digitaLiberties https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19013/all cached version 15/08/2018 12:09:21 en Do you agree?: What #MeToo can teach us about digital consent https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/elinor-carmi/what-metoo-can-teach-us-about-digital-consent <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The conversation around sexual consent could radically change the way we think of consent online.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/consent.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/consent.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>It started in the beginning of April. It was late at night, and I was swiping mostly left on the famous dating app Binder. One guy sent a message inviting me to experience his “enormous talent”. Rolling my eyes to yet another tempting offer, I unmatched him. Bored and tired from these original solicitations, I decided to watch another Chelsea Handler comedy special online and go to sleep. </em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>In the morning, when I opened Facebook I saw a new message from a person I didn’t recognise. “Hi hotstuff, did u see what I sent you yesterday? I’m free toni8, let’s meet! And here’s a preview pic to help ur imagination ;)”. Gross! Oh god I haven’t even have my coffee yet, how the hell did this guy find my personal Facebook account? Then I remembered, that for some reason, we have mutual friends. He must have searched my name and found me. I blocked and deleted the “talented” guy, thinking this is surely a one time thing. But it wasn’t, it was only the beginning. Suddenly, I started receiving messages from other guys: “hey, remember we dated that one time a decade ago? Let's stay in touch, here’s a pic in case you forgot ;)". An hour later: "hey, remember we talked a couple of years ago in a pub? Let's hang out, k?". Pissed off and annoyed I decided to close my Facebook account, I might not remember anyone’s birthday anymore, but I can’t handle this shit. But then the next hour, I received a message in my Gmail inbox. Then another message on Twitter and WhatsApp. They just kept coming, like zombies “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/08/cushioning-breadcrumbing-benching-language-modern-dating">haunting</a>” me – “ghosting” was no longer a thing, apparently. Guys who I swiped right and left on, dated or even just talked to once in the past found all my online accounts, even my Hotmail. “THAT’S IT! I am deleting all my accounts!!! I’m going offline, they can’t find me here!”. Disconnected from everything, I sat in my living room and felt relieved. No more intrusions, I thought with a smile. And just when I was enjoying the silence, I heard a knock on the door...</em></p><p dir="ltr">Even if don’t participate in the wonderous world of online dating, if you have lived in Europe in the past year this story may be familiar in an altogether different light. During April and May, Europeans have been harassed by multiple websites and services which they previously visited or used. Bombarded by these uninvited intrusions to their private lives, people were left scratching their heads and trying to remember when did actually interacted with these websites? Did they actually give their details? Why did the websites still have their contact details after such a long time? And how do we make it stop? Oh yes, we only need to consent. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Those who have lived in Europe for some time might also feel a sense of deja vu. Since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25th of May, many websites have introduced pop-up boxes that ask for your consent to collect personal data. These requests are not dissimilar to those that started appearing on websites in 2009, following the revised EU e-Privacy Directive which required websites and third-party actors to get consent before sending tracking technologies (such as cookies, pixels and others) to people’s computers. In addition, companies had to give a clear explanation of the purpose of any cookies they use and allow users to reject them entirely. The definition of consent that was used in the Data Protection Directive was defined as “any freely given specific and informed indication of his wishes by which the data subject signifies his agreement to personal data relating to him being processed”. The solution that advertisers, publishers and tech companies decided on was a pop-up dialog box, stating that the website you are visiting will store a cookie on your device. People were supposedly empowered by clicking &nbsp;‘agree’, ‘consent’, ‘accept’ or ‘OK’ in response. Privacy campaigners rejoiced and the internet changed forever… right? Well, not quite.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image5.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image5.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="427" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2>What does consent mean?</h2><p dir="ltr">The consent pop-up box was a bad cosmetic treatment that was supposed to cover up how people’s data is used by companies, without making an actual change. It did nothing to stop data collection and it did not result in publishers and advertisers adding explanations of how cookies worked or what their purposes were. The business model adopted by most tech companies in the 2000s also remained unchanged. Websites continued to seemingly offer free services and content, while surreptitiously monetising both through the collection of vast amounts of user data. Internet users remained a captive audience; refusing to accept the consent pop-up boxes usually resulted in people being denied access. </p><p dir="ltr">With internet users left confused rather than empowered by these changes, in 2011 the Article 29 Working Party, the European Commission data protection advisory body, decided to clarify what consent online actually means.<a href="http://www.pdpjournals.com/docs/88081.pdf">&nbsp;In a document</a> clarifying the misunderstanding and flexibility of meanings of consent and how people can express it, the Article 29 Working Party identified several key characteristics: ‘indication’, ‘freely given’, ‘specific’, ‘explicit’ and ‘informed’. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Inspired by Western liberal thought about individual freedom and autonomy, the European Commission’s definition of consent always assumes a rational person making decisions with all the information and facts available to them. But as historian Yuval Noah-Harari said in <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/yuval_noah_harari_why_fascism_is_so_tempting_and_how_your_data_could_power_it#t-660215">his recent Ted Talk</a> “in the end, democracy is not based on human rationality, it is based on human feelings”. In an online context, to make an informed decision people need to know first how the online ecosystem works: <a href="http://crackedlabs.org/en/corporate-surveillance">which companies are collecting their data</a>? What is the value of their data? What kind of data do those companies use and for what purposes? How might that affect them in the near and far future? For how long will that data be used? Will these data be used in other contexts and by other companies? And much more. But when even the CEOs of tech companies such as <a href="https://www.salon.com/2018/04/11/mark-zuckerberg-doesnt-know-how-facebook-works-unfortunately-neither-does-anyone-in-congress/">Mark Zuckerberg admit they do not fully understand how their systems work</a>, how can we expect internet users to make informed decisions? </p><p dir="ltr">People make decisions according to their emotions, cultural background, education, cognitive abilities, financial situation, family history, different media representations they engage with, health condition, <a href="https://datasociety.net/output/searching-for-alternative-facts/">religious beliefs</a>, gender identity and many other parameters. To assume that a decision can, in the words of EU legislation be “freely given” and “informed”, is misguided and simply wrong. As the 2016 US presidential election and 2016 Brexit referendum show, many important decisions are influenced by micro-targeting. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/27/fake-news-inquiry-data-misuse-deomcracy-at-risk-mps-conclude">As the recent report</a> from the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee about disinformation and fake news concludes: “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views… play[s] to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans and their behaviour”. Thanks to the design of online platforms, which conceal what happens in the back-end, these messages are tailored, personalised and targeted through computational procedures to<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/06/cambridge-analytica-how-turn-clicks-into-votes-christopher-wylie"> influence people’s behaviour</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Many thought that following the<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anita-gurumurthy-amrita-vasudevan/snowden-to-cambridge-analytica-making-case-for-social-value-of-pri"> Cambridge Analytica</a> scandal people would leave Facebook and follow the #DeleteFacebook movement. But this didn’t happen. This is because, as Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor at the Centre for Media and Citizenship <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/25/anti-social-media-how-facebook-disconnects-us-undermines-democracy-siva-vaidhyanathan-review?CMP=share_btn_tw">argues</a>, “for many people, deleting their accounts would amount to cutting themselves off from their social lives. And this has engendered a feeling that resistance is futile”. So why do we still get asked to consent to protect our online privacy and experience, when it is impossible to do so? </p><h2>Binding contract</h2><p dir="ltr">Consent has traditionally been used as part of a contract. You sign a contract for a house, job or insurance, as an indication that you agree to the conditions of the product, service or employment. But whereas these contracts are static and deal with one particular aspect, online contracts are far from it. In fact, it will take <a href="https://qz.com/691228/watch-norways-hosting-a-30-hour-reading-of-the-legalese-your-favorite-apps-use-to-control-you/">you days, if not weeks</a>, to read the terms and conditions of all the contracts of the online services, platforms and apps you use. Even if you do read all these terms, and manage to understand all the legal jargon used, online services frequently change their terms without notifying people. In this way, people have no way of engaging with and understanding what they actually consent to.</p><p dir="ltr">But even if you do manage to make the time and read all the terms, and companies will follow the GDPR’s Article 12 which requires them to be transparent about their procedures, it is still not enough to make an ‘informed decision’. This inability to make sense of online contracts is what Mark Andrejevic, one of the most prominent scholars in surveillance studies, calls the <a href="http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/2161">data divide</a>. As he argues, “putting the data to use requires access to and control over costly technological infrastructures, expensive data sets, and the software, processing power, and expertise for analysing them”. And as Zeynep Tufekci, a digital sociology professor, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/facebook-cambridge-analytica.html">points out</a>, given the constantly shifting nature of Facebook’s data collection “consent to ongoing and extensive data collection can be neither fully informed nor truly consensual — especially since it is practically irrevocable”. In short: we simply cannot understand how the data collected about us is used. We do not have the processing abilities and big tech resources to see the wider picture. </p><p dir="ltr">This inability to understand algorithmic procedures also renders the<a href="https://www.eugdpr.org/article-summaries.html"> GDPR’s ‘Article 21 - the Right to Object’</a> quite useless. The right to object enables people to refuse the processing of their personal data, including common practices used by digital advertisers such as profiling. But how can you object to something when you do not understand how your data can be used to harm you? In order to object, people first need to be aware how their data is being used. Withdrawing consent according to the GDPR’s article 7 is also problematic for the same reasons, but also because companies make it very difficult to find the mechanisms that enable people to do so. So, once again, why are we still being asked to consent? Power and control. &nbsp;</p><h2>Default control</h2><p dir="ltr">The current definition of online consent transfers responsibility to the individual under the guise of offering users choice. But the way it effectively works is as a control mechanism. As Becky Kazansky, a cyber security scholar and activist <a href="http://twentysix.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-195-privacy-responsibility-and-human-rights-activism/">argues</a>, this kind of ‘responsibilisation’ is “[e]ncouraging an emphasis on the individual as the primary locus of responsibility for protection from harm… [and has] the convenient effect of deflecting attention from its causes”. As in the offline domain, when you sign a contract you are responsible for abiding by the conditions, and if you do not then you are liable for breaching that contract. And yet the legal and tech narratives frame it as if people are empowered to make decisions and are able to control the way their data is used and will be used. </p><p dir="ltr">This line of thinking is predicated on the assumption that a person’s personal data is a tangible and clearly bounded, singular object that people supposedly have ownership and direct control over. But the way our data is assembled online is more like an ever-evolving “data-self” than a piece of personal property. After all, the data people create, or the traces they leave online, outlines some of their characteristics and behaviours. For example, your mobile phone knows <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/20/technology/personaltech/how-your-phone-knows-where-you-have-been.html">where you have been</a>, who you talked with, when you are awake, the websites you visited, the videos you watched, the songs you played, the food you ordered and much more. But as Erving Goffman argues in his famous book ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’ back in 1956, we perform our self differently in different contexts. Importantly, we never reveal all the aspects of our lives. Our data-self is incomplete, inaccurate and consists of multiple messy representations. </p><h2>How we present ourselves in different social media platforms</h2><p dir="ltr">The way we present ourselves in different contexts is fluid, evolving and never fixed. Data points about us are enormous and ever-growing, and they can be reshuffled, recombined and assembled in multiple ways over stretches of time. But the way that consent is applied online is static; we are asked only once to consent to multiple procedures often with little or no choice. More than that, our data-self is attached to the profile that companies assemble on us, and is usually connected to our given birth name. This is partly done to improve commercial and advertising potential by connecting our data-self and offline self. But another reason is that it makes us legally responsible for our actions, something that benefits commercial and governmental bodies. </p><p dir="ltr">Some of you might wonder at this point: what’s the big deal? How can the processing of my data cause me any harm? The <a href="https://www.timesupnow.com/">Time’s Up movement</a> is relevant here, and this is also the reason why I opened with my fictional story. The string of sexual harassment cases brought to light by the movement has prompted an important discussion about the fluid nature of consent. Context is crucial to consent, we can change our opinion over time depending on how we feel in any given moment and how we evaluate the situation; <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/01/aziz-ansari-accused-of-sexual-misconduct">the controversy over Aziz Ansari</a> is a case in point. Just because you kissed someone or dated them does not mean you are interested in anything more than that. Consent is an ongoing negotiation and not a one-time signed contract.</p><p dir="ltr">The global response to the Weinstein scandal revealed how widespread sexual harassment is both within the film industry and at large. It became clear that rather than individual cases, sexual harassment is a structural problem. The power of these men was possible not only because of their hierarchical position but also because of a network of people, standards and norms. It is an environment that is designed for sexual harassment to exist and flourish. Ultimately, these actions are about directing, narrowing and controlling women’s agency. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Although they are two different cases, the abuses of power that occur within the film industry and on online platforms share certain similarities. Both rely on a power structure that exploits people, and usually those who are less privileged and marginalised get hurt the most. In the past few years we have seen examples of how data is used to exploit <a href="https://gizmodo.com/how-algorithmic-experiments-harm-people-living-in-pover-1822311248">poor people</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7yFysTBpAo">people of colour</a>, the <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/4/17424472/youtube-lgbt-demonetization-ads-algorithm">LGBTQ community</a>, <a href="http://twentysix.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-195-privacy-responsibility-and-human-rights-activism/">activists</a> and <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/21/17144260/healthcare-medicaid-algorithm-arkansas-cerebral-palsy">people with a chronic health condition</a>. And even if <a href="https://www.wired.com/2013/06/why-i-have-nothing-to-hide-is-the-wrong-way-to-think-about-surveillance/">you think you have nothing to hide</a>, the diffusion of digital technologies, artificial intelligence and the internet of things combined with the privatisation of services, mean that all of us will become vulnerable in various ways. Importantly, the asymmetrical power relation that this architecture creates teaches people what is their position within a particular system, it is about controlling people’s actions, individualising their actions and importantly – narrowing their agency, controlling their data-self. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than empowering people to negotiate and decide on their own conditions of service, like people do when they sign contracts, we see a strategy to control our actions in these datafied environments. The contractual approach leaves people in a passive position, preventing them from having the opportunity to demand other things from online services. Under EU legislation discourse, our actions online are still dictated by the standardised and automated architectures provided by browsers, publishers and advertisers. In this way, the concept of control mechanisms, in the shape of the consent banner, is used against people not for people. The options available are pre-decided, limited and designed in a way that narrows and manages the way people could use and, ultimately, understand the internet. </p><h2>The old with the new</h2><p dir="ltr">Is a better internet possible, one in which privacy as a value and right is internalised by its architecture? By requiring that data protection is built into systems “by design and by default” ” as Article 25 indicates, the GDPR could be a first step towards this aim. But apparently, when it comes to technology companies respecting contracts, or laws, things get more flexible, and much darker. Calling out the design fail following the transposition of the GDPR, the Norwegian Consumer Council – <a href="https://www.forbrukerradet.no/">Forbrukerrådet</a> - released <a href="https://www.forbrukerradet.no/undersokelse/no-undersokelsekategori/deceived-by-design">a report</a> on the 27th of June 2018 that criticised tech companies of using “default settings and dark patterns, techniques and features of interface design meant to manipulate users… to nudge users towards privacy intrusive options”. During May and June 2018, the council examined the messages Facebook, Google and Microsoft sent to users in order to comply with the GDPR. Some of the “dark patterns” that report identified include: preselecting default settings with the least privacy friendly options, hiding and obscuring settings, making privacy options more cumbersome, and textual and colour nudges towards data sharing. In other words, what these companies do through these designs is trying to discourage us from exercising our rights to privacy. This is precisely why the council titled their report “Deceived by Design”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="182" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>(Deceived by Design Report, Forbrukerrådet, Page 3)</p><p dir="ltr">As I mentioned in <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13600869.2017.1304616">my article about the regulation of behaviours in the European Union</a> internet, we can trace these design strategies to the early days of web cookies. In the late 90s, Netscape Communication released a version of their Navigator 4.0 browser which enabled users to reject third-party cookies. But as Lou Montulli, the Netscape developer also credited with inventing web cookies, admitted the feature did not affect the online advertising industry because people didn’t bother to change their default settings. As I argue in the article:</p><p dir="ltr">This is how advertising, tech and publishing companies have been controlling information flow on the internet, the design of the architecture where it flows, but also users’ online behaviour and understandings of this environment. Spying on users’ behaviour and distorting their experience if they express their active rejection of cookies is presented as necessary procedures to the internet’s existence. </p><p dir="ltr">This notion of ‘consent’ naturalises and normalises digital advertising and technology companies’ practices of surveillance,and educates people about the boundaries of their actions. It also marks the boundaries of what users can demand and expect from commercial actors and state regulators. Portrayed as control, autonomy and power, consent actually moves responsibility from the service or technology providers to individual users. </p><p dir="ltr">Consent is a design fail that should not be engineered into our online lives anymore. But what are the alternatives, then? A good place to start is with the legal scholar Julie Cohen’s <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3162178">latest article</a>, where she challenges the current functioning of privacy legislation. As Cohen argues, instruments that are meant to have operational effects, such as notice-and-consent, do not work. Ultimately, as Cohen argues “data harvesting and processing are one of the principal business models of informational capitalism, so there is little motivation either to devise more effective methods of privacy regulation or to implement existing methods more rigorously”. To tackle this, one of the first steps towards a change of the current ecosystem is a need to rethink this business model and invest in alternatives that would make the current model undesirable. These are some other possible solutions:</p><ol><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Breaking monopolies of big companies such as Facebook, Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Microsoft.