Sovereign Identity Crisis: State, Self, and Collective in a Digital Age – November 17, 2022

Sovereign Identity Crisis: State, Self, and Collective in a Digital Age Event

Hosted by iLIT and the Temple Law Review

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST
In-person: Shusterman Hall, philadelphia PA

Join the Temple University Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT) and the Temple Law Review (TLR) for a joint symposium: Sovereign Identity Crisis. The symposium will explore different dimensions of sovereignty in a digital age, from the territorial integrity of states to the inner sanctum of bodily integrity and freedom of thought and will examine competing priorities, promises and players in emerging governing agendas for the future of technology.

Participation in the event is free of charge. For participants seeking U.S. Continuing Legal Education credit for their participation, varying fees apply for general admission, students, alumni, and public interest lawyers. More information is provided on the registration page.


All times are Philadelphia local time (EST). Online participants will receive a Zoom link the day of the event.

9:00 AM – Welcome
Welcome Remarks, Program Overview and Keynote Introduction – Laura Bingham, iLIT Executive Director

9:30 AM – Keynote
Nanjala Nyabola, Author, Political Analyst and Activist

10:00 AM – Panel 1: The Sovereign State
Beth Simmons, Andrea Mitchell University Professor in Law, Political Science and Business Ethics, University of Pennsylvania

Laura DeNardis, Professor and endowed Chair in Tech, Ethics, and Society, Georgetown University

Marguerite C. Walter, Attorney-Adviser, Political-Military Affairs, Office of the Legal Adviser

Rachel Hulvey, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Moderator: Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Arewa, Murray H. Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law, Temple University

11:15 AM – Coffee/Tea Break

11:30 AM – Virtual Keynote
E. Tendayi Achiume, Inaugural Alicia Miñana Professor of Law, UCLA Law; United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

12:00 PM – Lunch

1:00 PM – Panel 2: Sovereignty, Communities, and Collectives
Asaf Lubin, Associate Professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

J. Nathan Matias, Assistant Professor, Cornell University Departments of Communications and Information Science; Founder and Director, Citizens and Technology Lab (CAT Lab)

Dragana Kaurin, Executive Director and Founder, Localization Lab

John Newman, Deputy Director, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission and Professor, University of Miami School of Law

Moderator: Salil Mehra, Charles Klein Professor of Law and Government, Temple University

2:15 PM – Break

2:30 PM – Panel 3: The Sovereign Individual
Cynthia Conti-Cook, Technology Fellow, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Ford Foundation

Juan Ortiz Freuler, Researcher and Advocate, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School; Co-initiator, Non-Aligned Tech Movement

Siena Anstis, Senior Legal Advisor, Citizen Lab, University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Steven Feldstein, Author and Senior Fellow, Democracy, Conflict and Governance, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Moderator: Caroline DeCell, Knight First Amendment Institute, Columbia University

3:30 PM – Concluding Reflections
Marina Kaljurand, Member of European Parliament; former Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs

4:00 PM – Closing and Reception
Rachel Rebouché, Dean and James E. Beasley Professor of Law

About the Speakers

Learn more about the event speakers below. Additional biographies will be added shortly.

E. Tendayi Achiume is the inaugural Alicia Miñana Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, a research associate of the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand, and a research associate of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. She is also the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and is the first woman to serve in this role since its creation in 1994. In her role as Special Rapporteur she has addressed the intersection of race and technology and published several reports advancing human rights analysis of the racial justice implications of emerging digital technologies. 

The current focus of her scholarship is the global governance of racism and xenophobia; and the legal and ethical implications of colonialism for contemporary international migration. In 2016, she co-chaired the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, and is currently an editor on the board of the American Journal of International Law. She is also a recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award—the highest university-wide honor for excellence in teaching. Her publications include: Racial Borders, Georgetown Law Journal; Migration as Decolonization, Stanford Law Review; Governing Xenophobia, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law; Syria, Cost-Sharing and the Responsibility to Protect Refugees, Minnesota Law Review; and Beyond Prejudice: Structural Xenophobic Discrimination Against Refugees, Georgetown Journal of International Law. She is currently the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School. 

Siena Anstis is a senior legal advisor with the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy (University of Toronto). Her work focuses on issues around human rights and surveillance, in particular the targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society. Prior to joining the Citizen Lab, she worked as a litigation associate at Morrison & Foerster in New York City and clerked for the Honourable Mr. Justice Cromwell at the Supreme Court of Canada and at the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Her scholarly work has been published in a range of publications, including the McGill Law Journal, the Canadian Bar Review, and the Oxford Journal of Human Rights Practice. 

