2023 Cleary Writing Competition Winner Announced

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy is pleased to announce the first-place winner of the annual James R. Cleary Prize for the best student-published scholarly articles on media law and policy.  The award comes with a $1,000 cash prize.

Rohan Grover

Rohan Grover

This year’s winner is Rohan Grover, a doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. His article is titled “Contingent Connectivity: Internet Shutdowns and the Infrastructural Precarity of Digital Citizenship.” While previous research has largely interpreted Internet shutdowns as curtailments of freedom of expression, this article evaluates the implications for citizenship itself by bringing together scholarship on digital governance, science and technology studies (STS) approaches to Internet governance, and postcolonial and decolonial theory. Notably, this article raises the stakes for critical analysis of how authoritarian states approach Internet policy to bridge digital divides—and for evaluating quality and contingency of connectivity experienced by marginalized and peripheral communities.

Rohan’s research explores the politics of technology policy. Specifically, his dissertation project examines the sociotechnical construction of “user consent” in the emerging privacy tech industry, which develops standards for data privacy and, increasingly, AI governance. His ethnographic research draws on science and technology studies, critical data studies, critical policy studies, and feminist and queer analysis of consent to unpack the politics of data governance and privacy law in action.

Rohan’s work has been published in New Media &  SocietyPolitical CommunicationTelecommunications PolicyInformation, Communication & SocietyThe Information Society; the Journal of Information Policy; and in conference proceedings for the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) and the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). His research has been supported by funding from the National Science Foundation as well as academic associations across disciplines such as the International Communication Association (ICA), the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), and the American Political Science Association (APSA). His work has also been recognized with two Top Student Paper Awards at ICA.

Prior to pursuing a PhD, Rohan worked as a product manager and data strategist at digital media and advocacy organizations such as HuffPost, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, Upworthy, and Jhatkaa.org. He received an MA in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University and a BS in Economics with a minor in Asian American studies from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.


2024 Hargrove Colloquium: Media Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

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On April 16, 2024, the Center for Media Law and Policy will be hosting the 2024 Hargrove Colloquium.  The topic for this year’s colloquium is Media Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Come hear from David McCraw, deputy general counsel at The New York Times Co. and author of the book Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts, as well as Ruth Okediji from Harvard Law School, who served as a member of the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology and Policy Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era.

Our distinguished panel of experts will examine efforts at the federal and state level to prevent potential abuse of AI and will delve into the impact of generative AI on critical areas of media law, offering insights and sparking thought-provoking discussion. Key areas of focus will include:

  • Copyright Law: Who owns the creative output generated by AI? What is the impact on copyright holders when their work is used in training AI systems? How will existing copyright frameworks adapt to accommodate generative AI?
  • Defamation and Tort Law: Who, if anyone, can be held liable for harmful or defamatory content that AI generates? What are the legal implications for users and platforms employing AI-powered algorithms to curate and publish information?
  • Political Communication: How is AI being used in political campaigns and advertising? What are the potential risks and safeguards around AI-powered misinformation and voter manipulation?
  • Journalism: How is AI transforming the news industry? What are the legal and ethical considerations surrounding AI-generated news? How can journalists leverage AI while upholding journalistic integrity?

The Colloquium will take place at 7:00 PM at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center at the University of North Carolina and is free and open to the public. Visitor parking is available in the Rams Head Parking Deck.

You can read more about the colloquium on our event page.


The James R. Cleary Prize for Student Media Law and Policy Research in 2023

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy is now accepting submissions for the James R. Cleary Prize for student media law and policy research published in 2023. The annual award competition, which highlights the best student-authored scholarly articles on media law and policy related topics, honors the legacy of James R. Cleary, an attorney who practiced for 56 years in Huntsville, Ala.  He was particularly interested in the communications field and media law issues.  Cleary’s daughter, Johanna Cleary, is a 2004 Ph.D. graduate of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

The prize competition is open to all college and university students. Up to three winners will be selected, with a first prize of $1,000, a second prize of $500, and a third prize of $250. The prizes will be awarded to the authors of published papers that most creatively and convincingly propose solutions to significant problems in the field of media law and policy.  We define this subject matter broadly, including copyright, trademark, social media regulation, and First Amendment speech and press issues. All methodologies are welcome.

