Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Information Studies

First Advisor

Michael Zimmer

Committee Members

Charles Ess, Nadine Kozak, Grace Chikoto, Maria Haigh


Frame Analysis, Information Policy, Online Content Regulation, Science and Technology Studies


In an effort to control access to certain online content, the U.S. Congress has repeatedly mandated the use of powerful regulatory technologies such as Domain Name System blocking, Internet Service Provider filtering, age verification systems, and commercial filtering software. The application of these enforcement mechanisms may have serious implications for constitutional rights, individual freedom, and autonomy. This research will show that policies including the Communications Decency Act, the Child Online Protection Act, the Children's Internet Protection Act, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the PROTECT Intellectual Property Act all have the potential to negatively impact these rights. Although the motivations for these policies differ, each requires the use of technologies that legislators have often portrayed as instrumentally useful tools. The primary question at the core of this project is to ask how Congress may have misunderstood these mechanisms and may have failed to recognize the political and constitutional impact they can have. By understanding how lawmakers have portrayed technology, it will be possible to offer recommendations for injecting a more critical understanding of these regulatory technologies within the policy process. This understanding relies on core concepts from Science and Technology Studies.