Laura Bingham, J.D., M.A., directs the Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology, based at Temple Law School. Working with faculty from across the law school and Temple University, she designs and executes the strategic direction, associated curriculum, research, and programming of the center. 

She is a globally recognized expert on nationality and migration law and human rights and joins Temple after extensive experience in international human rights litigation. 

As a legal practitioner, she has led complex investigations and transnational human rights litigation in every major regional system as well as many national courts. Representative matters include a landmark ruling on children’s right to nationality, legal personality, and effective remedies in Zhao v. The Netherlands before the U.N. Human Rights Committee (2020); a judgment nullifying the roll-out of a national biometric digital identification program for failure to respect the right to privacy (Kenyan High Court, 2021); a significant monetary award for members of six Roma families whose village was unlawfully razed by Russian authorities (European Court of Human Rights, 2018); and a groundbreaking decision from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the arbitrary denial of nationality in Anudo v. Tanzania (2018).

Carrie DeCell is a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute and a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School. Her litigation focuses on freedom of speech on social media and government surveillance of speech at the border. In addition, she runs the Knight Institute’s externship program with Columbia Law School. 

DeCell leads the Knight Institute’s litigation in Doc Society v. Blinken, challenging the government’s mass collection and indefinite retention of visa applicants’ social media identifiers. She was a core member of the team litigating Knight Institute v. Trump, establishing that public officials’ social media accounts—including the president’s Twitter account—are subject to the First Amendment. She has authored amicus briefs addressing First Amendment protections for publishers of leaked or stolen information of public concern, and statutory safeguards against government surveillance of journalists and activists. She has also been at the forefront of the Institute’s advocacy efforts against the prosecution of whistleblowers and publishers under the Espionage Act. 

DeCell has been published or quoted in the New York Times, The New Yorker, the Washington Post, The Guardian, The Intercept, and Just Security, and she has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, ABC’s The Signal, and Al Jazeera’s The Listening Post. 

Prior to joining the Institute, DeCell was a senior associate at Jenner & Block LLP. As a member of the firm’s Media & First Amendment practice group, she handled a variety of matters involving constitutional and statutory speech protections and public access to information. She defended a major online publication against defamation claims and advised a non-profit organization regarding the protections afforded websites under the Communications Decency Act. Additionally, as a member of the firm’s Appellate and Supreme Court practice group, she drafted numerous merits and amicus briefs in cases before the Supreme Court and other courts of appeals.  

DeCell graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, where she served as the Essays & Book Reviews editor of the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, she clerked for the Honorable Judith W. Rogers on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

Laura DeNardis, Ph.D., is the Professor and Endowed Chair in Technology, Ethics, and Society at Georgetown University. Professor DeNardis is recognized as a leading Internet governance expert in both the United States and the world. Wired UK recently named her one of “32 Global Innovators Who are Building a Better Future” and her book The Internet in Everything: Freedom and Security in a World with No Off Switch (Yale University Press) was recognized as a Financial Times Top Technology Book of 2020. Among her seven books, The Global War for Internet Governance (Yale University Press), is widely considered the definitive source for understanding power struggles over technical infrastructure. DeNardis joined Georgetown from American University, where she received American University’s highest faculty honor, Scholar-Teacher of the Year. She previously served as the Executive Director of the Yale Information Society Project and the appointed Director of Research for the Global Commission on Internet Governance. She also served as an appointed member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy and is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Professor DeNardis holds an AB in Engineering Science from Dartmouth College, an MEng from Cornell University, a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Yale Law School. 

Steven Feldstein is a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where he focuses on issues of democracy and technology, human rights, and U.S. foreign policy. He previously served as the holder of the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs and an associate professor at Boise State University.  

Feldstein served as a deputy assistant secretary in the Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau in the U.S. Department of State, where he had responsibility for Africa policy, international labor affairs, and international religious freedom. Previously he was the director of policy at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and also served as counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where he oversaw U.S. foreign assistance programs, State Department management, and international organizations.  

He has published research on how artificial intelligence is reshaping repression, the geopolitics of technology, China’s role in advancing digital authoritarianism, and the changing patterns of internet shutdowns. He also released a global AI surveillance index to track the proliferation of advanced big data tools used by governments.   

Feldstein’s articles and essays have appeared in American Purpose, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Journal of Democracy, Just Security, MIT Technology Review, The Conversation, the National Interest, War on the Rocks, the Washington Post, and World Politics Review. He is a frequent commentator on television and radio. He received his B.A. from Princeton and his J.D. from Berkeley Law.  
He is the author of The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance (Oxford University Press, 2021).  

Juan Ortiz Freuler is an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center, where he explores how information infrastructures are being re-networked as a result of geopolitical tensions and the impact that this has on the sustainability and evolution of our ecosystems of knowledge.  

