The Filter Bubble: Another Web Conversation with SF Author/Futurist David Brin, Prof. Jane Bambauer, Prof. Mark Lemley, Prof. Ted Parson, and Me

Please come by, Fri., Nov. 6, 2020, 1:30 to 3 pm.


UCLA Law's AI Pulse Project and University of Arizona TechLaw present:

The Filter Bubble: What's the Problem, and what (if anything) should be done about it?

A web conversation with Jane Bambauer, David Brin, Mark Lemley, Eugene Volokh, and Ted Parson

Social media and other online information sources are charged with creating "filter bubbles": sheltered clusters of people with similar views, which foster polarized opinions and partisan zeal, degrade civility, and destabilize politics. Is this phenomenon real? Is it new? How does it work? And if its effects are that bad, how can they be fixed? Jane Bambauer argues that filter bubbles are more about easy contact with our friends than algorithmic manipulation. If this is so, then "fixing" the filter bubble will require messing with modern practices of socializing – not just for white supremacists, but for everybody. Joining Jane for an online conversation about the filter bubble, its causes, effects, and – if needed – corrections are David Brin, Mark Lemley, Ted Parson, and Eugene Volokh.

When: Friday, November 6, 2020, 1:30 – 3:00 PM Pacific time.

Register to attend: ­


Jane Bambauer is a Professor of Law at the University of Arizona. Her research assesses the social costs and benefits of Big Data, and questions the wisdom of many well-intentioned privacy laws. Her articles have appeared in the Stanford Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, the California Law Review, and the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Prof. Bambauer's own data-driven research explores biased judgment, legal education, and legal careers. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from Yale College and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

David Brin is an astrophysicist whose international best-selling novels include The Postman, Earth, and recently Existence. His nonfiction book about the information age - The Transparent Society - won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association.

Mark Lemley is the William H. Neukom Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and the Director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and is affiliated faculty in the Symbolic Systems program.  Prof. Lemley teaches intellectual property, patent law, trademark law, antitrust, the law of robotics and AI, video game law, and remedies. He is the author of eight books and 181 articles, including the two-volume treatise IP and Antitrust.

Eugene Volokh is the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and an academic affiliate at the law firm Mayer Brown. He teaches First Amendment law and a First Amendment amicus brief clinic, as well as copyright, criminal law, tort law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Volokh is the author of the textbooks The First Amendment and Related Statutes (6th ed. 2016), and Academic Legal Writing (5th ed. 2013), as well as over 90 law review articles. He is a member of The American Law Institute, a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, and the founder and coauthor of The Volokh Conspiracy, a leading legal blog.

Edward A. (Ted) Parson (Moderator) is the Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law, and faculty co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the UCLA School of Law. His research examines international environmental policy and law, the societal impacts and governance of disruptive technologies including artificial intelligence and geoengineering, and the political economy of regulation. Parson directs the AI Pulse Project and organized the 2019 Summer Institute on AI and Society.

Background reading: 

Jane R. Bambauer, Saura Masconale, and Simone M. Sepe, "Cats, Cars, and Nazis." (Introduction)

Steven L. Johnson, Brent Kitchens, and Peter Gray, "Facebook serves as an echo chamber, especially for conservatives. Blame its algorithm." Op-ed, Washington Post, Oct 26, 2020.

Mark A. Lemley and Eugene Volokh, "Law, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality." (Excerpts)

David Brin, "Insistence of Vision" (short story)

NEXT: Classes #20: Due Process Clause II and Zoning III

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  1. The lack of self-awareness of people like Volokh is just amazing, when he is musing about other people’s filter bubbles and informational deficits. Just look at the group of people he is having a discussion with.

  2. Trump came about 16 years too late because the things Trump rails about happened under W Bush and not Obama. So the counter factual is “how much stronger would America be had Patrick Buchanan won the 2000 race and obviously not invaded Iraq and actually attempted to stop American manufacturers sending so many jobs to China”?? The reason this counter factual doesn’t necessarily work is because Facebook had to be invented and made its way to the general public for Trump to win the nomination. Btw, Obama won the nomination thanks to Facebook but unlike Trump Obama had the support of the Democratic Party establishment and his policy proposals were mainstream Democratic proposals.

  3. I don't get it. Why can't I speak just to the people I want to speak to? Why does anyone else have a right to "fix" my interest in only speaking to those that I want to speak to?

    1. In a republican democracy it is necessary to have a somewhat well informed electorate. So I don’t think it is a coincidence that America’s strongest economic AND social justice growth years occurred when radio and TV burst on the scene. So prior to radio and TV we had a “Wild West” newspaper era in which newspapers were used as propaganda organs. So the fact the government owned the airwaves and so entities that rented those airwaves had to produce objective journalism and reporting.

      1. Or, alternatively, the effective use of radio by people like FDR, allowed for the consolidation of power by central governments. This certainly occurred in Europe. Combined with the medium of film, propaganda was made more effective as well. You may as well wish for a return, as we have now, to a disparate media.

        1. In America the most successful Orwellian propaganda campaign happened before radios were ubiquitous—the “Lost Cause” movement of the South. So Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” was important propaganda but the monuments and statues and memorials to Southern traitors were more important to the Orwellian propaganda campaign to perpetuate white supremacy by spreading revisionist history disinformation.

          1. Do you really think that the Lost Cause version of history was successful? Moreover, it played to existing feelings and prejudices, and wasn’t revisionism per se either.

    2. Speaking for no one buy myself...

      Why can’t I speak just to the people I want to speak to?

      To the degree you're talking about voluntary social interactions? You sure can! You might have to restrict what places you go, but that's within your power!

      If you mean "in all my life", then sorry, but modern life requires we deal with a great many people based on service and function, not ideology, so you'll have to talk to people you don't really want to at some point, whether it's the DMV, the clerk at the grocery store, or whatever.

      But you have total freedom in your social life.

      Why does anyone else have a right to “fix” my interest in only speaking to those that I want to speak to?

      What an odd question. No one has a "right" to "fix" your interests.

      If, however, you want to be a well-rounded citizen, you will need to interact with many people, including people you would not want to interact with socially, so as to ensure you have a realistic idea of the situation as it's very easy to get a distorted view of things when you limit yourself to only listening to folks who already agree with you.

      That said? No one is going to force you to do so. But you should do it anyway.

  4. Hrm. Unless I'm confusing authors/books, I remember Brin's Earth. Good book. Weird ending. I mean, like, really weird.

    I think the ideas presented regarding privacy and secrecy are tracking, as we're getting closer-and-closer to a citizen-run panopticon. Barring something revolutionary, I consider us continuing to approach his ideas on radical transparency far more likely then ever getting back to true privacy.

  5. The internets does more to break down filter bubbles than create them, I'd say.

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