Sunstein skewered over “infiltration” proposal


Cass Sunstein

Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein ’78, now head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), is once again under fire for one of his academic papers. The prolific professor  was attacked during his confirmation hearings over an academic argument that appeared to propose that humans litigate on behalf of animals. Critics are now alarmed by a paper Sunstein wrote with Prof. Adrian Vermeule ’93 in 2008 titled “Conspiracy Theories” (available for download on SSRN).

Civil liberties blogger Glenn Greenwald of warns that the paper proposes that government agents “cognitively infiltrate” websites of activists who spread “false conspiracy theories” against the government, with the goal of increasing citizens’ faith in government by decreasing the number of untrue rumors circulating about state activities. The paper goes on to reject an outright “ban” on conspiracy theories or tax on their propagators but notes that such actions could “have a place under imaginable conditions”.

As head of OIRA, part of Sunstein’s authority includes “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.”