Normative Regulation of the Digital World (IUF Research Project)


As a new transnational territory of the law, the digital world has infatuated a multitude of public and private actors today, regardless of whether they pursue not-for-profit or for-profit goals. Omnipresent in social and economic life, digital technology raises many expectations, whether it is as: a lever of economic growth, a tool for governmental transparency and relationships between the administration and its citizens, a medium for many major applications -- in particular in the field of health or, finally, a favored means of communication connecting individuals all around the world.

Nevertheless, this new space deserves deep thought with respect to the means of its normative regulation, still to be built. If specific legal rules have been adopted in order to govern the changes brought about by information and communication technologies, they are now insufficient to cope with the current and future potentials for connected things generating a massive collection of digital data. Their algorithmic processing will increase, at the risk of a governance by the numbers. Thus, the central question is what kind of democracy we want to build in this informational mass, control of which is escaping citizens. It is thus urgent to analyze the already-adopted legal rules, in particular in Europe and in North America, and to discover any inadequacies that they may present. In particular, it is essential to establish limits and responsibilities faced with a technology, the practices of which could partially escape man’s control or harm society’s weakest individuals.

Furthermore, a set of public and private actors, producers of legal rules, redistributes the traditional roles of each of them. Obviously, the normative regulation of the digital word must be thought out by summoning up social sciences other than the law.

Looking forward to a better normative regulation at the world level, this program intends to encompass the contents of the legal rules and their forms, their quality and methods of adoption, as well as their makers. Thought on legal theory will serve as a basis for a more technical study of this specific area of law, which will in turn be enriched by an interdisciplinary analysis. This study should logically be done on a global scale, which seems too ambitious. In order to allow for a completion of the research at the end of a five-year period, its scope will be limited to a study of the European law of the European Union and its member states, together with a comparison of this law with North American law (Canada and United States). Today, these two geographical territories are predominant in the production of digital legal rules, and they often diverge in their viewpoints.

The objectives of the research project will be triple: first, it will be a question of listing the norms of digital regulation in Europe and in North America and of leading a comparative study on their strengths and weaknesses. Then, it will be a question of the impact of algorithmic processing of data in the preparation of the law, as well as on the influence of the various legal-rule makers and their interrelations, in the light of other social sciences. Finally, the objective will be to contribute to present thought leading to an improvement in normative regulation of the digital space, at the national, European and international levels.

This project requires major fieldwork at the individual level in order to gain a good understanding of the norms applicable to the digital world in Europe and Northern America, as well as a direct access to the academic legal analysis of these two geographic areas. To complete the work, long term visiting scholar stays with specialized research centers will be necessary. The digital world being complex, recent, and in perpetual evolution, it must therefore be studied through collective and interdisciplinary research, which will manifest itself through the organization of workshops and doctoral sessions, as well as the direction of research works, among which the proceedings of project-organized scientific events.

This content has been updated on 15 October 2018 at 4 h 16 min.