The deadline for submission is April 30, 2024.


  1. The author of the submitted publication must have been enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate degree-granting program in the United States at the time the article was accepted for publication. This includes, but is not limited to, students enrolled in M.A. and Ph.D. programs, law school (including J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. candidates), and other professional schools (including M.B.A. candidates).
  2. The submitted paper must have been published in a law review or peer-reviewed journal during the 2023 calendar year.
  3. Each student may submit only one entry.
  4. Jointly authored papers are eligible, provided all authors meet the eligibility requirements for the competition. If a winning paper has more than one author, the prize will be split equally among the co-authors. No work with a faculty co-author will be considered.
  5. Each entry must be the original work of the listed author(s). The author(s) must perform all of the key tasks of identifying the topic, researching it, analyzing it, formulating positions and arguments, and writing and revising the paper.
  6. Papers will be evaluated based on a number of factors, including thoroughness of research and analysis, relevance to the competition topic, relevance to current legal and/ or public policy debates, originality of thought, and clarity of expression.
  7. The prize will be monetary. Winners will be required to submit a completed W-9, affidavit of eligibility, tax acknowledgment and liability release for tax purposes as a condition of receiving the cash prize.
  8. In the unlikely event that entries are of insufficient quality to merit an award, the Center for Media Law and Policy reserves the right not to award some or all of the prizes.

Submission Process

  • All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 30, 2024.
  • Entries must be sent via email to medialaw[at]unc.edu with the following in the subject line: “James R. Cleary Prize Submission: [Name of Author]”
  • Papers should be submitted in Portable Document Format (.pdf).
  • Entries MUST include a signed cover sheet that may be downloaded from the Center for Media Law Policy’s website here.

A review committee comprised of faculty and affiliates from the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy will review the submissions and determine the winning paper(s). The decisions of the committee are final. Winners will be notified and final results will appear on the Center’s website in late spring. Due to the large number of expected entries, the Center cannot contact all non-winning entrants.

For more information, please visit our Cleary Competition page.


Exciting Summer 2023 Job Opportunities for Students on the Media Law Jobs Board!

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy offers many resources to law students, including the Media Law Jobs Board. The jobs board is updated regularly with full-time jobs, fellowships, post-docs, and seasonal internships in media law and a variety of related fields such as journalism, privacy, intellectual property, technology, and business affairs. 

There are a number of great summer media law opportunities for law students interested in litigation, digital civil rights, First Amendment issues, and other exciting areas of media law! If you’ve already nailed down your summer plans, this list may help you decide where to apply next summer or after graduation.

Students who accept unpaid or low-paying summer internships in the fields of media law or media policy may be eligible for a summer grant from the Center—check back soon for information about how to apply for summer funding.

Below are some of the highlights of the summer jobs listed on the jobs board. Please remember that you will need to contact these employers directly; we simply post the jobs and are not responsible for hiring

