Conversations that Matter: Democracy, Technology, and Security

Professor Chimène Keitner’s new colloquium with the World Affairs Council examines timely issues raised by our increasing digital interconnectedness. Scroll for links to recorded conversations.

UC Hastings plunged into the deep end of conversations that matter — in a big way. Partnering with the World Affairs Council, the College this fall launched the Democracy, Technology and Security Series, a four-part colloquium that brought together professionals in the fields of national security law, cybersecurity, privacy law, and social media regulation for discussions on the many ways in which digital technology, cloud computing, and national security matters intersect.

Organized by Professor Chimène Keitner, the colloquium featured speakers such as Susan Benesch, founder and director of the Dangerous Speech Project; Robert Chesney, the James Baker Chair in Law at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin School of Law; Matt Tait, senior cybersecurity fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center at UT Austin; and Jason Pielemeier, policy director at the Global Network Initiative.

Keitner, who recently served as counselor on international law at the U.S. Department of State and worked on cyberlaw issues as the inaugural scholar in residence at Orrick in Silicon Valley, has extensive experience working in both the center of government and policy in Washington, D.C., and the hub of tech innovation in UC Hastings’ own backyard. Now back in San Francisco, she sees the new colloquium as a way to continue serving as a translator between these sectors. “One of the things I find most gratifying is creating opportunities for in-depth conversations that bridge theory and practice,” Keitner said.

The topics included foreign interference in elections, cross-border regulation of social media, and privacy rights. “These are pressing issues that tech companies are grappling with as they run global operations,” Keitner said.

Ever mindful of its location in the heart of the global tech industry, UC Hastings quickly lent its support to the program, which also involved companion public events at the World Affairs Council. By providing students with the opportunity to engage in substantive conversations on timely matters with a diverse group of experts, Keitner hopes the colloquium will be one of the more memorable experiences of her students’ law school years.

“It’s exciting to engage in discussions about how we can best leverage the tremendous opportunities for interconnectedness that the internet provides,” Keitner said, “while at the same time not being naive about the dangers new technologies can pose.”

Democracy, Technology and Security Series, presented by UC Hastings and the World Affairs Council

Democracy, Self-Governance, and Social Media Listen to the podcast
Susan Benesch, Founder and Director, Dangerous Speech Project
Bobby Chesney, James Baker Chair in Law, UT Austin School of Law

The November 2016 election and its aftermath have focused increased attention on the ways in which messages conveyed through social media can have profound effects on our behavior and beliefs. Susan Benesch coined the term “dangerous speech” to refer to any form of expression (speech, text, or images) that can increase the risk that its audience will condone or participate in violence against members of another group. She studies methods for diminishing various forms of harmful content—or their effects—without infringing on freedom of expression. Bobby Chesney and his coauthor Danielle Citron have been studying the potential of “deep fake” technology to distort reality and compound the challenges to democracy and national security posed by our networked information environment. Join these experts for a conversation about the latest developments and what we can do to protect our increasingly fragile norms of democratic discourse and decision-making.                                  

Digital Privacy and the Surveillance State — Listen to the podcast
Sophia Cope, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Advances in technology have prompted us to revisit basic understandings of the relationship between governments, businesses, and civil society relating to privacy and freedom of expression online. The legal and policy frameworks for gathering and sharing information about individuals vary among countries and raise questions for companies whose technologies can be used for legitimate law enforcement activities, and to track and suppress dissent in authoritarian states. Meanwhile, border searches of information stored on portable electronic devices and posted on social media have become increasingly routine for U.S. citizens and non-citizens seeking to enter the country. Sophia Cope has spent the past 15 years working on civil liberties and human rights issues related to the Internet and technology. Join them for a discussion of the trade-offs involved in regulating access to our electronic records and online activities, and what we can do to ensure respect for rights while still enabling government actors to perform core law enforcement and national security functions in the digital age.

Foreign Election Interference in the Digital Age — Listen to the podcast
Jennifer Cohn, Journalist and Election Integrity Advocate
Stephanie Carvin, Asst. Professor of International Affairs, Carleton University
Matt Tait, Senior Cybersecurity Fellow, Robert S. Strauss Center at UT Austin

In February 2018, Admiral Michael Rogers, who was then serving as director of the National Security Agency and head of US Cyber Command, testified to Congress that the US government was “probably not doing enough” to dissuade Russia from interfering in the November midterm elections. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the administration would take “appropriate countermeasures” to combat what he called “continued efforts” by Russia to interfere in the elections, and said that the United States had not yet been able to establish “credible deterrence” of such attempts. How worried should we be about foreign interference in future US elections via cyber operations, and how will we know whether such interference is ongoing? Matt Tait, senior cybersecurity fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and former information-security specialist at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, witnessed the fall-out from efforts to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails in the run-up to the 2016 election. Stephanie Carvin worked as a national security analyst for the Government of Canada before joining the faculty of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Jennifer Cohn is an election integrity advocate, writer, and journalist. Since the 2016 election she has focused her professional efforts exclusively on investigating and exposing our country’s insecure computerized elections. They will discuss the convergence of international legal, diplomatic, and technical issues around questions of cross-border election interference, and what can and should be done about them.

In the Crosshairs of Cyberattacks: Legal and Strategic Perspectives from the Corporate Front Lines — Listen to the podcast
Jennifer Martin, Partner, Orrick
Betsy Cooper, Director, Aspen Tech Policy Hub at The Aspen Institute
Alex Stamos, Adjunct Professor, Freemon-Spogli Institute; William J. Perry Fellow, Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation

Private enterprises are the primary targets of increasingly sophisticated and destructive cyber intrusions, including those attributable to nation-states—from North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures, to Russia’s deployment of the NotPetya malware in Ukraine, which significantly impacted several global companies in critical infrastructure sectors, to the regular theft of valuable intellectual property and the more recent efforts to manipulate and exploit information. While private industry has borne the brunt of these often politically-motivated attacks and incursions, it also bears the substantial costs of defending against such attacks, including the increasing costs associated with responding to government regulatory inquiries and public condemnation. Even though companies invest in the newest security technologies, share information, and educate consumers and employees, they are limited in how they can respond to these attacks, and remain largely dependent on government efforts to advocate for and enforce norms of behavior in cyberspace. Jennifer Martin is a Partner in Orrick’s Cyber, Privacy, and Data Innovation Practice who has been a cybersecurity leader for nearly 20 years in both the private sector and government; Betsy Cooper has worked for over a decade with stakeholders in government, private industry, and the nonprofit sector on issues related to homeland security, cyber and information security, and long-term strategic planning in these areas; and Alex Stamos is a cybersecurity expert, business leader and entrepreneur working to improve the security and safety of the Internet through his teaching and research at Stanford University after having served as a Chief Security Officer at Facebook and Yahoo and a co-founder of iSEC Partners. Join us for a discussion of how governments and companies can make and shape policies that more effectively protect and empower the private sector and consumers.