposes group harms, pushing and erasing entire segments of society from the hegemonic public sphere, contributing to homogeneity of identities in public. This in turn creates societal-level harms to democracy including conformity of ideas within the dominant public sphere, with marginalized groups effectively segregated from that space, contributing to consequent political polarization.

As I argue in this Essay, legal privacy protections – which enable individuals to control their visibility within public space – play a vital role in disrupting this subordinating, anti-democratic process and should be at the forefront of efforts to reform the operation of both digital and physical public space …

Skinner-Thompson, Scott, Agonistic Privacy and Equitable Democracy (July 27, 2021). Yale Law Journal Forum (in collaboration with the Information Society Project and Knight Foundation).

First posted 2021-08-09 16:00:51

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