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">An internet tax which is funnelled to creating public services and spaces.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Promoting decentralised systems such as peer-to-peer.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">De-individualising use of technology.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">A live communication platform that connects users to national and EU data protection authorities so that they can complain, discuss, negotiate and monitor how their rights are applied online.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">A real-time and dynamic terms and condition panel where people can get updates on changes, and can control and negotiate the different clauses without being denied access. This panel should also connect people to their networks so they can make collective decisions about settings and see the wider impact of those decisions.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Developing education programmes, television shows and radio programmes to teach people about algorithms, data-harvesting and processing, data ethics and their rights.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Enabling a control panel that is part of web browsers and cell phones, which shows what is happening in the back-end and enables people to have real-time negotiations with services. This panel, again, should also connect people with their networks. </p></li></ol><p dir="ltr">These are just some ideas, but none of them should be seen on their own as the only answer that provides the ‘ultimate solution’. Multiple solutions and approaches should be made and promoted, primarily to change the way we use, think and understand the internet. As many media historians show, there are multiple ways in which technology can be used, developed and designed; the default setting is never fixed. &nbsp;The moment we create more possible ways for the internet to function, we can think of <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1520156881/openbook-the-honest-open-source-and-awesome-social">alternative</a> ways to engage with it. Ways which really empower us, and not only give us ‘control’, but agency, autonomy and meaningful choices – individually and collectively. Don’t you consent to that?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties hri Elinor Carmi Wed, 15 Aug 2018 10:50:15 +0000 Elinor Carmi 119273 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Facebook and journalism. Part two https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/moh-hamdi/facebook-and-journalism-part-two <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Facebook has fundamentally changed the news ecosystem and has, in fact, jeopardised press freedom and plurality – whether willingly or not. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35648053.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35648053.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2018, Hamburg: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer SE and President of the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers, at 'Online Marketing Rockstars' fair. Axel Heimken/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>When asked in December 2016 what kind of a company Facebook was exactly, <a href="https://eu.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/12/21/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-not-a-traditional-media-%20company/95717102/">Mark Zuckerberg</a> replied that "Facebook is a new kind of platform. It's not a traditional technology company. It's not a traditional media company." Zuckerberg has always been reluctant to describe his company as a publishing house, but the control he has acquired over who gets to see what and when makes him the most powerful news editor the world has ever seen and although Facebook does not produce any content of its own, the news publishers’ dependence on the social medium for the distribution of their content has turned Facebook into a de facto news company. </p> <p>One of the more serious consequences of this development is that neither the news publishers nor the news consumers have much control over the flow of news content. Instead, Facebook can decide which user sees what type of information, based on detailed psychographic profiles. The company therefore has a considerable impact on how its more than two billion active users perceive the world. How easy it is for Facebook to affect the sensitivities of its users has been proven by a number of controversial experiments conducted by Facebook without its users’ knowledge. In 2013 for example, a group of psychologists tried to see whether or not a change in the news feed can alter the mental states of Facebook users. By tweaking the algorithm, the scientists tried to find out whether exposure to positive or negative posts would lead to emotional contagion. They found strong evidence for mood alterations on Facebook. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred”, they <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262813340_Experimental_Evidence_of_Massive-Scale_Emotional_Contagion_Through_Social_Networks">concluded.</a> <span class="mag-quote-center">The company therefore has a considerable impact on how its more than two billion active users perceive the world.</span> </p> <p>There have been fears that Facebook could use the sway it holds over its users’ emotions to influence election results. Unknowingly to its users, Facebook conducted several social experiments during the 2012 US <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/can-voting-facebook-button-improve-voter-turnout/">presidential election</a> campaign to see whether a higher amount of political news in one’s news feed would increase interest in politics and, consequently, voter turnout. The data analysts concluded that Facebook did have an impact on voting behavior, as the number of voters did indeed go up as a consequence of the experiment. Likewise, in 2016 Facebook launched its “get out the vote” campaign, which, according to a post by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104067130714241?pnref=story">Zuckerberg</a>, has “helped as many as 2 million people register to vote”. What Zuckerberg presents as civic responsibility of his company was seen by many as a meddling in the election campaigns. <a href="https://gizmodo.com/facebook-says-it-doesnt-try-to-influence-how-people-vot-1771276946?rev=%201460755179651">Facebook </a>has reacted by declaring it will never use the platform to influence the electoral results: “Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community. We encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues. We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence <em>how</em> people vote.” <span class="mag-quote-center">The distribution of news on Facebook is anything but impartial. The platform can be – and has been – misused for political manipulation and propaganda. </span></p> <p>Conservative groups in particular were not persuaded by these promises of neutrality – not only because Zuckerberg has never made any bones about his support for the Democratic party, but more crucially, because Facebook has been accused in the past of wilfully suppressing conservative news publishers. In January 2014, Facebook launched <a href="https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/01/finding-popular-conversations-on-facebook/">“Trending Topics”.</a> Thanks to this news feature, which showed up on the right side of the News Feed, Facebook users could know which stories were most popular on the platform at a given moment. Publishers for their part were able to extend their reach and engagement. Furthermore, advertisers could adapt their ads campaign to the prevailing trends. In May 2016 the tech website Gizmodo issued an investigative piece based on interviews with Facebook “news curators”, who claimed that conservative news were deliberately prevented from showing up in the Trending Topics list. At the same time, news about liberal causes such as posts relating to the Black Lives Matter movement were artificially injected into the list to push their reach, according to the same Facebook employees. Furthermore, Facebook also indicated that news about Facebook should not be circulated via the Trending Topics feature. Not only did <a href="https://gizmodo.com/former-facebook-workers-we-routinely-suppressed-conser-1775461006">Gizmodo’s article</a> accuse Facebook of political bias but it also showed that the distribution of news was not merely based on algorithms but that human editors were also at work. </p> <p>The report seemed to <a href="https://gizmodo.com/facebook-employees-asked-mark-zuckerberg-if-they-should-1771012990">corroborate </a>the fears of Trump supporters who worried about Facebook’s opposition to their candidate following a leak that documented how Facebook employees were toying with the idea of stopping Donald Trump from becoming the next US president. Tom Stocky, who is responsible for Facebook’s Trending Topic feature, and Mark Zuckerberg responded to the allegations by denying any wrongdoing. Internal investigation did not find any evidence to support the claims iterated by Gizmodo. “ We have rigorous guidelines that do not permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or the suppression of political perspectives ”, Zuckerberg wrote in a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10102830259184701">May 2016 post</a>. Nonetheless, Zuckerberg has met with leaders of <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/mark-zuckerberg-to-meet-with-conservative-leaders-about-trending-topics/">conservative publishers</a>, such as Glenn Beck, following Gizmodo’s scathing article. A few months after the meeting, Facebook decided to get rid of its <a href="https://www.businessinsider.de/facebook-human-news-editors-2016-9?r=US&amp;IR=T">news editors</a> in favour of distributions based completely on <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/facebook-trending-topics-censorship-humans">algorithms</a>. </p> <p>While conservative groups have voiced concern over Zuckerberg’s support for the Democratic party, several newspapers have documented how the Republican party itself had instrumentalized the platform during the 2016 elections by flooding the News Feed with fake news in order to promote Trump and denigrate his adversaries. Fake news are believed to have strongly influenced the outcome of the US presidential election – though it is difficult to measure their political impact. However, according to a 2016 <em>BuzzFeed </em>study, the most successful election-related fake news stories generated more engagement on Facebook than the most successful posts from reference <a href="https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook#.btkRY5Elp">newspapers</a>. Facebook algorithms are believed to have prioritized fake news over accurate reporting – mostly to the advantage of the GOP. The Cambridge Analytica (CA) and Aggregate IQ scandals further corroborated the accusations against the Republican party. (Interestingly enough, CA’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">parent firm</a> <em>Strategic Communications Laboratories Group </em>has been hired by several national defense departments to disseminate military propaganda.) Fake news also influenced political decisions in Europe. It is believed that disinformation has strongly affected the outcome of the Brexit referendum. In April 2018, Facebook representative Mike Schroepfer had to give evidence to the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the issue of fake news and its impact in Britain. </p> <p>Political leaders worldwide have reacted to the dangers of fake news in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/technology/fake-news-on-facebook-in-foreign-elections-thats-not-new.html;">upcoming elections</a> and have urged Zuckerberg to take measures against the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/world/europe/italy-fake-news.html">scourge.</a> What Gizmodo’s revelations as well as the scandals around the elections and referenda show, is that the distribution of news on Facebook is anything but impartial. The platform can be – and has been – misused for political manipulation and propaganda. </p> <h2><strong>Monetizing</strong></h2> <p>Financial incentives are an important factor in the propagation of fake news as well as in the decline of accuracy and quality of news. In the current system publishers hope to attract as many clicks as possible in order to monetize on the ads placed on their website. As a result of this ads-based monetization system quality and truth becomes subordinate to reach and engagement. As a consequence, online journalism has adopted the style and methods of tabloids and muckraking newspapers in order to attract the attention of Facebook users. Articles are often emotionally charged, strongly biased, hyperbolic or intentionally provoking. Phenomena such as clickbait or engagement bait have invaded the social network. Viral propagation, shitstorms and hashtag campaigns have become the boon of online journalism. Even highly respected news publishers have preferred to produce trashy pieces and infotainment that may be low-quality but that nonetheless results in a great deal of engagement. <span class="mag-quote-center">Even highly respected news publishers have preferred to produce trashy pieces and infotainment that may be low-quality but that nonetheless results in a great deal of engagement.</span></p> <p>The Facebook page of leading international newspapers are filled with so-called junk food news. There is in fact an enormous quality gap between print and online versions of the same news publishers as the quality of online newspapers is considerably lower to the print versions due to the “eye-catching” effects needed to attract the attention and the clicks of Internet users. </p> <p>News consumers have now become very sceptical of the press in general and are questioning the objectivity and accuracy of news reporting. A 2018 global report by the <a href="https://cms.edelman.com/sites/default/files/2018-01/2018%20Edelman%20Trust%20Barometer%20Global%20%20Report.pdf">Edelman Trust Barometer</a>, which surveyed people from 28 countries, showed that media in general are facing a crisis of trust. 66% of the respondents agreed with the statement that news organisations are overly focused on attracting large audiences rather than reporting, 65% found that news organisations sacrifice accuracy in order to be the first to break a story and 59% thought that news media supported an ideology instead of informing the public. The study also shows that 7 in 10 people worry about fake news being used as a weapon. 63% of respondents have admitted that they were unable to tell good journalism from rumour or falsehood. </p> <h2><strong>Polarisation and echo</strong></h2> <p>Both fake news and partisan low-quality articles have led to two other dangerous and related developments: the polarization of society and online echo chambers. Content that can potentially go viral often deals with divisive and highly emotional issues such as immigration as well as identity-related topics such as race or gender. By flooding the social platform with partisan articles on these topics in order to generate more engagement, newsrooms have contributed to further fragment society along ideological and identity-based lines. Furthermore, the result of this distrust is not that people read less news or that they restrict their news consumption to renowned news publishers but rather that they only read news that confirms pre-existing beliefs. Ironically, this only worsens the problem as confirmation is replacing accuracy as a yardstick for good journalism. News consumers are less likely to read and engage with content that does not conform to their pre-existing beliefs, which in turn leads to more polarization. </p> <p>Facebook plays a big part in this development. Algorithm-generated distribution may reduce the risk of biased human intervention, but it opens the door to other dangers, such as for instance the risk of creating echo chambers. This concept denotes the selective exposure to ideas that a given individual agrees with, thereby reinforcing her belief system. As stated above, most news that appear on our wall tally with a user’s perceptions thereby reinforcing the impression that her own beliefs are the predominant ones. The user is only confronted with topics she is interested in and with opinions she agrees with. The digital world makes it easier for individuals who share certain outlooks and beliefs, to gather in virtual discussion spaces and mutually confirm their common bias. Several studies have indeed found evidence that echo chambers exist on Facebook and that Facebook users are highly <a href="http://maint.ssrn.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/site-unavailable.html">polarised. </a>This polarisation obviously has consequences in the offline world, too. </p> <p>After initially dismissing the scope and effects of fake and low-quality news on its platform, Facebook has promised to introduce new measures in order to reduce these phenomena. Acknowledging that financial gain is one of the main incentives for spreading fake news as well as clickbaiting headlines and sensationalist articles, Facebook made several updates to make it more difficult to reap profits from such misleading posts. On August 2017 for instance, Facebook made an update to block ads from users who have repeatedly shared false or misleading content on <a href="https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/08/blocking-ads-from-pages-that-repeatedly-share-false-news/">Facebook</a>. Critics were quick to warn about possible abuses of power. Facebook should not take the spread of misinformation on its platform as an excuse to suppress content. In an interview with the Swiss publication “Blick”, <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/axel-springer-ceo-mathias-dopfner-interview-on-facebook-and-fake-news-2017-1">Mathias Döpfner</a>, CEO of the German publishing house Axel Springer, explained the dangers of Facebook turning into a news editor: “Those who are now calling upon Facebook to employ an editor-in-chief and to verify the accuracy of independent editorial texts, deleting them where appropriate, they are creating a kind of global super censor and are destroying precisely the diversity that makes up our democracy.” <a href="https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/12/dunja-bother-quick-take-lying-social-media/">Dunja Mijatović </a>, the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, seconded Döpfner and argued that monitoring content “may just cause greater harm to free expression than any lie, no matter how damaging”. A number of NGOs advocating free speech, such as <a href="https://ifex.org//international/2017/01/12/fake_news_regulation/">IFEX </a>or Article19, have documented cases of government censorship that have been justified on the grounds of protection against fake news, thereby underlining the dangers of instrumentalising the debate for political goals. </p> <h2><strong>Global super censor</strong></h2> <p>Facebook has repeatedly pledged that, as a tech company, it was not going to make such <a href="https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/04/working-to-stop-misinformation-and-false-news/">editorial decisions</a>. “We cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, it’s not feasible given our scale, and it’s not our role. Instead, we’re working on better ways to hear from our community and work with third parties to identify false news and prevent it from spreading on our platform.” One possibility is to work with third parties who check the veracity of news posted online. In December 2016 Facebook announced its collaboration with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to fight<a href="https://www.poynter.org/news/facebook-has-plan-fight-fake-news-heres-where-we-come"> fake news.