About the Conference

We invite paper submissions for “Technologies of Deception,” a conference hosted by the Information Society Project (ISP) to be held at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, on March 25-26, 2022 (if necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions, the conference will be held remotely on the same dates).

In the half-decade since the 2016 election, misinformation bots have been prominent in research agendas in law, political science, and other fields, as scholars have increasingly documented the extent to which such forces were both operational and impactful. The perceived threat, one that was closely watched in the 2020 election, was to the proper functioning of our democratic systems, both at the polls and in the tenor and quality of public discourse. In short, algorithms that created seemingly human entities had threatened much that democratic societies hold dear. But this was not the only instance of machine imposters, as deceptive technologies present in manifold forms, from misinformation bots and fake news to deepfakes and robot “performance videos”: countless technologies that function to conflate truth and falsity, mentation and computation, authenticity and falsehood, or that function not to deceive but rather to manipulate. Moreover, technologies are being developed to deceive the deceivers, and those in the behavioral sciences are working to understand trust and deception and the cognitions that facilitate them.

Call for Papers

The conference aims to explore these technologies of deception and the regulatory and legal frameworks that ought to be formed to deal with them. It will feature discussion of what kinds of harms the law needs to address in the age of digital deception and how these harms can be specified and measured. It also will consider the relationship between these legal issues and broader concerns, including privacy, innovation, democracy, and free speech. Finally, the conference will consider policy recommendations, including changes in the interpretation of laws and doctrines, new legislation, and enforcement practices. We encourage submissions from all disciplines that contribute to related legal, economic, social scientific, technical, regulatory, or policy discussions, including:

  • Fundamental Questions of Technologies of Deception
    What are the different types of technologies of deception? What additional technologies of deception are just now (or soon-to-be) emerging, such as those in embodied robots? What are the specific harms threatened by these distinct types? What new concerns do these technologies present?
  • Deception Equivalents
    How should we think about deception “equivalents,” such as manipulation or anthropomorphism? Can there be a manipulation harm even if people are not deceived by such technologies?
  • Technologies of Deception Protection
    What potential benefits could technologies of deception yield, whether in the sense of cryptography and security, or in the sense of using them to acquire and disseminate information about corrupt or unjust practices?
  • Parties Involved
    Who are the different parties building, using, and being affected by technologies of deception? In what contexts? Relatedly, might technologies of deception present problems for social justice, and might they be uniquely dangerous to specific vulnerable communities?
  • Implications
    What Constitutional issues will arise in the context of regulating and/or criminalizing these technologies? How can (or should) the law contribute to addressing the attendant issues that arise concerning privacy (including Fourth Amendment issues pertaining to brain scans in criminal proceedings), security, free speech, innovation, and authenticity? Which existing theories, as well as historical technologies of deception, might best inform the current debate? In other words, is there anything new here, or can we simply rely on already built frameworks?
  • Political Economy of Technology of Deception
    To what extent do these technologies threaten democracy, public trust, and other similar elements of society? What is the relationship between technologies of deception and the preservation of democracy and/or a robust democratic society? In what ways do firms (or governments) designing and deploying deceptive technologies also obscure underlying relationships between technology, law, politics, and the economy? For instance, promoters of deceptive (and manipulative) technologies often argue their innovations are simply beyond, outside, or ahead of the law and political process. How do deceptive technologies cloud our understanding of the legal and political design of markets, money, and labor? In what ways do disinformation projects construct an alternative image of political power, the distribution of material resources, or the nature of the economy? Which groups or classes of people use deceptive technologies? Who do they serve? Who do they undermine? Are there “technologies of deception” that actually advance a vision of a more democratic, egalitarian society, perhaps from a privacy, security, or political resistance perspective?
  • Classification and Regulation
    Which kinds of deception might be better placed within the realm of private law and which ones should be approached through a public law framework? That is, are there some types of deception that are perhaps purely interpersonal wrongs whereas others are harmful in a specifically “public” way? Which of these technologies are best dealt with through regulation rather than criminal sanction, and vice versa? What are the most effective methods of enforcement? Should some of these technologies be regulated similarly to how addictive substances are regulated? Similarly, should there be special protections for minors, perhaps when it comes to advertising?

Please submit 500-word abstracts to joseph.avery@yale.edu by November 15, 2021.

Selected papers will be due February 15, 2022.

Attendance of the conference is not conditional upon submittal of an abstract or the selection of a paper, but limited by capacity; registration will open in December.

For any further questions, please feel free to contact Joseph Avery.

The Information Society Project (ISP) is an intellectual center at Yale Law School, founded in 1997 by Professor Jack Balkin. The ISP explores issues at the intersection of law, technology, and society. It supports an international community of interdisciplinary scholars work to illuminate the complex relationships between law, technology, and society. The ISP produces scholarship, convenes legal experts, and hosts events to foster the cross-pollination of ideas and spark new collaborations.