Federal Court rules in favor of UMSI professor in discrimination research case

By | April 8, 2020

A federal court has cleared the way for academic researchers, computer scientists, and journalists to continue work that investigates online company practices for racial, gender or other discrimination. The ruling means that those who research online companies no longer have to fear prosecution for the work they do to hold tech companies accountable for their practices, said Christian Sandvig, professor of information and director of the U-M Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing

The lawsuit, filed against the Department of Justice by the American Civil Liberties Union, challenged a provision in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that made it a crime for researchers to set up false accounts to check for hidden discriminatory practices. The lawsuit was filed on Sandvig’s behalf as a private citizen, not as a representative of U-M, but the outcome has implications for researchers, computer scientists and journalists across the U.S. who were threatened with legal repercussions for violating a website’s terms of service.