Conference Will Address Technology’s Threat to Democracy

Jack Balkin Will Deliver Keynote Address
Digital Democracy, Friday, Jan. 25
January 11, 2019

As the reach of big data, tech companies and cyber warfare expands, a conference at the University of Virginia School of Law on Jan. 25 will examine how technology is threatening democratic institutions and what the law is doing about it.

“Digital Democracy: The Threat and Promise of Technology for Democratic Institutions” features a lineup of tech company insiders, government experts and academics on the frontlines of the issue, including keynote speaker Jack M. Balkin, a Yale Law School professor who founded and directs the Yale Information Society Project. 

The event, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Caplin Pavilion, is sponsored by the Center for Democracy & Technology and the student-run Law, Innovation, Security & Technology, with support from several other Law School student organizations, including the Virginia Law Review. The conference kicks off with an introduction by Dean Risa Goluboff.

Professor Ashley Deeks, who is writing the forward for the companion Virginia Law Review symposium issue, said the conference’s topic is “incredibly timely.”

“Our government, foreign allies, U.S. companies and we as citizens are all wrestling mightily with how to manage the changes that advanced technology has brought to every corner of society,” Deeks said. “The conference offers an opportunity for us to ask what kinds of changes we want to see in how these technologies are developed and used — and to assess the ways in which law can play a role in bringing about those changes.”

Balkin, who founded and edits the group blog Balkanization, is a constitutional law and First Amendment scholar who also directs the Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression, and the Knight Law and Media Program at Yale. Balkin’s books include “Living Originalism,” “Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World,” “The Constitution in 2020” (with Reva Siegel), and “Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking.” Balkin will speak at 11:30 a.m.

Panel topics include trustbusting in the internet age, an author panel focused on technology, the potential impact of big data to reinforce social and racial biases, and national security and the information-industrial complex.

Representatives from Amazon, Uber, the CIA, the ACLU, Lawfare, Mozilla, The Washington Post, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Color of Change, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and several law schools are scheduled to speak at the event. The conference will conclude with a networking reception.



Caplin Pavilion

8:30-9:30 a.m.

Registration and Breakfast

9:30-10 a.m.


Dean Risa Goluboff, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, Professor of History, University of Virginia School of Law

10-11:15 a.m.

Trustbusting in the Internet Age

Moderator: Thomas Nachbar, Professor, University of Virginia School of Law; Senior Fellow, Center for National Security Law

  • Merritt Baer, Principal Security Architect for Global Accounts, Amazon Web Services
  • Babette Boliek, Professor of Law, Pepperdine School of Law
  • Rafi Martina ’10, Senior Policy Advisor, Sen. Mark Warner
  • Chris Riley, Director, Public Policy, Mozilla

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Keynote Address

Introduction: Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06, David H. Ibbeken '71 Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment, Director of the Yale Information Society Project, Director of the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression, Yale Law School

12:30-1 p.m.


1-2:15 p.m.

Author Panel

Moderators: Michael Weisbuch ’19, Jacob Ruby ’19, University of Virginia School of Law

  • Adam Gershowitz ’01, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, Professor of Law, William & Mary Law School
  • Sarah Haan, Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law
  • Katelyn Ringrose, Notre Dame Law School Class of 2019
  • Jacob Rush ’20, University of Virginia School of Law

2:30-3:45 p.m.

Does Big Brother See Color?

Moderator: Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project

  • Brandi Collins, Senior Campaign Director, Media, Democracy & Economic Justice, Color of Change
  • Natasha Duarte, Policy Analyst, Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Margaret Hu, Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law
  • Jeramie Scott, National Security Counsel, Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Andrew Selbst, Postdoctoral Scholar, Data & Society; Visiting Fellow, Yale Law School Information Society Project

4-5:15 p.m.

Information-Industrial Complex

Moderator: Ellen Nakashima, National Security Reporter, The Washington Post

  • Cliff Chen, Assistant General Counsel, CIA
  • Matt Olsen, Chief Trust and Security Officer, Uber
  • Peter Swire, Professor of Law and Ethics, Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business; Associate Director for Policy, Georgia Tech Institute for Information Security and Privacy
  • Ben Wittes, Editor-in-Chief, Lawfare

5:15-5:30 p.m.

Closing Remarks

5:30-7:30 p.m.


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