ABA Techshow

Techshow2021_keynote speaker Renée DiResta

Keynote speaker Renée DiResta, technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, at the ABA Techshow 2021 on Thursday.

There are many different domains in which technological progress has sped past existing laws and policies, particularly in the social media realm, Renée DiResta said during her ABA Techshow 2021 keynote Thursday morning.

DiResta, technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, urged lawyers and policymakers to help counteract that problem by thinking in advance about how new technologies could be misused once they enter the marketplace.

She said this approach would help ensure “that rather than reacting, there is some thoughtful policy creation and we are a little bit ahead of the game.”

DiResta, who investigates the spread of malign narratives across social networks, highlighted that lawyers also could play an important role in helping policymakers and industry leaders think through the various tradeoffs of strictly regulating innovative technologies.

In the social media context, this could include attorneys providing advice on how to strike the balance between limiting the spread of disinformation while not curtailing freedom of expression.

DiResta said there are also frequent tensions between upholding consumers’ competing privacy and security rights that different technologies bring into play.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the ABA Techshow 2021 here.

She gave the example of the Ring video doorbell technology property owners utilize for security purposes but has drawn criticism from those worried about its potential to infringe on the privacy rights of those walking down the street who may be captured on the video.

Additionally, DiResta noted a variety of concerns have been raised about the use of facial recognition technology, and some critics have even called for it to be banned.

“There are a lot of opportunities to think through what are the ways in which we can assess the benefits and tradeoffs of the technology, regulate to mitigate the worst harms and the worst abuses, but not necessarily be going through an approach of blanket bans unless there is real evidence to indicate that that’s justified,” DiResta said.

In recent years, DiResta has helped advise state and federal policymakers about how to address some of these trade-offs in the social media arena.

She predicted Thursday that regulation of Big Tech will be a very active area in the months and years to come under the Biden administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress.

“I think what we are going to see is a time of quite a lot of regulation now that has the potential to pass given the makeup of Congress and the executive branch,” DiResta said.