He is also a co-initiator of the non-aligned tech movement, an associate at JustLabs and a member of the Tierra Común network of researchers. Between 2017 and 2020 Juan was a Senior Policy Fellow at the Web Foundation, where he managed research projects on government and corporate use of algorithms, and supported the advocacy efforts for an open web by the organization’s founders. Before moving to the U.S., Freuler developed and executed research and advocacy projects at several non-profit organizations in Argentina and Mexico. A graduate from the Di Tella Law School in Buenos Aires, he also holds Masters degrees in both Public Policy and Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford, and is pursuing a PhD in Communication at Annenberg USC.  

Rachel Hulvey is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania with research interests broadly spanning international law, international security, and Chinese foreign policy. Her dissertation project, Mobilizing for Sovereignty, theorizes about changes in the ideology of international order through the lens of China’s rise. Even as material power accumulates, China uses socialization to mobilize support for new rules, norms, and institutions. As China seeks to establish new rules of the game supporting an alternative ideology, would some countries join the Beijing-led order and, if so, which? She develops a theory of hegemonic socialization explaining which countries gravitate toward China’s vision of world order and when China’s attempts at socialization fall short.  

She is a recipient of the American Political Science Foundation’s Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (2021-2023) and the Foreign Language Area Studies Award for Mandarin and East Asian study (2021-2022). Her research benefits from generous support from the University of Pennsylvania’s Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics and the Center for the Study of Contemporary China. She is a Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellow (2019-2022) and a Schmidt Futures International Strategy Forum Fellow (2022-2023).  

Dragana Kaurin is a human rights researcher and ethnographer working at the intersection of technology, human rights and migration. Her past work includes researching the use of mobile phones by refugees in Europe and community tactics in filming police encounters in the United States. She is the founder and executive director of Localization Lab, a non-profit organization that works on technology adoption with local communities and provides user feedback. She is a former research fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a current research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights.

Before starting Localization Lab in 2013, Dragana worked as a program officer at the Open Technology Institute, and as a data analyst at Ushahidi, a non-profit organization and mapping platform used for election monitoring and documenting violence using crowdsourced eyewitness reports. She holds bachelor’s degrees in cultural anthropology and Arabic language from Ohio State University. Before entering the Human Rights Program at Columbia University, where she researched civic tech and refugee rights, she worked in crisis information management and C4D (communication for development) at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and at the United Nations Children’s Fund. She speaks English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Serbo-Croatian.

Dr. Asaf Lubin is an Associate Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a Fellow at IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR). He is additionally an affiliated fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and a visiting Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Federmann Cyber Security Research Center. Dr. Lubin is the author of two forthcoming books The International Law of Intelligence (Oxford University Press, 2023) and Teaching Cybersecurity Law and Policy (Edward Elgar, 2023). Dr. Lubin has additionally co-edited the book-length anthology Rights to Privacy and Data Protection in Armed Conflict (NATO CCDCOE, 2022).  

Dr. Lubin’s research centers around the intersection of law and technology, particularly as it relates to the regulation of cybersecurity harms, liabilities, and insurance as well as policy design around governmental and corporate surveillance, data protection, and internet governance. His work draws on his experiences as a former intelligence analyst, Sergeant Major (Res.), with the IDF Intelligence Branch as well as his vast practical training and expertise in national security law and foreign policy. Dr. Lubin’s work additionally reflects his time spent serving as a Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellow with Privacy International, a London-based non-for-profit devoted to advancing the right to privacy in the digital age and curtailing unfettered forms of governmental and corporate surveillance.  

Salil Mehra  is the Charles Klein Professor of Law and Government at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, where he teaches courses in antitrust, contracts, and law and economics. He has published articles on antitrust in the 21st century economy. He is a non-governmental adviser to the International Competition Network and a former Abe Fellow of Japan’s Center for Global Partnership. 

John Newman is currently serving as Deputy Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, where he oversees a variety of enforcement matters. He is also a professor, on leave, at the University of Miami School of Law. He has published widely on antitrust law and policy in the context of digital markets, and has been credited with coining the term “zero-price markets.”  He has served on the advisory board of the American Antitrust Institute, on the advisory board of the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies, and as a fellow with the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale. He began his legal career as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division. While earning his law degree, he served as a research assistant to Professor Herb Hovenkamp. 

