Technology at Society's Frontier: Framing the Big Legal Issues

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PLEASE NOTE: At this time we have decided to postpone the conference to a later date due to the situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). 

March 6, 2020

As technology advances, can the law keep pace? Technology today raises many important legal questions. Should we use antitrust law to reign in tech platforms? How do we protect and balance free speech interests in a digital world? What can we learn from efforts to regulate cryptocurrencies? Rather than regulate in reaction to technology advancements, can law play a more proactive role to ensure that products and platforms respect human rights and democratic principles and comply with the law by design and default? Join us for a robust discussion about these topics and more.

This program is approved for 6.25 general CLE credit hours in the state of California.

Location: Northwestern University San Francisco
44 Montgomery, 44 Montgomery St - 18th floor, San Francisco, CA 94104

Conference Organizers: Daniel W. Linna Jr., Senior Lecturer and Director of Law and Technology Initiatives and Daniel B. Rodriguez, Harold Washington Professor of Law



8:00-8:40am: Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:40-8:50am: Welcome by James B. Speta, Vice Dean, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

8:50-9:00am: Remarks by Bill Ericson, Founding Partner, Wildcat Venture Partners

9:00-10:25am: Panel I: Antitrust and the New Tech Platforms
Moderator: James B. Speta, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Thomas Greene, U.S. Department of Justice
A. Douglas Melamed, Stanford Law School
Joshua D. Wright, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

Until quite recently, U.S. antitrust enforcers and courts found little of concern with the Internet platforms, even as they grew to dominate certain markets and even as five of them became the most valuable companies in the world. At the same time, European competition enforcers entered multiple billion-euro fines against Google and conducted investigations against other platforms. Today, both U.S. federal and state antitrust authorities are pursuing the platforms, and academics and Presidential candidates openly suggest the "break up" of these companies. This panel will discuss the antitrust analysis of Internet platforms, discussing the different approaches of U.S. and European competition law. The panel will also evaluate the current antitrust arguments concerning the platforms: should they be broken up or otherwise controlled through competition law. Finally, the panel will discuss the extent to which privacy concerns might overlap with -- or distract from -- competition law analysis.

10:25-10:45am: Break

10:45am-12:10pm Panel II: New Media and Regulating Information Platforms
Moderator: Daniel B. Rodriguez, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Derek Bambauer, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law
Paul Gowder, University of Iowa College of Law
John Villasenor, UCLA School of Law

The impact, intended and unintended, of new media, especially big social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, has influenced social behavior in myriad ways. Elections yes, but patterns of political behavior more generally. This is a well-observed phenomena. And the moral/ethical issues have been the subject of serious commentary and analysis. What has remained elusive, however, is the matter of appropriate legal regulation. The First Amendment stands as a bulwark, although in some ways a shibboleth. Beyond the principle of a robust marketplace of ideas, we are compelled to look anew at the ways in which the law does and can regulate the social media platforms. Short of a comprehensive framework for regulation, we begin in this panel with first order and second order principles, asking “how does the technology drive the questions about regulation and regulatory choice?” “What are the key considerations that underpin ambitious regulatory initiatives?” Or are these questions pointless? Should we ask, first, whether even to begin this conversation in earnest, given the arguably “private,” and socially fruitful, quality of modern social media?

12:10-12:40pm: Lunch Break

12:40-1:20pm: Keynote: The Hon. Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, California Supreme Court

1:30-2:55pm: Panel III: Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, & Regulation: Lessons Learned to Foster Innovation?
Moderator: John O. McGinnis, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Christopher Robins, Binance.US
Patrick D. Daugherty, Foley & Lardner LLP
Ksenia Sussman, BitOoda

Approximately 2 billion people lack access to banking. More lack access to credit and always-accessible, secure payment systems. Many assert that blockchain, Bitcoin, and other innovations could help solve these problems and enhance economic opportunities. Yet the blowback when Facebook announced Libra was, to many, all too predictable. Protectionism and a lack of law and regulation present significant obstacles to innovation. If we expect technologists to invest in solving grand challenges, how might lawmakers, and regulators take action to foster rather than impede innovation? What lessons can we learn from cryptocurrencies?

2:55-3:15pm: Break

3:15-4:40pm: Panel IV: Legal Ordering, Compliance, and the Rule of Law by Design and Default
Moderator: Daniel W. Linna Jr., Northwestern Pritzker School of Law & McCormick School of Engineering
Rochael Adranly, IDEO
Michael Genesereth, Stanford University
James Hazard, Common Accord
Hannah Laqueur, University of California, Davis

Emerging technologies raise myriad concerns. We worry about devices that spy, algorithms that discriminate, smart contracts that illegally lock out tenants, etc. Could we ameliorate these concerns if we proactively embedded law, regulations, respect for human rights, and democratic principles into products and systems by design and default? We increasingly see code written by private actors in products and systems that effectively functions as both private and public law. How will law and regulation remain relevant if it is not also reduced to code and incorporated into these products and systems? Thinking more broadly, how can we infuse law into technology and technology into law to improve access to legal services, elevate justice, and maintain and expand the rule of law around the globe?

4:40-5:10pm: Summary Remarks by Geoffrey Moore

5:10-6:00pm: Networking Reception