  • First Amendment Internship at the Center for Investigative Reporting: The Center for Investigative Reporting is currently accepting applications for a First Amendment Intern in CIR’s legal department. The intern will work closely with in house and outside counsel to assist with: researching discrete issues for freedom-of-information and court-access cases; drafting, reviewing, and editing appeal letters for public records requests; providing feedback on amicus briefs; researching intellectual property issues and assisting with relevant client letters; and researching for a law review article involving First Amendment issues and the right of access.  
  • Cyberlaw Clinic Intern at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society: Harvard Law School‘s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, provides high-quality, pro-bono legal services. Summer legal interns work on all aspects of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s caseload and, like Fall and Spring semester students, take the lead on the projects they join, supported by the Clinic staff. Although Clinic projects vary from summer to summer, they often include substantive law related to the First Amendment, computer security, digital privacy, intellectual property, civic innovation, emerging technologies such as AI, human rights, reproductive justice and media and the arts.
  • Summer Legal Intern–Media and Free Speech at Dow Jones: Dow Jones & Company, Inc. is soliciting applications for its Media Law and First Amendment Internship. The position is hybrid and the intern will join Dow Jones’s legal department in its New York City offices for a few days each week, for ten weeks in the summer of 2023. Working primarily with Dow Jones’s litigation and press attorneys, the intern will focus on matters affecting publication, access to information, newsgathering, and domestic and international free-speech laws.
  • Media Freedom and Information Access Fellow at Yale Law School: The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic is a law student clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression. It provides pro bono legal services to journalists and news organizations, pursues impact litigation, and develops policy initiatives in support of the Clinic’s mission. The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic invites applications for summer fellow positions. The summer fellows will assist in all aspects of the Clinic’s ongoing litigation and other activities.

And, of course, current law students should also reach out to their school’s career offices. UNC students can contact the Career Development Office through My Carolina Law.

Don’t forget to check the board regularly for new summer and post-grad opportunities!


First Amendment Limits on State Laws Targeting Election Misinformation

At long last, the article Evan Ringel and I wrote on First Amendment Limits on State Laws Targeting Election Misinformation has finally been published in the First Amendment Law Review.  The piece expands on a whitepaper we wrote in 2021 that cataloged state efforts to regulate election-related speech (available on SSRN).

I’ve pasted the abstract below, but if you want to read it in bite size chunks, I will be posting a series of excerpts at the Volokh Conspiracy this week.  The first post just went up today!

Here is the abstract:

The last two presidential election cycles have brought increased attention to the extent of misinformation – and outright lies – peddled by political candidates, their surrogates, and others who seek to influence election outcomes. Given the ubiquity of this speech, especially online, one might assume that there are no laws against lying in politics. It turns out that the opposite is true. Although the federal government has largely stayed out of regulating the content of election-related speech, the states have been surprisingly active in passing laws that prohibit false statements associated with elections.

Prompted by concern about the impact of misinformation on the American electorate, we set out to assess the extent to which existing state and federal laws limit election misinformation and the prospect that these laws will survive First Amendment scrutiny. In doing so, we reviewed more than 125 state statutes that regulate the content of election-related speech, ranging from statutes that prohibit false and misleading factual statements about candidates to laws that indirectly regulate election-related speech by prohibiting fraud and intimidation concerning elections.

What we found is that state statutes regulating election misinformation vary widely in the types of speech they target and the level of fault they require, with many statutes suffering from serious constitutional deficiencies. Statutes that target defamatory speech or speech that harms the election process, is fraudulent, or that intimidates voters are likely to be permissible, while statutes that target other types of speech that have not traditionally been subject to government restriction, such as statutes that target merely derogatory speech, will face an uphill battle in demonstrating that they are constitutional. Furthermore, statutes that impose liability without regard to the speaker’s knowledge of falsity or intent to interfere with an election are especially problematic.

Political speech has long been viewed as residing at the core of the First Amendment’s protections for speech. Yet it has become increasingly clear that lies and other forms of misinformation associated with elections are corrosive to democracy. The challenge, of course, is in developing regulatory regimes that advance the interest in free and fair elections while at the same time ensuring that debate on public issues remains uninhibited, robust, and wide-open. This is no easy task. Regardless of whether individual statutes survive First Amendment scrutiny, it is useful to understand the breadth and depth of state attempts to deal with lies, misinformation, intimidation, and fraud in elections. As we point out, any legislative approach to combatting election misinformation must be part of a broader societal effort to reduce the prevalence of misinformation generally and to mitigate the harms that such speech creates.

You can read the full version of the article here.