Nanjala Nyabola is a writer, political analyst, and activist based in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Nyabola writes extensively about African society and politics, technology, international law, and feminism for academic and non-academic publications. Her first book Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya (Zed Books, 2018) was described as “a must read for all researchers and journalists writing about Kenya today.” Reframing digital democracy from the African perspective, Nyabola’s ground-breaking work opens up new ways of understanding the current global online era. 
Nyabola’s latest book, the critically acclaimed Travelling While Black; Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move, is a stark reminder that the world needs to be seen through the lens of others. Her work has featured in publications including African Arguments, Al Jazeera, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy (magazine), The Guardian, New African, The New Humanitarian, The New Inquiry, New Internationalist, and World Policy Journal. 
She holds a BA in African Studies and Political Science from the University of Birmingham, an MSc in Forced Migration and an MSc in African Studies, both from the University of Oxford, which she attended as a Rhodes Scholar, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Rachel Rebouché is the Dean of Temple University Beasley School of Law and the James E. Beasley Professor of Law. Prior to her appointment as Dean, she was the Associate Dean for Research, a position she held from 2017 to 2021. She is also a Faculty Fellow at Temple’s Center for Public Health Law Research. 

Dean Rebouché is a leading scholar in reproductive health law and family law. She is an author of Governance Feminism: An Introduction and an editor of Governance Feminism: Notes from the Field. She is also the editor of Feminist Judgments: Family Law Opinions Rewritten, published by Cambridge University Press, and an author of the sixth edition of the casebook, Family Law. In addition, she will join the fifth edition of the casebook, Contracts: Law in Action and recently co-edited a collection of essays for Law & Contemporary Problems on the pandemic’s effects on contract law.

Beth Simmons is the Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Law, Political Science and Business Ethics, at the University of Pennsylvania. Simmons is best known for her research on international political economy during the interwar years, policy diffusion globally, and her work demonstrating the influence that international law has on human rights outcomes around the world.

Two of her books, Who Adjusts? Domestic Sources of Foreign Economic Policy During the Interwar Years (1994) and Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics (2009) won the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Award for the best book published in the United States on government, politics, or international affairs. The latter was also recognized by the American Society for International Law, the International Social Science Council and the International Studies Association as the best book of the year in 2010. She is currently conducting research in three areas: global performance assessments as informal governance mechanisms in international affairs; international border crossings, and especially evidence of their “thickening” in recent decades in many parts of the world; and international and transnational crime.

Simmons has spent a year working at the International Monetary Fund, directed the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, is a past president of the International Studies Association, and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Marguerite Walter headshot

Marguerite Walter is an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State, participating in this conference in her personal capacity.  Throughout her career, she has advised on various public international law matters, including international law relating to State conduct in cyberspace; the law of armed conflict; international human rights law; customary international law, including State responsibility under international law; international investment disputes; and the negotiation of a variety of international instruments. She also has substantial experience in private practice involving international investment disputes, having handled numerous matters in different arbitral institutions under a range of rules.

event background

Sovereigns and sovereignty are old ideas whose definition is increasingly vexed and ambiguous against an unprecedented expanse of digital information. Widespread disenchantment with an unregulated Internet has led states like China to champion the concept of cyber (or internet) sovereignty (wangluo zhuquan) that other states receiving Chinese assistance in constructing digital networks have begun to embrace as well.

State institutions and the operations of government are likewise undergoing digital transformations. A 2020 study commissioned by the Administrative Conference of the United States found that nearly half of all U.S. federal agencies operated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools across 157 different use cases. U.S. citizenship can be stripped based on an algorithmic trigger in a fraud detection program, and yet constitutional doctrine extols the centrality of “sovereign” citizenship to maintaining a limited government that exists through the consent of the governed.

Meanwhile, the concentration of awesome power in ungoverned spaces only mounts as states and firms struggle over dominance in a multipolar global order. Some of the world’s most powerful democracies utilize repressive digital tools flowing across borders while simultaneously launching digital democracy promotion and anti-discrimination efforts. Whereas the experiences of climate change induced starvation, conflict, invasive law enforcement surveillance, and authoritarian repression are felt by bodies and minds, rights and security discussions too often prioritize the protection of data as an abstract proxy for safeguarding and promoting substantive human rights.

Considering these dynamics and other interconnected geopolitical trends, participants will address pivotal questions currently confronting all stakeholders in 21st Century digital societies:

  • In a world of extraterritorial “virtual” borders, existential climate threats to entire nations, and State-sponsored transborder cyber operations in times of war and peace, what will become of State sovereignty in a digital age?
  • Will sovereignty only be the province of States? Can global technology companies acquire and exercise a new form of sovereignty?
  • How are peoples and communities defined, organized, and engaged in relation to digital information, classification, and platforms?
  • How are concepts of individual sovereignty, bodily integrity, and inviolability of human dignity impacted by surveillance and manipulation of information?
  • How should decisionmakers confront the suffering of vulnerable populations and disparate human rights harms of experimental technologies? Who is accountable for those harms? Who decides?

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