</a> Once a news item has been identified as fake, the fact-checkers can issue a rebuttal that will then be attached to the original link. Döpfner has criticized the initiative arguing that journalists are doing even more free work for Facebook in order to solve its fake news <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/axel-springer-ceo-mathias-dopfner-interview-on-facebook-and-fake-news-%202017-1?r=UK&amp;IR=T">problem</a> instead of producing quality articles. Some fact-checkers themselves have also questioned the efficiency of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/13/way-too-little-way-too-late-facebooks-fact-checkers-%20say-effort-is-failing">the initiative</a>. Besides, it has been argued that the project puts newspapers in a conflict of interest given that some selected media outlets were granted the privilege to assess the articles of other newspapers. </p> <p>Additionally, Facebook has introduced measures to expose users to a more diverse range of sources. In April and October 2017, Facebook has tested a function that would show related articles in order to offer different <a href="https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/04/news-feed-fyi-new-test-with-related-articles/">perspectives</a>, as well as a function that provides context for articles that are shared on the news feed, such as information on the publisher or related articles, so that <a href="https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/10/news-feed-fyi-new-test-to-provide-context-about-articles/">readers</a> can make “an informed decision about which stories to read, share, and trust”. Another early attempt was to introduce a function that let users flags news as “disputed”. According to Facebook, this would make it easier to tell fake articles from authentic ones and thus prevent the spread of hoaxes. </p> <p>A year after introducing the function Facebook withdrew it, admitting that it generated the <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/technology/366020-facebook-drops-disputed-tags-for-news-stories">opposite</a> effect of what was hoped. In 2018, Zuckerberg introduced a new measure to rank publishers according to their trustworthiness: Facebook users could now decide for themselves which news publishers they deem authentic. News publishers who are “broadly trusted across society, even by those who don’t follow them directly” would as a consequence be <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/facebooks-latest-fix-for-fake-news-ask-users-what-they-trust/">prioritised</a>. This again has drawn criticism by those who accuse Facebook of “taking the path with least responsibility”, implying that Facebook should censor instead of continuing to make money with hoaxes. </p> <h2><strong>“Meaningful interaction”</strong></h2> <p>It is clear that whatever the solutions offered, there will always be downsides. The press has become so dependent on Facebook that each adjustment may lead to undesired consequences. This has been exemplified by Facebook’s introduction of a separate news feed which would only display non-promoted press content. The original news feed would instead focus on posts made by friends and family in order to foster what <a href="https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104413015393571">Zuckerberg</a> described as “meaningful interaction”. </p> <p>Ads would still show up in the original news feed, as well as news – if publishers paid for it to appear there. The feature was launched in 6 countries on 19 October 2017 and has resulted in a massive loss of referral traffic for the concerned news outlets – especially smaller and local publishers relying on Facebook for reaching their audience and making money. The reach of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/25/facebook-orwellian-journalists-democracy-guate%20mala-slovakia">Guatemalan </a>publisher Soy502 has dropped by 66%, according to one of its editorial board members. In <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/23/facebook-non-promoted-posts-news-feed-new-trial-%20publishers">Slovakia</a>, publishers are reported to have lost two thirds to three quarters of their Facebook reach. The failed experiment shows just how much the press is hooked on Facebook and what effects a change in Facebook’s policies can have on media pluralism and especially local and small-sized media outlets in countries as distant as Slovakia and Guatemala. </p> <p>One of Facebook’s more ambitious and arguably less controversial initiatives has been the launch of its “Facebook Journalism Project” (FJP) under the aegis of Campbell Brown. The declared goal of this news initiative is to raise the quality of and the trust in journalism and is based on three pillars according to <a href="https://media.fb.com/2017/01/11/facebook-journalism-project/?_ga=1.203317651.322283429.1425207372">Fidji Simo</a>, the director of the project: collaborative projects, training for journalists and training for everyone. One of the focal points of FJP is therefore the educational axis. FJP offers several <a href="https://media.fb.com/2016/10/25/introducing-online-courses-for-journalists-on-facebook/?_ga=2.19895679%20.619604578.1524587663-563576275.1523471564">courses </a>directed at journalists who want to enhance their digital skills. In January 2018, Brown has announced that FJP would offer <a href="https://www.facebook.com/facebookmedia/blog/introducing-the-facebook-journalism-project-scholarship/">scholarships</a> to 100 ongoing journalists. Furthermore, FJP tries to advance media literacy through the “News Integrity Initiative” (NII) which it founded in <a href="https://www.journalism.cuny.edu/2017/04/announcing-the-new-integrity-initiative/">collaboration</a> with a series of other institutions in order to help people “make informed judgments about the news they read and share online”. NII has also pledged to support quality <a href="https://www.journalism.cuny.edu/2017/11/news-integrity-initiative-teams-up-with-international-partners-%20announces-2-5-million-in-grants/">journalism</a> with a $2.5 million grant to partners worldwide. </p> <p>Facebook FJP has also started to reach out to local media with projects such as the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator aimed to help local media raise their <a href="https://www.facebook.com/facebookmedia/blog/helping-local-news-publishers-develop-digital-subscriptions/">subscription revenue</a> or apps such as <em>Today In </em>which only displays <a href="https://www.recode.net/2018/1/10/16871480/facebook-local-news-section-journalism">local news</a> and events. The results of these projects remain to be seen but, here again, publishers have questioned the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/13/way-too-little-way-too-late-%20Facebooks-fact-checkers-say-effort-is-failing;%20https://mondaynote.com/facebooks-walled-wonderland-is-inherently-incompatible-with-news-media-b145e2d0078c">efficiency</a> of the initiative, wondering whether FJP was not a mere PR stunt after all.</p> <h2><strong>Reluctant to quit </strong></h2> <p>While discontent over Facebook is constantly growing, media outlets have nonetheless been reluctant to quit the platform. In fact, they have become too dependent on the social network. News publishers see themselves confronted with a difficult dilemma: should they continue to use Facebook as a distributive platform in order to reach larger audiences at the expense of quality and control? </p> <p>Or should they stop using Facebook to retain control over production and readership and produce high-quality journalism but suffer a loss of audience as well as revenue? The dilemma involves Facebook users and news readers, too: should they consume free, low-quality news that is conveniently selected by a Facebook algorithm according to one’s interests and preferences or should they find more cumbersome alternatives that involve fees but also higher quality standards? It seems that, without the willingness of readers to pay for journalism, news publishers will hardly have an incentive to quit Facebook. <span class="mag-quote-center">Without the willingness of readers to pay for journalism, news publishers will hardly have an incentive to quit Facebook. </span></p> <p>Facebook too is facing an important dilemma. Should it stress its quality as a tech company whose ultimate goal it is to maximise its gain ­– in which case, it can continue to monetize on viral posts that are usually low quality, sometimes false and often extremely divisive. Or should it identify more strongly as a news distributor, thereby assuming greater responsibilities in its function as a primary news source for a growing amount of its users worldwide? In this case, Facebook ought to promote better journalism, which entails sharing a greater part of its revenue with publishers. The company may as a consequence also experience a reduction of reach and engagement for many posts. </p> <p>But even if Facebook opts for the latter, as seemingly it has during the last two years, it is still difficult to find a solution that satisfies all parties: the advertisers, major publishers, local news outlets, governments, NGOs and, obviously, Facebook itself as well as its users. Changes in Facebook’s News Feed or algorithms may for instance have serious consequences on some of the publishers, as the fates of Slovakian and Guatemalan news outlets have shown. Furthermore, Facebook is caught between demands for more regulation of news content on the one hand, being accused of a laissez-faire attitude vis-à-vis fake news and low-quality garbage, while on the other hand it is confronted with accusations of using fake news as an excuse to monitor and censor content on its platform along the lines of ideological preferences. </p> <p>Whatever the decision taken by the different parties involved, the repercussions on the press may be considerable. Facebook has fundamentally changed the news ecosystem and has, in fact, jeopardised press freedom and plurality – whether willingly or not. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/moh-hamdi/facebook-and-journalism-part-one">Facebook and journalism. Part one</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties United States Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Internet Moh Hamdi Fri, 10 Aug 2018 14:58:10 +0000 Moh Hamdi 119226 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In the era of artificial intelligence: safeguarding human rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/dunja-mijatovi/in-era-of-artificial-intelligence-safeguarding-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, it is all too easy for governments to permanently watch you and restrict the right to privacy, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and press freedom. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/frankenstein.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/frankenstein.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Frankenstein's monster's bust in the National Museum of Cinema of Turin, Italy Wikicommons/ André Ribeiro from Curitiba, Brasil. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Humans and machines are destined to live in an ever-closer relationship. To make it a happy marriage, we have to better address the ethical and legal implications that data science carry. </p> <p>Artificial intelligence, and in particular its subfields of machine learning and deep learning, may only be neutral in appearance, if at all. Underneath the surface, it can become extremely personal. </p> <p>The benefits of grounding decisions on mathematical calculations can be enormous in many sectors of life. However, relying too heavily on AI inherently involves determining patterns beyond these calculations and can therefore turn against users, perpetrate injustices and restrict people’s rights. <span class="mag-quote-center">AI in fact can negatively affect a wide range of our human rights.</span></p> <p>AI in fact can negatively affect a wide range of our human rights. The problem is compounded by the fact that decisions are taken on the basis of these systems, while there is no transparency, accountability and safeguards on how they are designed, how they work and how they may change over time. </p> <h2><strong>Encroaching on the right to privacy and the right to equality </strong></h2> <p>The tension between advantages of AI technology and risks for our human rights becomes most evident in the field of privacy. Privacy is a fundamental human right, essential in order to live in dignity and security. But in the digital environment, including when we use apps and social media platforms, large amounts of personal data is collected - with or without our knowledge - and can be used to profile us, and produce predictions of our behaviours. We provide data on our health, political ideas and family life without knowing who is going to use this data, for what purposes and why. </p> <p>Machines function on the basis of what humans tell them. If a system is fed with human biases (conscious or unconscious) the result will inevitably be biased. The lack of diversity and inclusion in the design of AI systems is therefore a key concern: instead of making our decisions more objective, they could reinforce discrimination and prejudices by giving them an appearance of objectivity. There is increasing evidence that women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and LGBTI persons particularly suffer from discrimination by biased algorithms. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is increasing evidence that women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and LGBTI persons particularly suffer from discrimination by biased algorithms. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Studies have shown, for example, that Google was more likely to display adverts for highly paid jobs to male job seekers than female. Last May, a <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2018/big-data-discrimination">study</a> by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency also highlighted how AI can amplify discrimination. When data-based decision making reflects societal prejudices, it reproduces – and even reinforces – the biases of that society. This problem has often been raised by academia and NGOs too, who recently adopted the <a href="https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2018/05/Toronto-Declaration-D0V2.pdf">Toronto Declaration</a>, calling for safeguards to prevent machine learning systems from contributing to discriminatory practices. </p> <p>Decisions made without questioning the results of a flawed algorithm can have serious repercussions for human beings. For example, software used to inform decisions about healthcare and disability benefits has wrongfully excluded people who were entitled to them, with dire consequences for the individuals concerned. </p> <h2><strong>Stifling freedom of expression and freedom of assembly</strong></h2> <p>Another right at stake is freedom of expression. A recent Council of Europe publication on <a href="https://rm.coe.int/algorithms-and-human-rights-en-rev/16807956b5">Algorithms and Human Rights</a> noted for instance that Facebook and YouTube have adopted a filtering mechanism to detect violent extremist content. However, no information is available about the process or criteria adopted to establish which videos show “clearly illegal content”. </p> <p>Although one cannot but salute the initiative to stop the dissemination of such material, the lack of transparency around the content moderation raises concerns because it may be used to restrict legitimate free speech and to encroach on people’s ability to express themselves. </p> <p><a href="https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Opinion/Legislation/OL-OTH-41-2018.pdf">Similar concerns</a> have been raised with regard to automatic filtering of user-generated content, at the point of upload, supposedly infringing intellectual property rights, which came to the forefront with the proposed Directive on Copyright of the EU. In certain circumstances, the use of automated technologies for the dissemination of content can also have a significant impact on the right to freedom of expression and of privacy, when bots, troll armies, targeted spam or ads are used, in addition to algorithms defining the display of content. <span class="mag-quote-center">Similar concerns have been raised with regard to … the Proposed Directive on Copyright of the EU.</span></p> <p>The tension between technology and human rights also manifests itself in the field of facial recognition. While this can be a powerful tool for law enforcement officials for finding suspected terrorists, it can also turn into a weapon to control people. Today, it is all too easy for governments to permanently watch you and restrict the right to privacy, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and press freedom. </p> <h2><strong>What governments and the private sector should do </strong></h2> <p>AI has the potential to help human beings maximise their time, freedom and happiness. At the same time, it can lead us towards a dystopian society. Finding the right balance between technological development and human rights protection is therefore an urgent matter – one on which the future of the society we want to live in depends. </p> <p>To get it right, we need stronger co-operation between state actors – governments, parliaments, the judiciary, law enforcement agencies – private companies, academia, NGOs, international organisations and also the public at large. The task is daunting, but not impossible. </p> <p>A number of standards already exist and should serve as a starting point. For example, the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights sets clear boundaries for the respect for private life, liberty and security. It also underscores states’ obligations to provide an effective remedy to challenge intrusions into private life and to protect individuals from unlawful surveillance. In addition, the modernised Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data adopted this year addresses the challenges to privacy resulting from the use of new information and communication technologies. </p> <p>States should also make sure that the private sector, which bears the responsibility for AI design, programming and implementation, upholds human rights standards. The Council of Europe <a href="https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectID=0900001680790e14">Recommendation on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries</a>, the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf">UN guiding principles on business and human rights</a>, and the <a href="https://freedex.org/a-human-rights-approach-to-platform-content-regulation/">report on content regulation</a> by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, should all feed the efforts to develop AI technology which is able to improve our lives. There needs to be more transparency in the decision-making processes using algorithms, in order to understand the reasoning behind them, to ensure accountability and to be able to challenge these decisions in effective ways. <span class="mag-quote-center">A third field of action should be to increase people’s “AI literacy”.</span></p> <p>A third field of action should be to increase people’s “AI literacy”. States should invest more in public awareness and education initiatives to develop the competencies of all citizens, and in particular of the younger generations, to engage positively with AI technologies and better understand their implications for our lives. Finally, national human rights structures should be equipped to deal with new types of discriminations stemming from the use of AI. </p> <p>Artificial intelligence can greatly enhance our abilities to live the life we desire. But it can also destroy them. We therefore have to adopt strict regulations to prevent it from morphing in a modern Frankenstein’s monster. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction">Weapons of maths destruction </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/renata-avila-joren-de-wachter-christoph-schneider/eu-is-killing-our-democratic-sp">The EU is killing our democratic spaces using copyright as a Trojan horse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jens-renner/to-restore-trust-in-technology-we-must-go-further-than-gdpr">To restore trust in technology, we must go further than GDPR</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite-christina-rogers/our-data-doubles-how-biometric-surveillance-ushe">Our data doubles: how biometric surveillance ushers in new orders of control</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Dunja Mijatović Tue, 03 Jul 2018 14:40:34 +0000 Dunja Mijatović 118694 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The EU is killing our democratic spaces using copyright as a Trojan horse https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/renata-avila-joren-de-wachter-christoph-schneider/eu-is-killing-our-democratic-sp <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>DiEM25’s position on Copyright Reform: <del datetime="2018-06-29T12:38" cite="mailto:Renata%20Avila"></del>democratize technology instead of allowing it to be used as a giant censorship machine in the interest of big business.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Giovanni_Domenico_Tipeolo,_Procession_of_the_Trojan_Horse_in_Troy._1773..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Giovanni_Domenico_Tipeolo,_Procession_of_the_Trojan_Horse_in_Troy._1773..jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Copyright as a Trojan horse. After Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1773) National Gallery. Public Domain.</span></span></span>Europe was one of the regions that connected massively to the Internet. Not only that, it was one of the few adopting literacy and inclusion programs early enough on to unleash the power of connected citizens, showing them how to create new business models and improve education but also how to express themselves, create, organize and protest. </p><p>But alarmingly, the European Parliament is on the verge of a dramatic change of direction. 
