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119 Colum. L. Rev. Online 252 (2019)
Recovering Tech's Humanity

handle is hein.journals/sidbarc119 and id is 252 raw text is: 


VOL.  119                NOVEMBER 20, 2019              PAGES  252-282


                            Olivier Sylvain*


    Tim  Wu's  essay, Will Artificial Intelligence Eat the Law?, posits that
automated  decisionmaking  systems may  be taking the place of human
adjudication in social media content moderation.  Conventional adjudi-
cative processes, he explains, are too slow or clumsy to keep up with the
speed  and scale of online information flows. Their eclipse is imminent,
inevitable, and, he concludes, just as well.1
    Wu's  essay does not really indulge in the romantic tropes about cy-
borg  robot overlords, nor does he  seem  to hold a conceit about  the
superiority of networked technologies. He does not  promise, for exam-
ple, anything similar to Mark  Zuckerberg's  prophecy  to Congress  in
spring 2018 that artificial intelligence would soon cure Facebook of its
failings in content moderation.2 To the contrary, Wu here is sober about
the private administration of consumer information markets. After all, he
has been  among  the most articulate proponents of positive government
regulation in this area for almost two decades. The best we can do, Wu
argues, is create hybrid  approaches  that carefully integrate artificial
intelligence into the content moderation process.3
    But  in at least two important ways, Wu's essay masks important chal-
lenges. First, by presuming the inevitability of automated decisionmaking
systems in online companies' distribution of user-generated content and
data, Wu  obscures the indispensable role that human  managers  at the
Big Tech  companies have  in developing and selecting their business de-
signs, algorithms, and  operational techniques  for managing   content
distribution.4 These companies  deploy these resources to further their

     * Professor of Law, Fordham Law School.
     1. Tim Wu, Will Artificial Intelligence Eat the Law? The Rise of Hybrid Social-
Ordering Systems, 119 Colum. L. Rev. 2001, 2001-02 (2019) [hereinafter Wu, Al Eat the
     2. Sarah Jeong, Al Is an Excuse for Facebook to Keep Messing Up, The Verge (Apr.
13, 2018), https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/13/17235042/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-
ai-artificial-intelligence-excuse-congress-hearings [https://perma.cc/6JB6-NJSG].
     3. Wu, Al Eat the Law, supra note 1, at 2001-05.
     4. By Big Tech companies, I refer to the dozen or so internet companies that domi-
nate the networked information economy, but especially the big five: Facebook,
Alphabet (the owner of Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. For the purposes of this
Response, under this coinage, I also include Twitter, the social media company which,
after Facebook-owned entities, has the second-largest U.S. user base. See J. Clement, Most


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