High-Tech International Law

53 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2020

See all articles by Ashley Deeks

Ashley Deeks

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: February 4, 2020


Data-driven algorithmic tools allow their users to process large amounts of data quickly, extract patterns from the data that humans cannot otherwise detect, and make reliable predictions. These tools have proven valuable in domestic legal practice, negotiations, and other fields closely related to international law. Yet governments and their international lawyers have ignored this new wave of tools as they conduct international relations.

This article argues that governments should begin to use these tools to their advantage in creating and implementing international law. These capabilities could support states’ decision-making as they negotiate treaties, adjudicate international legal disputes, and evaluate the status of customary rules. Even if international lawyers for governments in the United States and Europe are skeptical about the benefits of machine learning and big data, they must consider the possibility that states such as China will begin to deploy these tools in power-enhancing ways.

High-tech international lawyering will have important implications for international law and relations. Tools that are readily available and easy to use will serve as important equalizers for less powerful states, but more advanced technologies are likely to exacerbate existing power differentials. The article therefore offers ways that less powerful states and outside actors can counterbalance technology-driven power shifts that may undercut the enduring ambitions of international law.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive algorithms, computational text analysis, international law, adjudication, treaty, negotiation, customary international law

Suggested Citation

Deeks, Ashley, High-Tech International Law (February 4, 2020). Forthcoming, 88 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. __ (2020), Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2020-10 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3531976

Ashley Deeks (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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