The EU has recently embarked on a new mission: controlling the Internet <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/david-elston/link-tax-eu-copyright-directive-will-break-internet-as-we-know-it">through the monopoly of copyright</a>. This attempt to reform and control the Internet has not received half the attention it deserves. </p><p>As Julia Reda, MEP for the Pirate Party, has explained, the current project of EU legislation would impose automatic filters that control ANY content that anyone wants to upload. The reason would be the protection of copyright, a monopoly right that primarily benefits large media behemoths, without any possibility of advance verification. 
</p><p>You read that right: the EU wants to put in place a global censorship machine, on the basis of unverifiable monopoly rights, mostly held by large media corporations. </p><p>In DiEM25, we do not see this as just an outdated law, isolated from current politics. Indeed, that is precisely what is most worrying about it. We cannot see it as unconnected to the big push in Europe by authoritarian leaders wanting to restrict, to truly shrink the spaces of civil society. Increasing censorship online will reduce the ability of citizens to say what they think, filtering content before it is published. This&nbsp; will not only harm speech but increase surveillance and the meting out of punishments for things we say online. This is combined with all the existing online state surveillance already endured by EU citizens, which remains as powerful as ever. </p><p>With dismay, we are witnessing now an open boycott of the democratic achievement of a connected Europe. The European Parliament Legal Committee has just given <a href="https://creativecommons.org/2018/06/20/european-parliaments-legal-affairs-committee-gives-green-light-to-harmful-link-tax-and-pervasive-platform-censorship/">the green light to a law that will be a tool</a> to control speech, expression, criticism and increase the surveillance levels imposed on all EU citizens. </p><p>Disguised as a copyright reform, this is is a move to remove power from the hands of people and silence voices. Diem25 stands against it and urges all progressive MEPs to reconsider their position. </p><p>Otherwise, be prepared to wave goodbye to free speech, because you may want to use something that someone claims “exclusive rights” on. And while you are at it, say Bye, Ciao, Adios to democracy. </p><h2>Why is this such a problem?</h2><p>Because of free speech. Free speech is a fundamental right, right at the heart of any democratic system. 

If you can’t say a word, before checking if someone else has a publishing monopoly on that word (and don’t forget there is no way to check this), you effectively abolish free speech.

Copyright dates from the days of the printing press, when copying was difficult and expensive.&nbsp; It ensured a distribution monopoly for businesses who would distribute content that was hard to gather, hard to assess, hard to distribute, and hard to market. </p><p><strong>Let us shift the vote on July 5 and create a space to discuss the democratic future of the Internet. </strong></p><p>

But we live in the 21st century, not the 19th. The Internet changed all that. Yet, the distribution monopoly holders want to keep their rent-seeking practices, to benefit from the creative work of the real authors and creative people.

And the European Parliament looks like they want to support the monopoly holders over the rights of democratic debate and free speech.

 What can we do?<br />We need to engage in meaningful democratic debate. On July 5, the European Parliament will vote on the proposed Copyrighht Reform. The proposed text is deeply wrong for three reasons:
</p><p>- First, it has the balance between monopoly, expressed through copyright, and freedom of speech fundamentally wrong. As Europeans we expected our representatives to be designing the institutions of the future, not relying on and constructing all the architecture for our shared information based on outdated nineteenth century copyright laws.</p><p>- Second, there has been no proper debate about this. DiEM25 is the one political movement that is adopting a serious, crowd-sourced approach to issues such as the relationship between technology and free speech, through its current adoption of its Seventh Pillar on Technological Sovereignty in its ‘Progressive Agenda for the Internet and other technologies in Europe’. Remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal? DiEM25 is the only political movement with a structural approach to this problem. Rather than the sad cosmetic media-shows we’ve seen in the European Parliament.</p><p>
- Third, from a democratic and transparent perspective, we need to take back power over technology. Technology is great, but it is we humans who must have a democratic control over it. 
Europe won’t be democratised without democratising its technologies. The future of democracies, economies, the environment, public life, equality, freedom and justice are entwined with the futures of technologies – and vice versa. </p><p>Join us in shaping the policies for a democratic future <a href="https://diem25.org/progressive-agenda-for-europe/">and send us your proposals</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, call your MEP to block this awful “copyright reform”.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? EU Christoph Schneider Joren De Wachter Renata Avila DiEM25 Fri, 29 Jun 2018 13:07:22 +0000 Renata Avila, Joren De Wachter and Christoph Schneider 118641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net CIA whistleblower: ''No regrets. I would do it all again'' https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/yorgos-boskos-john-kyriakou/cia-whistleblower-no-regrets-i-would-do-it-all-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whistleblower John Kiriakou explains why he and fellow-whistlebower Thomas Drake are committed to alerting their fellow Americans to a dangerous surveillance and war system designed to monitor their every activity. 31-minute video Interview.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal" style="text-align: left;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-3253.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-3253.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="252" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Kiriakou, 2018. Yorgos Boskos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Three years after he was released from prison, former CIA officer John Kiriakou again denounces the torture programme as illegal and unethical which he had exposed back in 2007. Kiriakou explains why he feels no regrets about his decision to blow the whistle, although it came at a high price for him as for NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake: he would do it all over again.</p> <p style="text-align: left;" class="normal">Kiriakou recollects the CIA's new director, Gina Haspel, overseeing torture sessions in a secret prison overseas. ‘‘When the programme was finally exposed, Haspel personally ordered to destroy videotapes of CIA torture’’, Kiriakou says.</p> <div></div> <p class="normal">On Donald Trump, Kiriakou believes his personal instability to be dangerous. ‘‘There is an anti-Russian hysteria in Washington, it's unlike anything I have seen before in my life. That's why I fear for the country’’, Kiriakou states.</p> <p class="normal">John Kiriakou describes three major techniques that the CIA used: waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and ''cold cell'', which led to the death of two prisoners. He believes that ‘‘those techniques were crimes against humanity’’.</p> <p class="normal">The former CIA Officer was six years old when Daniel Ellsberg went public with the Pentagon Papers, and still remembers what a hero he was in his house and the contribution that he made to American political culture. A few days before Kiriakou went to prison, Ellsberg told him ‘‘you are on the right side of history’’. As Kiriakou admitted, ‘‘Ellsberg was a real inspiration for me’’.</p><p> <iframe height="300" width="460" src="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YXei-H0_cR-tj8PkmVxCBdEgfcXGB6VZ/preview"></iframe></p> <p class="normal">Emphasizing that the United States has been in war for seventeen consecutive years, Kiriakou states that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton never saw ‘‘a war that they did not want to jump into with both feet’’. He is not alone in believing that drones create more terrorists than they kill. ‘‘When I was in Pakistan, I captured and interrogated many dozens of Al Qaeda fighters. Most of them told me that they never had a problem with the US until we bombed their village and killed their parents with a drone’’, Kiriakou reveals. According to him, in the last month of Obama's term ‘‘424 people were killed with the use of a drone’’. Moreover, the former CIA analyst affirms that the ‘‘US economy would collapse if we stopped fighting wars because it's a military-based economy’’.</p> <p class="normal">Besides, Kiriakou talks about Edward Snowden, five years on from leaking the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history. To him, ‘‘it was a great public service, we would have no idea that the government was spying on us, without Snowden’’. As Snowden told the New York Times, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou inspired him to go public with his revelations. ‘‘That made me so happy and proud, so I decided to write him a private letter that my attorney delivered to him in Moscow because I didn't want him to make the same mistakes that I made’’, Kiriakou affirmed.</p> <p class="normal">They spy on us, American citizens. The former CIA Officer stressed that the NSA intercepts every phone call, text message, and email. ‘‘They keep all that data in a giant facility in Utah, where there is enough storage space for the next 500 years. This is not what the founders of the country had envisioned’’.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">He also talks about best friend, NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake, describing him as ‘‘a bona fide American hero’’. Thomas Drake told Kiriakou that US intelligence agencies can crack all encrypted messaging applications. ‘‘Rather than spend the time and the money breaking the encryption, they are able to mirror your phone in order to intercept it as you are typing, before your message is encrypted and sent’’, he adds.</p> <p class="normal">‘‘CIA tried to teach us that everything in life is a shade of grey, but some things are black and white’’, Kiriakou states and again insists that to him, the torture programme was illegal and immoral. ‘‘I kept my mouth shut for three years, waiting for somebody to come out. Nobody blew the whistle, so I did’’. If he had another chance, what decision would he make? ‘‘I have no regrets, I would do it all again’’, Kiriakou replies without hesitation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/mary-fitzgerald-thomas-drake/after-paris-be-careful-what-you-ask-for-interview-with-thomas-drake">After Paris, be careful what you ask for: an interview with Thomas Drake</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/einar-thorsen/obama-commuted-chelsea-manning-sentence-but-legacy">Obama may have commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence – but his legacy on whistleblowers is not one of clemency</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/william-binney-anthony-barnett/%E2%80%9Cwe-had-to-wait-for-snowden-for-proof%E2%80%9D-exchange-with-william-binney">“We had to wait for Snowden for proof”, an exchange with NSA whistleblower William Binney</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia United States Yorgos Boskos John Kiriakou Sun, 10 Jun 2018 08:10:09 +0000 John Kiriakou and Yorgos Boskos 118326 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To restore trust in technology, we must go further than GDPR https://www.opendemocracy.net/jens-renner/to-restore-trust-in-technology-we-must-go-further-than-gdpr <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Privacy controls are a step in the right direction but more must be done to tackle misinformation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Tape_over_laptop_webcam.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Tape_over_laptop_webcam.jpg" alt="A laptop with its webcam taped over" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A laptop with its webcam taped over. Image: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tape_over_laptop_webcam.jpg" target="_blank">Santeri Viinam&auml;ki</a>,&nbsp;CC BY-SA 4.0 CC BY-SA 4.0 </span></span></span>During the past five years, a trend has emerged that can be spotted in most cafés, libraries and corporate headquarters – the covering up of cameras on our personal devices. Once deemed a paranoid precaution, placing a sticker or tape over cameras on our laptops, tablets and even smartphones has now become a relatively commonplace measure. Over a third of Americans now cover up at least some of the cameras on the devices they own, according to a survey published by <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/technology/articles-reports/2018/03/12/majority-americans-feel-their-personal-information" target="_blank">YouGov last year</a>. The webcam sticker’s rise to ubiquity can be traced back to Edward Snowden’s NSA-leaks in the summer of 2013, after which an unprecedented public discussion of digital surveillance and privacy took place. Among the headlines were stories of how <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/edward-snowden" target="_blank">Edward Snowden</a> and Mark Zuckerberg put stickers on their webcams, which led to a decline in public trust in the little eye above our screens. It was the first time that reports were published on how the American intelligence service, with its GUMFISH plug-in, could monitor people by hijacking their webcams. Since then, the webcam sticker has become a symbol for a growing distrust with technology and our attempt to uphold a sense of privacy. It has come to represent a physical means of protection against an unknown evil in tools we use everyday.</p><div>Last month, a landmark piece of privacy regulation came into effect in the European Union, which could have wide-reaching implications not just for how our data is used online but also for our privacy. Several years in the making, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) arrives only months after the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/battle-for-decentralized-internet-navigating-troubled-waters-to-g" target="_blank">Cambridge Analytica</a> revelations. Both news stories have – in each their own way – thrown new light on how little control we have over our data and devices. An extensive <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/11/12/public-privacy-perceptions/" target="_blank">2014 Pew Research survey</a> revealed that there is a widespread sense of powerlessness over digital privacy: while 74% of Americans believe that being in control of their data is very important to them, only 9% feel like they have “a lot” of control over how much information is collected about them online. Is there any hope that we might regain a sense of trust and empowerment, or are we heading towards total alienation and apathy?</div><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">3 things about this photo of Zuck:<br /><br />Camera covered with tape<br />Mic jack covered with tape<br />Email client is Thunderbird <a href="https://t.co/vdQlF7RjQt">pic.twitter.com/vdQlF7RjQt</a></p>— Chris Olson (@topherolson) <a href="https://twitter.com/topherolson/status/745294977064828929?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 21, 2016</a></blockquote> <div>In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there has been an uptick in digital activism aimed at reasserting control over the online services which collect our data. On the 19th of March, just two days after the first articles about the scandal appeared in the <em>Observer</em> and in the <em>New York Times</em>, #DeleteFacebook began trending on Twitter. The hashtag was catapulted into the spotlight when Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, deleted the Facebook pages for both his businesses, which had around 2.6 million followers each, in support of the movement. Activists were split over #DeleteFacebook, with some criticising the movement for ignoring the many businesses or communities that rely on the social network and accusing it of being only for the privileged few.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>“Most people simply can’t throw [their computers] away and move into the forest to become a self-sufficient farmer,” argues out Brandt Dainow, a researcher at the Computer Science Department at Maynooth University, Ireland. Dainow knows a thing or two about how our data gets used online. Late in the 1990s, he set up a software company to develop tracking software, “doing exactly the sort of stuff that, you know, everybody is now worried about.” He goes silent for a few seconds, then adds: “We just thought it was a way to get services delivered to people in a way that fitted their needs better. We never really thought about how it could be misused.”</div><div class="mag-quote-right">The problem is it's being presented as a data breach by one company and it’s not – it's business as usual.</div><div><br />Perhaps wishing to atone for his earlier contribution to online tracking, Dainow is currently working on a PhD in data ethics. His research focuses on the concept of digital alienation, which he suggests is the fault of tech firms. “Facebook has said ‘we're an advertising company’, so the end-user is the advertiser. There is no point in Facebook spending time and money building features that don't earn it any money, or which might even reduce its profits. It's a profit-making business. And that’s the alienation. It means that the social network in which you live is not designed for you.” As long as we aren’t the end-users, that sense of alienation is unlike to change. The huge interest in collecting personal data in order to target advertising will prevail, commodifying us, the obvious users, along the way. But the question remains: does the public actually care? “I don't think that this [Cambridge Analytica] controversy is making very much difference to people,” says Dainow. “See, the problem is it's being presented as a data breach by one company, as if it's an isolated incident. And it’s not – it's business as usual.”