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Gautam Hans - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Gautam Hans Gautam Hans

Associate Clinical Professor of Law | Vanderbilt University


Expert in first amendment and telecommunications law, including social media. Directs Vanderbilt's First Amendment law clinic.






Free speech expert: Many don't truly understand First Amendment Investigative Journalism Panel Why Washington Won't Work Ask an Expert: How do social media companies moderate user content?



Gautam Hans joined Vanderbilt’s law faculty in summer 2018 to launch a legal clinic focused on First Amendment issues and protections funded by a grant from the Stanton Foundation. His work and scholarship examine how individuals and organizations grapple with the complex legal and policy issues involved with technology and civil liberties. Hans previously served as a Clinical Fellow at the University of Michigan Law School, where he focused on intellectual property and technology law.

Prior to returning to academia, Hans served as policy counsel and director at the Center for Democracy and Technology in San Francisco, where he worked on a range of technology law and policy issues including speech, privacy and surveillance. He joined CDT, based in Washington, D.C., in 2012 as the Ron Plesser Fellow, focusing on privacy issues, after earning both his J.D., cum laude, and his master’s in information at the University of Michigan.

Hans is a frequent speaker on civil liberties and intellectual property. His work has appeared in a range of journals, newspapers, and online media, and has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court (in dissent). While earning his graduate degrees at the University of Michigan, Professor Hans was editor-in-chief of the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review and served as a student-attorney in the Entrepreneurship Clinic and the Michigan Clinical Law Program. Before entering graduate school, he was an editorial assistant in the Knopf Group of Random House Inc.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Civil Liberties

Social Media

First Amendment

Privacy and Survelliance

Law and Technology

Freedom of speech

Intellectual Property

Telecommunications Law

Education (3)

University of Michigan Law School: J.D., Law 2012

University of Michigan School of Information: M.S., Information 2012

Columbia University: B.A., English and Comparative Literature 2006

Affiliations (2)

  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Berkley Center for Technology

Selected Media Appearances (10)

EXPLAINER: Congress asks tech companies for Jan. 6 records

AP News  online


“It’s as much about the law as it is about the optics,” says G.S. Hans, a law professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in First Amendment law and technology policy. He says the companies are likely “talking about this from the general counsel’s office but also from their lobbying arms, because I think it’s both things at once.”

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Online speech shield under fire as Trump Facebook ban stays

AP News  online


Gautam Hans, a technology law and free-speech expert and professor at Vanderbilt University, said he finds the board to be “a bit of a sideshow from the larger policy and social questions that we have about these companies.”

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‘They’re playing chicken’: inside Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook’s feud

The Guardian  online


Facebook has described the update as an attack on small businesses that rely on its advertising models – even releasing a number of television commercials on the matter – while Apple has positioned itself as a privacy savior. Neither of those narratives is exactly accurate, said Gautam Hans, an intellectual property and privacy law professor at Vanderbilt University.

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A Supreme Court Justice weighs in on Section 230: Here's what it means

CNET  online


"There's a lot of appetite for legislative reform for 230," said Gautam Hans, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in First Amendment law and Section 230. "The opinion itself calls into question some of the current provisions ... which I think means that some legislators will use that to say look, 'We have a Supreme Court Justice who thinks we have some problems here. Why don't we go in and try to fix that?'"

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Facebook and Twitter suspending Trump won’t fix the problem, experts say

Fortune  online


Facebook, Twitter, and streaming-service Twitch all suspended President Trump's accounts within the past day for inciting violence, marking the first time the social media companies have blocked him, even if only temporarily, from their services. But experts say the bans won’t prevent Trump from inciting violence in the future. “The imminent problems [on these services] are continuing to rise,” said Gautam Hans, director of Vanderbilt University's Stanton Foundation First Amendment Clinic. “I don’t think this is going away.”

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Big Tech Draws Record Revenue, Harsh Criticism With Election Ads

Bloomberg  online


The ban didn’t actually keep campaigns from running ads during that period, only from introducing new ads that could introduce misleading messaging into the campaign’s final days. The logic of the move was lost on Gautam Hans, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School focused on the First Amendment. “If we’re worried about political ads and their effect on voting, voting is well underway,” he said, noting the wave of early voting that began before the moratorium took effect.

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Facebook, Twitter Brace for Possible Election-Night Chaos

Bloomberg  online


Labels linking to additional information puts the onus on Facebook users to do the actual fact-checking, as the tags themselves don’t necessarily say outright that a post is wrong, said Gautam Hans, a First Amendment law professor at Vanderbilt Law School. “It’s just more information for people to parse through,” Hans said, “and people are notoriously bad at doing that.”

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Justice Department sends its Section 230 rewrite to Congress

Ars Technica  online


The proposal is not far off the FCC's "must-carry" rules for broadcasters, said Gautam Hans, a professor of law at Vanderbilt University and director of the Stanton Foundation First Amendment Clinic. "My biggest concern is that it seems to be proscribing the platform's ability to take down content," Hans added. "In effect, this is attempting to create 'must carry' obligations for certain kinds of speech." Hans added that the proposal amounts to "hypocrisy" on the part of conservatives, as compared to the Fairness Doctrine getting axed during the Reagan administration.

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NRA and Los Angeles Prepare for Courtroom Showdown Over New Law

Bloomberg  online


G.S. Hans, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who isn’t involved in the case, said the lawsuit may be premature because the NRA can’t yet show it’s been harmed. A better case may be brought by a company that believes it was denied a contract because of ties to the group, he said, but even that may prove to be a tough sell. “It’s going to be hard to argue you have a First Amendment right to a government contract,” he said.

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Vanderbilt adds law professors, First Amendment clinic

Nashville Post  online


“We’re seeing many free speech issues arise these days, and the clinic will represent low-income individuals and organizations facing such issues,” Hans said in a release. “I’m particularly interested in representing vulnerable populations who may need help in asserting their speech and assembly rights, as I believe those clients will help our students see how the First Amendment intersects with other areas of the law.”

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Selected Articles (2)

Curing Administrative Search Decay

Boston University Journal of Science & Technology Law

G.S. Hans

2018 "The entry of technology companies like Uber and Airbnb into highly regulated markets such as transportation and housing means that more data on individuals than ever is being transferred from private companies to the government, under the guise of regulatory oversight."

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Public Performance Rights in the Digital Age: Fixing the Licensing Problem

Vanderbilt University - Law School; Center for Democracy and Technology

Gautam Hans

2017 "As individuals and business owners in the United States use devices to store, organize, and listen to music, they inevitably run up against the boundaries of U.S. copyright law. In general, these laws affect businesses more often than private individuals, who can listen to the latest hit single on their iPod or play music to a large audience in their home without running afoul of copyright law, presuming that the audience is composed of family members and social acquaintances."

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