Your Honor, on Social Media: The Judicial Ethics of Bots and Bubbles
34 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021 Last revised: 30 Mar 2021
Date Written: June 1, 2019
Many judges sitting in county, state, and federal courts in the United States have joined the ranks of social media users. Judges post on social media. They engage followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook. Like other humans using social media, judges may unwittingly encounter bots simulating human behavior or “bubbles” created by algorithms. This article is the first to examine at length the potential threat to judicial impartiality arising from judges interacting with bots and bubbles—both present, known phenomena on social media. While much scholarly literature has delved into ethical issues implicated by judges’ social media contacts, very little attention has been focused on the impact of automated bots and algorithmic bubbles on judges’ impartiality.
Judges are expected to be impartial. Impartiality has long been a cornerstone of the judicial role. With social media bots and bubbles that put social media users at greater risk of believing falsehoods and of seeing only what confirms their own beliefs, judicial impartiality, a central feature of the judicial system, may be under threat at a level not encountered in the past. In this article, I argue for increased precautions and awareness to help maintain judicial impartiality in light of the potential unfortunate impact of social media bots and bubbles.
Keywords: Social media, judicial ethics, legal ethics, impartiality, judicial impartiality, social network, professionalism, filter bubbles, social media bots
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