</div><div><br />The business in question is the data broker industry. Hidden behind your acceptance of a website’s use of cookies are literally hundreds of companies tracking you around the internet. Some of those companies are widely known, like Google and Facebook, but most are not. A study by Yale University’s Privacy Lab from November 2017 found hidden trackers in 75% of all Android apps, and an examination of more than 144 million websites by the tracking blocker company Ghostery found that 77% of all websites had trackers mapping users’ time spent on websites, their clicks, preferences, purchases and behavior. On a website as seemingly innocuous as Weather.com, Ghostery lists 18 different companies trying to track you.</div><div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Skærmbillede 2018-06-06 kl. 18.32.40.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Skærmbillede 2018-06-06 kl. 18.32.40.png" alt="A list of companies tracking you on Weather.com" title="" width="460" height="560" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A list of companies tracking you on Weather.com, according to Ghostery. Image: Jens Renner, CC BY-SA 4.0. </span></span></span></div><div>It’s not just websites that are collecting our data, the practice has also become integral to political organising. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, an organisation for online advertisers, published a report in 2012, praising the use of micro-targeted advertising during the Obama campaign. The conclusion: “Micro-targeting may have been instrumental for some campaigns in 2012. Micro-targeted advertising should – and almost certainly will – become part of a more data analytics-driven culture in successful political campaigns of the future – especially larger campaigns, such as the contest for the White House.” While micro-targeted political ads might not be new, we are only just beginning to understand the unscrupulous methods used to obtain the data needed for them. The data used by the Obama campaign was obtained from consenting supporters through an app. However, the data used by the Trump campaign was first obtained by Cambridge Analytica from users who had no knowledge of how it was going to be used. It remains unclear whether the practice of micro-targeting has a significant impact on elections.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The free reign that tech companies once had over collecting and tracking our data may soon be coming to an end – in the EU at least. From May 25, companies within the EU, or companies handling data from within the EU, will have to follow a new set of regulations. Some of the hidden data collectors on the internet today, like AppNexus, Datalogix and DoubleClick – the trackers snooping in on my weather-checking habits above – will have to establish a direct relationship with me, in order to ask me for permission to do so. This means no more opt-out checkboxes and stupefying long privacy policies. It also means the right to have everything a company has on you erased for good. Among skeptics it is argued that the regulations will further strengthen the monopoly of advertising companies like Google and Facebook, which already have a direct relationship with their European users and thus a higher chance of getting explicit consent to continue the collection of personal information. But proponents of the legislation are equally outspoken, and have maintained that it hands users agency over their information and offers a model for the rest of the world.</div><div class="mag-quote-left">The internet shouldn’t be perfect. It can’t be. The physical world isn’t either.&nbsp;</div><div>Control over our data might not be enough, however. For one, it does not address a far larger problem – the deluge of misinformation online. Technological advances are making it increasingly harder for us to distinguish between what information is false and what isn’t. Last year, researchers at the University of Washington developed an algorithm that can transpose audio onto a 3D model of Barack Obama’s face, giving them the power to create hyper-realistic fake videos of the former US president. The potential risks of such seamlessly doctored videos are alarming. In a recent interview with <em><a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/the-terrifying-future-of-fake-news?utm_term=.wjjDABlArl#.wbbXqZeq4e" target="_blank">Buzzfeed</a></em>, Aviv Ovadya, a chief technologist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility, outlined a scenario where a fake video of Kim Jong-un declaring nuclear war reaches the person in charge of pushing the button to retaliate. “It doesn’t have to be perfect — just good enough to make the enemy think something happened that it provokes a knee-jerk and reckless response of retaliation,” he told the website.</div><div><br />Despite his warnings of a possible “info-apocalypse”, when I speak to Ovadya he is relatively optimistic about the possibility of positive change. “The internet shouldn’t be perfect. It can’t be. The physical world isn’t either. Facebook and Google developed from a state of nothing, and though they haven’t done that good of a job, they haven’t done that bad either. Ethically they’re not where they should be, but they’re not very far away either. I think they could get there.” Ovadya believes that both companies could eventually get to the point where they are serving the public good. They have acknowledged their role in the fake news crisis, for a start. For Ovadya, change must come from the companies themselves, as he is concerned that external activism cannot influence companies quickly enough as new threats emerge. “Social movements are often slow or coarse, but the problems of technology move very fast. I’m not sure that we can count on public movements to drive nuanced change.”</div><div><br />Although GDPR has its limitations, for now Europeans have gotten more choice and thus more power to influence the terms with which they use their technology. But our relationship with data is more complicated than ever before and changing faster than legislation can keep up. Until it does, it might be better to keep our webcams covered.</div><div></div><div><em>Correction, June 12 2018: the article originally suggested that Aviv Ovadya was skeptical about the impact of activism. In fact, Ovadya said that he was concerned about whether activism can influence tech companies rather than its overall impact.</em></div><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Facebook Jens Renner Fri, 08 Jun 2018 15:25:59 +0000 Jens Renner 118314 at https://www.opendemocracy.net As Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections shut down, SCL Group's defence work needs real scrutiny https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/emma-l-briant/as-cambridge-analytica-and-scl-elections-shut-down-scl-groups-defence-work-needs-re <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We can’t understand the significance of Cambridge Analytica without looking at the network it sits in, and how inadequate controls nurtured aspects of this networks’ development.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cambridge analytica.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/cambridge analytica.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Cambridge Analytica's offices in central London. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>In just a month, Cambridge Analytica has gone from relative obscurity to international notoriety. But for me, this story isn’t new. I first interviewed senior figures in Cambridge Analytica’s lesser known parent company SCL for my 2014 book “<a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719091056/">Propaganda and Counter-terrorism - Strategies for Global Change</a>”, and I’ve followed their work closely ever since.</p> <p>It’s been frustrating to watch some of the key players manage to escape crucial questions that should be asked of them. Because this isn’t just a scandal about an obscure, unethical company. It’s a story about how a network of companies was developed which enabled wide deployment of propaganda tools - based on propaganda techniques that were researched and designed for use as weapons in warzones - on citizens in democratic elections. It’s a logical product of a poorly regulated, opaque and lucrative influence industry. There was little or nothing in place to stop them. </p> <p>Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, and its founder, Nigel Oakes, have done everything they can to distance themselves from Cambridge Analytica but politics was important to SCL’s work far earlier than many thought. And SCL’s main clients - NATO and the defence departments of its member states - have managed to get away without being asked how much they knew about what one of their key contractors was up to. </p> <p>Recently the UK’s parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into Fake News <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">published some of the evidence I submitted drawing on research interviews</a> for an <a href="http://emma-briant.co.uk/books/">upcoming book</a>, among other publications. Some of my quoted interviews with key figures suggest that SCL’s military arm and Cambridge Analytica’s engagements may have been much more closely related than Oakes or Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO Alexander Nix like to publicly admit. And if governments genuinely didn’t know how the firm was using the skills it developed in counter-terrorism in divisive elections around the world, then this was a huge failing.</p> <h2>SCL’s defence ‘division’</h2> <p>To explain this, I’ll start with a man called Steve Tatham. I first interviewed Tatham for my<a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719091056/"> 2014 book</a>, about the work he was doing for the British military, then for SCL. Steve Tatham is former<a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/trump-facebook-data-scandal-cambridge-analyticas-psy-ops-warriors-w518189"> Commanding Officer of Britain's 15 (U.K.) Psyops Group</a><span> </span>and has played a lead role in SCL's defence work,<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/119558643@N05/16641794382/in/photostream/"> including through the company IOTA Global, which was part of the SCL Group, delivering training in counter-Russian propaganda in Eastern Europe</a> funded by the Government of Canada, as well as conducting research on target audience analysis which has influenced counter-insurgency doctrine.</p> <p>In February 2017, Carole Cadwalladr began <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage">reporting on Cambridge Analytica</a> in the Observer. On March 2 of that year, Tatham sent an email statement to a list of his contacts. Tatham declared that 'SCL Defence is a completely separate company to Cambridge Analytica, who were contracted to assist the Trump campaign during the election, albeit we are both part of the same group'.</p> <p>On 24th March 2018 <em>The Times</em> reported on SCL Group's <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dirty-tricks-firm-scl-group-trained-uk-officials-r0dvdnj8f">propaganda defence work</a>. In particular, it focussed on training carried out by Tatham for NATO's Center of Excellence in Strategic Communication in Latvia and the UK's Ministry of Defence. Shortly after the Times report, Tatham's company Influence Options Ltd made another statement, this time more publicly, <a href="https://www.thecanary.co/uk/2018/04/08/bad-news-for-cambridge-analyticas-parent-company-as-a-senior-insider-jumps-ship/">withdrawing from all work with SCL Group</a> and emphasising that they have not worked on any political campaigns. </p> <p>SCL Group has sought to distance SCL defence contracting from political campaign work by stressing SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica were independent companies. I have no reason to suspect Tatham of having engaged in political work. However, his new statement begs the question of how 'separate' the entities were if they were too close for Tatham to sustain his longstanding relationship to the SCL defence contractor amid Cambridge Analytica allegations. His statement acknowledges he worked for the “defence division” of SCL, language which conveys a different relationship from that spelled out in his email to contacts in March 2017, which declared “completely separate company”. Divisions imply related entities in the same company, not separate companies. So which is it? And if they really are all divisions of the same organisation, surely the unethical activities of one part of the SCL Group urgently demands that real scrutiny is given to the defence 'division' of SCL too – and to government oversight of contracts.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/statement acknowleges.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/statement acknowleges.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="181" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>SCL Ltd became SCL ‘Group’ in August 2015. There seem to have been efforts to distance the entities at least superficially; but this seems a more complex picture than “completely separate companies” would imply. My own research supports other evidence presented during the UK parliamentary ‘<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/fake-news-17-19/">Fake News Inquiry</a>’ apparently indicating important staffing overlaps, financial relationships and methods in common between apparently separate companies. Last week also, <a href="http://parlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20180424/-1/29127?useragent=Mozilla/5.0%20(iPad;%20CPU%20OS%2010_3_3%20like%20Mac%20OS%20X)%20AppleWebKit/603.3.8%20(KHTML,%20like%20Gecko)%20Version/10.0%20Mobile/14G60%20Safari/602.1">in testimony to the Canadian Parliament, Aggregate IQ, who worked with SCL on the Nigeria campaign, for Ted Cruz and who were contracted by Vote Leave in the UK’s EU Referendum </a>said they worked with <em>SCL</em>, not Cambridge Analytica, on the Cruz campaign, despite Cambridge Analytica being the entity that worked on this election.</p> <p>Brittany Kaiser, CA’s former Business Development Manager also <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-kaiser-evidence-17-19/">told the Fake News Inquiry </a>on April 17th that “our company tended to have a business model where we would partner with another company and that company would represent us as SCL Germany, or SCL USA. That was the model.” Kaiser added that she believed SCL Canada and Aggregate IQ were the same. Evidence such as this suggests the existence of a clearly associated network. Furthermore, Brittany Kaiser <a href="https://www.commonwealthy.com/voter-analytics-transcript/">declared in 2016</a> that the underpinnings of Cambridge Analytica’s political methods are the same social scientific research and data science techniques as are used for defence: “This was most often actually used in defense. We work for the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies in counter-terrorism operations with this exact same similar methodology. And now we decided to start building up a database to work in politics,” Kaiser said.</p> <h2>SCL and CA - were they really separate companies?</h2> <p>Another key figure who I interviewed before this story broke is Nigel Oakes, chief executive of the SCL Group. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/119558643@N05/16569217855/in/photostream/">Here he is pictured</a> at NATO Stratcom in Riga, working with Steve Tatham. Nigel Oakes was listed as Director of IOTA Global, until the company dissolved in January 2017. Our most recent interview in November last year was very illuminating in revealing the relationship between the companies.</p> <p>When Oakes set up SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica as the new political arm of SCL's business, the political ‘division’ worked less separately from SCL. There are reports of SCL working in <a href="https://qz.com/1240588/cambridge-analytica-how-scl-group-used-indonesia-and-thailand-to-hone-its-ability-to-influence-elections/">elections in Indonesia</a> in 1999. Oakes’ own expertise, which emerged in PR, developed further through counter-terrorism work and shaped the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDI) - a research unit underpinning SCL methods, and this expertise was being deployed in elections. We need to know which ones.</p> <p>Oakes told me he had worked on politics “in the past. I set up the company [Cambridge Analytica] but <em>now</em>, I'm totally defence and I've gotta <em>be</em> totally defence”. He said, “the defence people can't be seen to be getting involved in politics, and the State Department, they get very <em>upset.</em>” Oakes stated they imposed “strong lines” between the companies. It seems reasonable to infer that SCL have been restating their separation to ensure survival of business interests in defence and commercial contracting, motivated in part by nervousness and pressure received from the US and UK governments wanting to contract them for defence work. <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">As Oakes said</a> – “they get very <em>upset”.</em></p> <p>Yet in <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">my </a><span>interview</span> with Oakes he referred to what “we” are doing to include Cambridge Analytica not just his defence division - “…when we explain in the two-minute lift pitch what happened with Trump…” Any lack of clarity here matters – a lot. Cambridge Analytica also stressed that they do <a href="https://ca-political.com/news/time-facts-not-conjecture-says-cambridge-analytica-chief">”no work outside of North America</a>, although the Cambridge Analytica brand is now used worldwide”. According to whistle-blower Chris Wylie, Cambridge Analytica’s work in Nigeria included an ad with a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/04/cambridge-analytica-used-violent-video-to-try-to-influence-nigerian-election">montage of violence, including real footage of people being dismembered</a> and burned, from recent history, seeking to create fear of Muslims and intimidate voters. </p> <p>And then there’s Sam Patten. Patten was ‘senior director/campaign manager’, according to Kaiser, and oversaw the Nigeria campaign along with a second senior strategist. I interviewed him in July 2017 also about a previous job he did working for the <a href="http://www.iri.org/">International Republican Institute</a> in ‘reconstruction’ era Iraq. He told me he had also worked in the US, in Oregon, during one of the trial runs of Cambridge Analytica’s early deployment of psychographics, later deployed more fully in the Cruz campaign. He talked about preparations for this, “they were training a team, I was part of that team… they [...] trained me in England then they sent me to Canada for more training” then he developed messaging for the US campaigns. The Canada based company <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/06/facebook-suspends-aggregate-iq-cambridge-analytica-vote-leave-brexit">Aggregate IQ were reported in the Guardian as having links to SCL but have sought to distance themselves from that company</a>. Patten observed of the United States, “I’ve worked for Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and our system, isn’t very different” (See <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">Explanatory Essay 1</a>). </p> <p><a class="mag-quote-center" href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">&nbsp;"I’ve worked for Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and our system, isn’t very different’"</a></p> <h2>An open secret in Washington </h2> <p>SCL Group’s reputation seemed something of an open secret among some of my contacts in Washington DC information warfare and political campaign circles. This is conveyed in Patten’s flippant comments about a job with SCL: “Anyway, the irony was… because it was SCL I assumed it was the bad guys, but it wasn’t!”.</p> <p>Siloing activities or divisions off can be helpful when a company grows rapidly into new areas, for many reasons. Staff, like Tatham, in the original company, and the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, SCL Group’s ‘research institute’, are not homogenous, and there are some distinctions culturally between those with careers originating in defence and those without. Not all of these individuals wished to work with Cambridge Analytica, not all shared the political motivations represented in the lucrative new contracts. </p> <p>Siloing in companies engaged in nefarious or secretive activities of the kind <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpbeOCKZFfQ">Channel 4 </a>revealed at Cambridge Analytica can also help manage the potential for leaks and exposure. Regardless of how or why Oakes and his business partners may have ultimately organised the companies or 'divisions' to perpetuate their activities (somewhat) separately, the point is that there is a network of companies, with SCL Group central to it, which is responsible for a collection of worrying activities and pitching defence-derived methods to shady international actors. I would argue that, given the above evidence, particularly Oakes’ interview and Kaiser’s reporting and testimony, in order to understand and evaluate these activities we must at least consider the related yet somewhat-autonomous companies’ activities alongside each other, rather than in isolation, including:</p> <ul><li>- Assisting the campaigns of politicians using racist and violent video content designed to drive fear and intimidate voters in fragile states (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-academic-trawling-facebook-had-links-to-russian-university">Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ</a>)</li><li>- Spreading Islamophobic and false narratives in the West including the 2016 US election and which was copied for the EU Referendum by Leave.EU (Cambridge Analytica<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/"> - see my Explanatory Essay 1</a>). These narratives drive fear of Muslims which is used to justify calls for more spending on ‘counter-terrorism’ (Briant, 2015).</li><li>- Profiting from Western governments interventions ostensibly to resolve conflicts (often religious and ethnic) for counter-terrorism and counter-extremism (<a href="http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9780719091056/">see my last book</a>)</li><li>- Also (not mentioned in my submission to parliament), an archived version of <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20170228043708/https:/sclgroup.cc/elections/projects/uk/">their website</a> appears to indicate that SCL have been involved in three elections in the UK. Though <a href="https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/2069">Nix has said</a> “we don't involve ourselves in the UK as a rule of thumb” he lists the UK’s Conservative Party in <a href="https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/2122">this letter</a> among parties they have helped.</li></ul> <p>These are not unrelated activities. </p> <p>When we consider the work of the overall group, these activities might variously be considered to drive instability in precarious democracies, drive fear of Muslims in the West and internationally, then profit from both wars against Muslim countries and Muslims’ marginalisation in the West, while claiming to ‘counter’ extremism.</p> <h2>Controlling the propaganda industries </h2> <p>Damian Collins MP as Chair of the Fake News Inquiry should now consider the extent to which Nigel Oakes, as SCL Group CEO and founder of SCL, should share responsibility along with Cambridge Analytica’s former chief executive Alexander Nix. A number of senior Cambridge Analytica figures are now involved with <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/72d791c6-4ee3-11e8-9471-a083af05aea7">Emerdata, a new Mercer-backed data analytics company.</a></p> <p>Oakes and his colleagues have spent many years studying extremism and terrorism including interviewing terrorists themselves. All of this social science and human intelligence work has been fed into BDI’s research core, which can be drawn on by all the companies. Steve Tatham has <a href="https://toinformistoinfluence.com/2015/11/28/iota-global-assists-nato-coe-in-training-moldova-government-in-strategic-communication/">claimed </a>that: </p> <p>“The BDI methodology uses the most advanced social science research to measure populations and determine, to a high degree of accuracy, how population groups may respond under certain conditions. The methodology is the only one of its type and has been verified and validated by the US Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the Sandia National Laboratories (USA) and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL).”</p> <p>Oakes said to me, of this social science research core – “without <em>this </em>[Alexander Nix] couldn’t do any of that!” (See <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">Explanatory Essay 3</a>). The companies were well equipped to understand what might drive extremism from their shared research base, and to understand the impact of the 'othering' or violent and terrifying ads deployed in domestic and international campaigns. My evidence shows Oakes is not naïve to the kind of campaigns Cambridge Analytica and his SCL Group deployed in the US. </p> <p>This case has further deeply important implications for our government’s defence contracting. In shocking <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/81592.pdf">new testimony </a>Brittany Kaiser, former Development Manager for Cambridge Analytica revealed that:</p> <p>“I found documents from Nigel Oakes, the co-founder of the SCL Group, who was in charge of our defence division, stating that the target audience analysis methodology, TAA, used to be export controlled by the British Government. That would mean that the methodology was considered a weapon—weapons grade communications tactics—which means that we had to tell the British Government if that was going to be deployed in another country outside the United Kingdom. I understand that designation was removed in 2015.” </p> <p>Interestingly, August 2015 is when SCL stopped being SCL Ltd and started being SCL ‘Group’. Again, Kaiser too refers to “our defence division” - not a separate company. And regarding other aspects, the US government’s <a href="https://www.darpa.mil/">Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency</a> (DARPA) worked with BDI during the ‘War on Terror’, developing methods together (see Explanatory <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">Essay 3</a>). If the methodologies BDI developed might have informed tactics deployed in democratic elections this is very serious, whether or not the tools were ‘effective’ or what specifically they were used for. It is <em>vital</em> that our governments, including research entities like DARPA, build into contracts more control over tools and weapons they help to create. They must not escape responsibility when private organisations extend these, to be developed beyond the original defence work. This must also apply when they are unofficially working together, but not contracted. </p> <p>Furthermore, it seems highly improbable that our intelligence agencies would not have been monitoring destabilising activities in Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia and other countries with a precarious state of peace and with vulnerable democratic systems. It is their job to anticipate developing conflicts and instability in countries such as these. They also often maintain awareness of any potential security weaknesses, liabilities and conflicts of interest in the background and businesses of individuals working in national security. We should therefore ask how much they, and the State Department and the Pentagon in the US, and the FCO and MoD in the UK, and indeed NATO, might have known about other companies in this ‘Group’. It is vital that anyone with additional evidence that illuminates these questions further comes forward as a priority.</p> <p>My evidence shows that SCL Group had experienced some pressure from Western governments to make the ‘political’ companies more separate from the government contractor, concern that implies at least some knowledge that there may be something to be worried about. If so, to what extent did the policy of pushing them for separation, rather than dropping them as a defence contractor, allow SCL to continue their unethical practices? It would be extremely serious if our governments turned a blind eye to unethical work with the potential to destabilise vulnerable nations and potentially trigger future conflicts in which our military might be deployed. At the very least there was poor evaluation of risk and weak oversight, particularly in determining whether the actions of the SCL Group might undermine British and American interests abroad. </p> <p>Importantly, my evidence shows that Leave.EU copied and were able to deploy an effective campaign based on Cambridge Analytica’s methods following the pitch that Kaiser gave them. This raises questions of whether other entities who received a similar pitch could also have replicated the methodology - this is of particular important in relation to Lukoil for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-academic-trawling-facebook-had-links-to-russian-university">a Russian state-owned company that Cambridge Analytica pitched their methods to </a>around the time SCL were delivering training in methods to Eastern European countries to ‘counter Russian threat’. </p> <p>Actions in response to this evidence must include a review of the current processes for removal of the ‘export control’ restrictions along with the process where companies bid for a UK Government ‘Framework’ for privileged access to contracts over four years. A lot has changed in the last four years for SCL. Cambridge Analytica has been shut down. Now there must be proper inquiry into the process of procurement and oversight of government contracts as the implications of all this are very serious. Most importantly the actions of a ‘group’ of related but apparently autonomous companies <em>must</em> be treated as relevant, not just considering the contracted company in isolation. The group must be continuously monitored. We cannot allow this to happen again.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ben-graham-jones/observing-elections-of-future">Observing the elections of the future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk Emma L Briant Fri, 04 May 2018 11:10:54 +0000 Emma L Briant 117691 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our data doubles: how biometric surveillance ushers in new orders of control https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/phoebe-braithwaite-christina-rogers/our-data-doubles-how-biometric-surveillance-ushe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The use of biometric data brings the border within the body: algorithms' apparent objectivity and efficiency obscure the brutality of the tasks they accomplish, deciding who is fit to stay or go, who to live or die.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-32011157.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-32011157.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A refugee boy puts a flower on the fence as he waits with others on the Greek side of the border to enter Macedonia, near Gevgelija, Macedonia. Tomislav Georgiev/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p><strong><em>Phoebe Braithwaite (PB): If you were to let your imagination run away with you, where could we be in say 20 years, the way things with biometrics are going? What would this mean for the most vulnerable members of society, and what for the wealthiest?</em></strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Christina Rogers (CR): Like so many others, I am stuck with the feeling that biometrics is a matter of ‘inevitability’ rather than choice, although I know that this is just how the introduction of biometrics has been framed by industries and governments. Biometrics are increasingly becoming a ‘normal’ thing to encounter, be it at the airport or when unlocking your phone with your fingerprint. I think we are heading further and further towards a normalisation of biometrics in many different spheres, providing access to objects (e.g. laptops), institutions (such as the university or library), states (at borders) and their respective social systems (for example in accessing welfare). </p><p dir="ltr">Current developments point to multiple biometric systems, meaning that systems no longer need rely on a single biometric feature, but rather work by capturing several traits from facial scanning to iris and fingerprint recognition. This is expected to enhance the accuracy of authentication systems, because multiple sources of information are used and cross-referenced. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Trusted traveler schemes and border controls already show quite clearly what this means for the wealthiest and most vulnerable members of society. Many privileged travelers voluntarily give away their data and enroll in biometric systems pre-departure in order to use special access corridors at the airport and make their transit more smoothly. This means that controls can be heightened by positioning border controls prior to the actual border at airports via ‘green-listing’ people, while, at the same time, giving these ‘bona fide’ travelers the feeling that, for them, the border is absent, as they do not have to experience time-consuming checks by border police or flight personnel.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Many privileged travelers voluntarily give away their data and enroll in biometric systems in order to gain special access, giving these ‘bona fide’ travelers the feeling that, for them, the border is absent</p><p dir="ltr">While, in these cases, people volunteer themselves for biometric databases, refugees and migrants increasingly face obligatory capture into biometric systems. Applying for asylum or having access to welfare systems, accessing work or getting residents’ permits mean having to submit to this form of capture. Also, databases containing information on refugees and migrants are more and more being linked together and used for different purposes, turning the databases regulating access to specific spaces and goods into intelligence files. </p><p dir="ltr">Biometric systems make it much more difficult for certain people to move to and within the EU. Most illegalised migrants in Europe didn’t cross the border by land, but rather travelled to the EU legally on a short-term visa and stayed after it expired. Thus, while visa restrictions and the Dublin regime produce the category of illegalisation as such, the Visa Information System, for example, is a database that helps to detect ‘visa-overstayers’ and deport them to their countries of origin. In other words, the better biometric and other data are stored and circulated throughout Europe, the more easily migrants come to be stuck at borders or concentrated in cities, camps and informal networks. While pieces of the ‘biometric body’ can travel as data, the embodied subject may not. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>PB: Are biometric passports the main thing to worry about here or should we be concerned about biometrics in every sphere? </em></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>CR:</strong> No, biometric passports are not the main thing to worry about. Making objects machine-readable is one thing, but linking these objects to the ‘machine-readable body’ is another thing entirely. A good example is EasyPASS at the airport: with this system you can scan your e-pass at the border (comprised of a biometric photo and usually also a fingerprint scan) and look into a camera, which will provide a facial scan and perform a one-to-one match. If your facial scan template fits the biometric picture of your passport and your requirements to access a country, you are free to proceed. </p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Biometric systems make it much more difficult for certain people to move to and within the EU.</p><p dir="ltr">But biometrics are also often used for one-to-many (1-n) matches, where a person, for example, is checked against a whole body of data, allowing access to different goods or spaces, such as to asylum in a country.</p><p dir="ltr">One problem with biometrics is that the databases go along with a whole system of categorisations and classifications that are attached to the body via biometrics, allowing for mechanisms of ‘social sorting,’ differentiating between the good and the bad or the authorised and unauthorised person. Here, a person’s iris can provide a kind of password for access or denial without a person’s control over that process.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, although technology is often regarded as ‘free of human flaws or errors’ – and, thus, free of discrimination –&nbsp;research in this field has shown that biometric databases do show forms of structural racism, classism and ageism and so on. For instance, people with certain kinds of bodily features may be enrolled less readily; at other times, only certain kinds of people may be enrolled – the Eurodac database, for instance, is comprised mostly of the data of people of colour. At the same time, databases are susceptible to human errors, because transnational databases are used by many people, opening up space for false inputs and false links between bodies and data.</p><p dir="ltr">Thirdly, the general problem with biometrics is that the body is instrumentalised in processes of dataveillance and control, often without giving the person sufficient information on where biometric information is stored and circulated and with which consequences, because the databases are not open to democratic insight or judgment.</p><p dir="ltr">People are embedded in bureaucratic processes they know little about, and the systems themselves – while closed to scrutiny – are regarded as truthful and objective. People are therefore liable to become victims of automated decisions, made by algorithms and administrations, not least because the people using the systems are often themselves unaware of how the systems they administer really operate. This has been a matter of discussion with regards to people working in foreign registration offices.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30613010.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30613010.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The managing director of Dermalog, Guenther Mull explains a fingerprint-scanner to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Lower Saxony's premier Stephan Weil in their biometrics kiosk, which is used amongst other things to register refugees, during their tour of the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover, Germany, March 2017. Ole Spata/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>We should be concerned about biometrics in every sphere, although biometrics have different consequences for different people. As biometrics are used in ever more spheres of society, there must be a better legal understanding of how this data can be used or accessed. Biometrics are increasingly used as intelligence files, instead of being utilised for only specific measures (which is usually problematised under the heading “function creep”). As fragments of the bodies of people are stored and circulated as templates across time and space, there should be a general interest in how this circulation and storage takes place, by whom and to what ends.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>PB: What is the longer history of this kind of categorisation and identification, carried within the body? </em></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>CR:</strong> One can draw lines across history to many forerunners of biometrics, including to the custom of potters in ancient China to mark their products with their fingerprints in wax. But I think the most important precedents are developments that took place within the course of the 19th century, where, due to the impact of natural science and Darwin, a general interest in varieties of “life” trickle down into many fields, including medicine, sociology, criminology and theories of racial otherness. </p><p dir="ltr">Two major strands dominate research in the history of biometrics: the development of fingerprinting in British India initially under the chief administrator William Herschel, and the invention of anthropometry by Alphonse Bertillon in France at the end of the 19th century. Fingerprinting was developed in the colonies, as British administrators were faced with the problem (as they self-proclaimed) of not being able to distinguish one native from the other. With a willingness to identify and control the colonised, British officials developed a system with which to collect and archive inked fingerprints of Indian subjects, who (due to racist ideology) were generally regarded as prone to criminal behavior. </p><p dir="ltr">Bertillon, on the other hand, developed police anthropometry in France, initially to detect recidivists. His system was very elaborate and included many measurements of the face, arms, fingers, feet, ears, and so on, that were catalogued in a meticulous archiving system, which included photographs of criminals. Anthropometry, or Bertillonage, not only created an archive, but a classification system of ‘deviant’ Europeans with categories such as “prostitutes”, the “mad”, members of the “working classes” and so on. Unlike fingerprinting, anthropometry failed to set an international standard, simply because it was so complicated.</p><p dir="ltr">The history of biometrics show that this technology is closely related to the construction and detection of the external or internal “other”. It also shows how the colonies functioned as a “laboratory” for techniques of control and classification that were only then used to surveil whole populations in the west.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>PB: Where are the opportunities for civil disobedience when it comes to something likely to penetrate border policing as deeply as biometric passports? Where are the weak points where pressure can be applied? </em></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>CR:</strong> Well, one can begin on a personal level and simply be a bit <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartleby,_the_Scrivener">Bartleby</a> when it comes to presenting oneself at the gateway to biometric systems: easyPASS and many other border systems at airports still are optional, but many do not feel inclined to avoid them, although they have the right to do so. The same is the case for locking one’s device with biometrics. As long as the majority of people allow the introduction of biometrics into their lives to be such a seamless process; as long as they ask no questions, and show no signs of hesitance or resistance, governments and industries will feel no need to provide explanations, and biometrics will be introduced unrestrained.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The colonies functioned as a “laboratory” for techniques of control and classification that were only then used to surveil whole populations in the west.</p><p dir="ltr">Attention should also be paid to the legal frameworks supporting biometrics. Much critique has been formulated in terms of privacy issues following the observation that legal frameworks concerned with privacy have increasingly been watered down to allow for biometrics to function in the way they do. People working in law have much leverage to pressure biometric systems. It is crucial to highlight the rights people still have or should make use of in terms of these systems. Beyond simple privacy matters, though, people should devote more attention to other legal categories, such as matters of ‘bodily integrity’ or questions concerning people’s choices over their own body parts.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, biometrics have been hailed as fairly failsafe in public discourse, but that’s simply not the case: there are many ways to trick these systems. You can create forged irises and fingerprints by replicating biometric traits and fool the system that you are someone else. You can interfere with the scan via a so-called ‘digital spoof’ and make the system believe it has scanned an authenticator which in fact it didn’t, and so on. </p><p dir="ltr">Many do not have the technical literacy to do it, and it is of course illegal to try to trick a biometric system installed by the state. The very people who could actually benefit from tricking a system are usually also the most vulnerable in society, such as legal or illegalised migrants. Performing such a crime, then, has existential consequences: it may lead to detention, deportation or restricted rights of residence. People leave biometric traces everywhere and as it is possible to replicate them, there could be a lot of irritation when more (especially privileged) people begin masquerading, with all this biometric potential flying around…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>PB: What kind of struggles do migrants face in the context of biometrics, and how do they circumvent these obstacles at present?</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr">CR: Migrants face the struggles of having to take considerable care of their ‘data doubles’ as well as when and where they present themselves to a biometric system. There are many places where they can be scanned into different databases. UNHCR, for example, uses iris scans to control who is eligible for care packages and who can access camps in some countries. Furthermore, the surveillance assemblage of the EU has three major databases regulating the movement of migrants: The Schengen Information System, Eurodac and the Visa Information System.</p><p dir="ltr">The Dublin regime states that people willing to lodge an asylum claim need to do so in the country they first arrive at. But which country a refugee arrives at can have grave effects on whether they are considered suitable as refugees. Landing in the wrong country can lead to deportation. It can also &nbsp;determine whether they are allowed to become part of an economic system, or have access to the welfare system which in turn determines their chances of not only integrating but surviving. Eurodac is the heart of the Dublin regime and uses a biometric matching system to enforce the <a href="http://openmigration.org/en/analyses/what-is-the-dublin-regulation/">Dublin regulations</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Biometric systems place the border within the bodies of migrants. The European border is not a geographical line at the outer edges of a territory. The biometric border means that the body is inscribed with the power of the border. The biometric border decides who stays and leaves with the scan of a fingertip.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Biometric systems place the border within the bodies of migrants. </p><p dir="ltr">Migrants therefore often try to avoid the first stage of biometric capture: enrolment. This means that information on where scans into the Eurodac system are performed are shared via social media in order to let people pass in corridors to and through Europe without being enrolled. People also refuse to have their fingerprints taken. Many voices of the refugee movement in Europe have tried to raise awareness about these issues, and demanded that their biometric data be erased so they can move more freely. Refugees and migrants have made considerable demands to access the data gathered on them and to open this systematic data collection up to democratic debate. Freedom of movement and questions of data management have been and should be thought of as one struggle in the field of migration.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/krystian-woznicki-felicity-scott/outlaw-spaces-strategic-reversals-of-power-at-margi">Outlaw spaces: strategic reversals of power at the margins</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/mia-light/lawyers-fail-migrants-in-uk">How lawyers fail migrants in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/chris-jones/ongoing-march-of-eu-s-security-industrial-complex">The ongoing march of the EU’s security-industrial complex</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Phoebe Braithwaite Christina Rogers Tue, 01 May 2018 08:11:38 +0000 Christina Rogers and Phoebe Braithwaite 117579 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Doing anti-surveillance activism differently https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jane-duncan/doing-anti-surveillance-activism-differently <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent campaigns waged in two Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries provide some interesting lessons about challenging excessive state security power.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 19.20.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 19.20.44.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Right2Know marches to the South African Parliament, October 2011.YouTube.</span></span></span>South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a great deal of work to do to fix the country’s state spy agencies. The most broken agencies are the Crime Intelligence Division of the South African Police Service (Saps) and the State Security Agency (SSA). At best, these agencies&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-02-22-op-ed-what-ramaphosa-needs-to-do-to-fix-state-spying-part-3-intrusive-surveillance-and-counterintelligence/">failed to prevent</a>&nbsp;state capture by corrupt elements linked to former president Jacob Zuma, and at worst, they&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-08-17-op-ed-how-state-spying-enables-state-capture/">enabled</a>&nbsp;state capture.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But what if Ramaphosa doesn’t take drastic actions to fix these agencies? Then we’ll have to rely on activists to push for the necessary changes. </p> <p>But what types of activism work and what doesn’t in relation to state surveillance? In answering this question, it’s useful to draw some lessons from anti-surveillance activism in countries as diverse as the UK, South Africa and Mauritius.&nbsp;</p> <p>Edward Snowden’s leaks about state spy agency excesses reminded us that no country should be allowed to enjoy over-broad surveillance powers. Governments the world over have abused such powers to move far beyond their stated purposes of fighting crime and terrorism, to spy on trade unionists, activists and other politically inconvenient people.&nbsp;Yet, state spy agencies are so shadowy and powerful that they may appear unassailable.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, state spy agencies are so shadowy and powerful that they may appear unassailable.&nbsp;</p> <p>We should be particularly concerned if the major global surveillance powers give themselves more powers than they should, because their spying activities are likely to extend far beyond their borders.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill – a democratic failure</strong></h2> <p>In view of these dangers, it should concern everyone that in the dying days of 2016, the UK Parliament&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/id?title=Investigatory+Powers+Act+2016">passed</a>&nbsp;the Investigatory Powers Bill into law. This it did despite significant opposition from digital rights and privacy groups. Why were campaigns against the Bill largely unsuccessful?&nbsp;</p> <p>According to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/arne-hintz-lina-dencik/expanding-state-power-in-times-of-surveillance-realism-how-uk">research</a>&nbsp;conducted by academics at Cardiff University, campaigns against the Bill relied too heavily on specialist lobbying and advocacy, and not enough on broader public awareness-raising and mobilisation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Anti-surveillance advocates failed to engage social justice movements in the campaign, and consequently they felt alienated from it. In spite of the fact that many activists were at risk of surveillance, organised responses to the Bill were left to expert communities.&nbsp;</p> <p>With the exception of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/international">The Guardian</a>, the mainstream press was largely pro-surveillance, as they were dominated by the voices of politicians. The public became resigned to security discourses as terrorist threats were real and present. As a result, there was no significant mass opposition.&nbsp;<br /> Yet, a mere six years earlier, UK privacy campaigners had&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/may/27/theresa-may-scrapping-id-cards">stopped</a>&nbsp;the government’s plans to introduce a ‘smart’ ID card system. The media (including the right wing press) questioned official claims about the contributions of ID cards to fighting terrorism. The public were cynical about the system and feared misuse of their personal information.&nbsp;</p> <p>Anti-surveillance campaigns that are driven by specialists, and that eschew, or do not pay sufficient attention to, building effective mass opposition, will be doomed to fail.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Public awareness</strong></h2> <p>Anti-surveillance activists need to take movement-building seriously, and a precondition of such work is public awareness-raising.&nbsp;After all, governments with vested interests in the continued viability of the surveillance industry (such as the UK’s) are unlikely to be persuaded to adopt different positions purely on the basis of good arguments.&nbsp;</p> <p>There needs to be social power behind these arguments, too, and social power implies collective action.&nbsp;</p> <p>The forces of reaction are growing stronger by the day in the very countries that lie at the heart of the surveillance industry. If government over-securitisation is going to be challenged effectively, then anti-surveillance and pro-privacy campaigners clearly need to ‘do’ their work differently.&nbsp;The forces of reaction are growing stronger by the day in the very countries that lie at the heart of the surveillance industry.</p> <p>This needs to start with mapping those social forces and their organisations that are making progressive socio-economic and democratic claims, and placing them at the centre of anti-surveillance work.</p> <p>But what collective actions are needed to reign in unaccountable surveillance, and which are the social forces that are most likely to be most effective?&nbsp;</p> <p>In conditions of neoliberal precarity where the industrial working class has declined in power, it is less easy but not impossible to identify the most likely motors of potentially emancipatory social change, including around surveillance.&nbsp;</p> <p>Neoliberalism has sharpened inequality, leading to the number of marginalised populations increasing: these include the unemployed, those in insecure work and others in the ‘precariat’, youths (especially urban youths), black people, Muslims, lesbian, gay and transgender people.&nbsp;</p> <p>These are the very ‘problem populations’ that are the likely targets of surveillance, which can be used to make them more visible to the state. As a result, they clearly have an interest in resisting unaccountable surveillance. The anti-austerity movements that developed in response to the 2008 global recession, have an immediate interest in anti-surveillance work, too.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Existing inequality struggles&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>But in order to make anti-surveillance work relevant to these movements, then it is necessary to find ways of ‘mainstreaming’ this work in the everyday campaigns that bring ordinary people into organised social and political work.&nbsp;</p> <p>Of necessity, working class communities are often highly organised. So, with some creative campaigning, it should not be difficult to relate surveillance and its dangers to mobilisations in defence of public services, for jobs and free education for young people and against climate change.&nbsp;</p> <p>The important part of mass-based anti-surveillance campaigning is to relate the work to existing struggles on the ground. These campaigns need to concentrate on the roles of surveillance in the creation and reproduction of inequality, as it is this conflict that is driving the massive expansion of the global security apparatuses, industries and discourses.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Privacy as an enabler of collective rights</strong></h2> <p>If resistance to this expansion is going to be effective, then it needs to provide a political voice to the otherwise voiceless, which means articulating an understanding of privacy that makes most sense to these social groups.&nbsp;</p> <p>This means that the campaigns will need to focus less on privacy as an individual right, and more on its content an enabler of collective rights. So, if privacy is denied these actors, then this will prevent collective discussion and organisation. The problem with understanding privacy as ‘the right to be left alone’, is that when it is pitched against other collective rights, like national security, then inevitably privacy will have to give way.&nbsp;</p> <p>Recent campaigns waged in two Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries provide some interesting lessons about challenging excessive state security power.&nbsp;</p> <p>Single-issue campaigns such as the one mounted against the Investigatory Powers Bill allow campaigners to focus consistently on a technically complex issue. But this strength can also be a weakness, in that wily governments are more than able to marginalise these campaigns if they do not enjoy significant social power.&nbsp;</p> <p>One option of drawing on the strengths of single-issue campaigns, while limiting their weaknesses, is to adopt a ‘movement-of-movements’ approach, where coalitions are formed between mass movements and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) on specific issues.&nbsp;</p> <p>For these campaign coalitions to be successful, though, they would need to accept the realities of working-class leadership, and consciously steer away from NGO dominance. Rather, NGOs should play a supporting role, providing technical expertise to the campaign without dominating it.&nbsp;NGOs should play a supporting role, providing technical expertise to the campaign without dominating it.</p> <p>Campaigns involving coalitions of movements and NGOs working on issues of mutual interest are fraught with difficulties, especially if they are cross-class in nature; but if handled with maturity, they can achieve significant results.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>South Africa – a useful history </strong></h2> <p>It hasn’t been difficult to build a popular basis for anti-surveillance work in South Africa. The country faces no major national security threats. As a result, governments cannot use terrorism as a beating stick to ensure public acquiescence to overbroad security and surveillance powers.&nbsp;</p> <p>Many older activists experienced surveillance abuses under apartheid, and know how to mount effective campaigns. Surveillance abuses, and broader abuses of the concept of national security to justify massive repression are still part of their lived experiences.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 19.21.49.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 19.21.49.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Right2Know marches to the South African Parliament, October 2011.YouTube.</span></span></span>These factors made the onset of ‘surveillance realism’ less likely in the country, and created the basis for intergenerational learning about state surveillance and its dangers.&nbsp; </p><p>South African activists put these learnings to use in a campaign against a Protection of State Information&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/B6F-2010_15Oct2013.pdf">Bill</a>, which the State Security Ministry wished to use to throw a shroud of secrecy over the country’s security apparatus. Parliament passed an amended version of the Bill in 2013, after a huge public campaign against it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Tellingly, the Bill languished unsigned on the desk of scandal-ridden former president Zuma. Not even he was willing to risk the public backlash of signing it into law, which means that Ramaphosa sits with the headache.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Ramaphosa’s headache</strong></h2> <p>Now, the South African government goes out of its way to consult on potentially controversial Bills. While discussing one such Bill with activists, one senior politician even said ‘please don’t give us another Secrecy Bill campaign’.&nbsp;</p> <p>The tiny island nation of Mauritius, off the coast of south east Africa, also offers some interesting lessons. Mauritius has a highly organised working class, largely owing to militant trade unionism on the sugar plantations.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2013, the Mauritian government&nbsp;<a href="http://mnis.govmu.org/English/Pages/default.aspx">introduced</a>&nbsp;a ‘smart’ ID card system, similar to the one the UK government envisaged before it abandoned its plans. It argued that the card would help the government stamp out identity fraud and theft.&nbsp;</p> <p>While on the surface of things, this initiative sounded laudable, Mauritians rose up and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1669/elections-ix-freedom-infringed-danger-of-the-new-id-cards/">opposed</a>&nbsp;the ID card through several campaigns, claiming that it threatened privacy and even democracy itself. The government’s plans were particularly draconian, though, as they required residents to carry their identity cards at all times, on pain of a fine or even imprisonment if they didn’t.&nbsp;This lived experiences of population registration being abused for social control purpose has been passed down through the generations.&nbsp;</p> <p>What gave the Mauritian campaigns such traction was the country’s history of colonialism, slavery and indentured labour. Indentured labourers were required to carry identity cards at all times, which created widespread resentment against mandatory identification systems. This lived experiences of population registration being abused for social control purpose has been passed down through the generations.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>‘It’s part of you’</strong></h2> <p>The campaigns formulated several demands, including that the government should destroy the biometric database and stop the ID card from being mandatory. A popular campaign slogan, ‘It’s part of you’, conscientised citizens about their right to exercise control over their biometrics, as this data was tied intimately to their personhood.&nbsp;</p> <p>Campaigners relied on national radio, posters and leaflets to spread the message. They also used village councils to conduct public education on the dangers of the system, although many of these councils ended up complying with the government.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the campaign, activists made links between workers’ rights and the state’s surveillance efforts, including through the ID card system. In the process, they turned what could otherwise have been an issue dominated by the technical part of society into a mass issue that focused on the repressive framework that underpinned the system. In other words, they politicised the issue.&nbsp;</p> <p>Activists also engaged in direct action and passive resistance, organising ‘go-slows’ at the ID conversion centres and blocking queues by refusing to enrol their fingerprints. These efforts fostered a popular consciousness about the dangers of biometric technologies.</p> <p>Anti-surveillance actions spread beyond the ID card as people developed confidence in their abilities to struggle. Workers began to refuse to provide fingerprints for registration purposes at their workplaces, and started criticising cameras on buses as violations of their privacy.&nbsp;</p> <p>In spite of the government’s gains in coercing many citizens to enrol, the campaigns could not be ignored, especially by those in the Parliamentary opposition. Senior members of the opposition were brought over to the side of the campaigners, and supported their objectives.&nbsp;</p> <p>Campaigners used the courts, too; but significantly their recourse to the law was but one of several tactics used. This was because activists recognised that they were unlikely to win their demands in the courts if they had not won them on the streets first, as court actions on their own were unlikely to change the balance of social forces.&nbsp;</p> <p>Prominent Mauritians brought court cases against the system on constitutional grounds (such as the right to privacy), including the ex-Vice Prime Minister and ex-Minister of Justice.&nbsp;</p> <p>Eventually, the government destroyed the centralised biometric database, and converted the biometric system from a one-to-many system (requiring the verification of a person within an entire population) to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.elandsys.com/~sm/mnic-id-card.html">one-to-one system</a>, where a person’s identity was confirmed through a comparison of their biometric data with previously enrolled data.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the government continued with the mandatory enrolment of citizens and the requirement to present proof of identity to the police on demand, which meant that in spite of this limited victory, the campaign continued.&nbsp;</p> <p>What do we learn from these campaigns? A political understanding of the problem of surveillance, that moves beyond a rights-based approach, and recognises the root of the problem ­– which&nbsp;<a href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21656-totalitarian-paranoia-in-the-post-orwellian-surveillance-state">according to</a>&nbsp;Henry Giroux is the growth in the exercise of arbitrary state power as neoliberalism intensifies – is more likely to be both effective and sustainable.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Coda for NGO’s</strong></h2> <p>What is key, though, is an approach to anti-surveillance work that builds the capacity of mass movements to take on campaigns themselves, rather than outsourcing the struggle to specialist NGOs.&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, NGO employees need to make conscious efforts to work their way out of their jobs. Once these campaign strategies are incorporated into anti-surveillance work, then activists may start to enjoy some truly significant victories over these most secretive and intractable areas of state and commercial power.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>An <a href="https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-03-13-op-ed-what-if-ramaphosa-doesnt-fix-state-spying-part-7-activism/#.WuiWC8gh2V4">earlier version of this piece</a> appeared in the </em>Daily Maverick <em>on March 13, 2018</em>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/henry-giroux-joan-pedro-cara-ana/henry-giroux-public-intellectual-on-menace-of-trump-and-new-authori">Henry Giroux, public intellectual, on the menace of Trump and the new authoritarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/guy-aitchison/digital-rights-and-freedoms-part-1">Digital rights and freedoms: Part 1</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/guy-aitchison/digital-rights-and-freedoms-part-2">Digital rights and freedoms: Part 2</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/jim-killock-rosemary-bechler-guy-aitchison/everybody-has-to-be-incredibly-careful-about-maintaining-">In new gods do we trust?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction">Weapons of maths destruction </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> South Africa </div> <div class="field-item even"> Mauritius </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties UK Mauritius South Africa Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Jane Duncan Mon, 30 Apr 2018 16:59:46 +0000 Jane Duncan 117578 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Microsoft’s Tech Accord – what it tells us about the cyber state of play https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/lea-kaspar/microsoft-s-tech-accord-what-it-tells-us-about-cyber-state-of-play <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">In the current climate, the impact of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord which, without explicitly saying it, gestures towards a form of self-regulation for the tech industry – needs close monitoring.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 17.01.04.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 17.01.04.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: The Guardian, April 19, 2018.</span></span></span>Last week, Microsoft and 33 other leading tech companies unveiled their <a href="https://cybertechaccord.org/accord/">Cybersecurity Tech Accord</a> – an agreement on a broad set of principles committing the signatories to “protecting users and customers everywhere”.</p> <p class="normal">The introduction to the Accord makes its intention clear: it is a corrective to a troubled cyberspace, characterised by a growing proliferation of malicious actors “from criminal to geopolitical” and the deterioration in trust, stability and security that this has brought about. While human rights are not explicitly mentioned, this broad diagnosis of the challenge is one that many human rights defenders will probably share. Exercising privacy and free expression online, after all, depends on a free, open and secure cyberspace. “Protecting our online environment”, as the Accord correctly notes, “is in everyone’s interest”.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Much to welcome</strong></h2> <p class="normal">There is indeed much to welcome in the text from a human rights perspective, not least the commitment in Principle 1 that the parties to the Accord will strive to protect their users and customers from cyberattacks, whether they are by individuals or governments, and no matter their location. This principle also commits the parties to “design, develop, and deliver products and services that prioritize security, privacy, integrity and reliability, and in turn reduce the likelihood, frequency, exploitability, and severity of vulnerabilities”. </p> <p class="normal">The commitment in Principles 3 and 4 – to fostering partnerships with other groups on cybersecurity, and assisting in cyber capacity building in the global South – is also a useful reinforcement of the multistakeholder approach in the context of cybersecurity. Given the growing complexity and urgency of cybersecurity challenges, it should be enacted as soon as possible.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Innocence and other problems</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Other aspects are more problematic. Most notably, Principle 2 introduces a commitment to “oppose cyberattacks on innocent civilians and enterprises”. Who will decide whether citizens or enterprises are “innocent” – or, for that matter, “guilty” – and according to what criteria? The inclusion of this undefined and potentially subjective and arbitrary requirement of innocence stands in stark contrast to the universal nature of international human rights and the need for any restrictions to be limited, necessary and proportionate. Without this qualifier – reported <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/269349ba-425c-11e8-803a-295c97e6fd0b">as a last minute addition </a>– the principle would have been a powerful and unequivocal defence of user rights.</p> <p class="normal">Lastly, the Accord leaves open the question of how these commitments will be implemented.&nbsp; For example, what will happen if a government comes to a signatory of the Accord, seeking access to private communications or data citing secret intelligence of an urgent threat to national security? How will courses of action be decided on, in practice – and how will these be communicated? There is a single mention, at the end, of ‘public reporting’ on progress against goals which are as yet undefined.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Digital Geneva Convention?<br /></strong></h2> <p class="normal">In some ways, the most interesting aspect of this (for now) slender manifesto is what it says about the current state of play in cyberspace, and where we are heading. Why are Microsoft and other tech companies doing this – and why now?</p> <p class="normal">The Accord has to be read in the context of a fractured and fracturing geopolitical system. Last year, efforts to establish consensus on international norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace at the UN Group of Governmental Experts <a href="https://thediplomat.com/2017/07/un-gge-on-cybersecurity-have-china-and-russia-just-made-cyberspace-less-safe/">stalled dramatically</a>; while the 2017 Global Conference on CyberSpace <a href="https://www.gp-digital.org/gccs2017-a-cyberspace-free-open-and-secure-but-mostly-secure/">proved a showcase</a> for the growing polarisation between several divergent visions of cyberspace. </p> <p class="normal">Though the Accord&nbsp; principally concerns itself with the behaviour of companies, it is a component of Microsoft’s broader <a href="https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/02/14/need-digital-geneva-convention/">proposal for a Digital Geneva Convention</a>, which also calls for a new international treaty “to protect civilians, infrastructure and private companies from state-sponsored cyberattacks”. Regardless of whether Microsoft is the right player to call for or broker such an arrangement, the fact that companies are stepping up to take this role is hardly surprising, given the current state of debate.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Rumblings and augurs</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Another important item of context is the growing regulatory pressure on tech companies. When the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May, companies will face substantial new obligations to protect the data of their users. Although its remit is not cybersecurity-specific, the GDPR reflects a changing regulatory tide. US tech giants are already having to adapt to the legislation in their European outposts (or, in at least one case, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/19/facebook-moves-15bn-users-out-of-reach-of-new-european-privacy-law">hurriedly move their operations out of its reach</a>), and even in the US – where a light regulatory environment has long prevailed – there are rumblings and augurs, exemplified by the image of a chastened Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress. </p> <p class="normal">The Cybersecurity Tech Accord which, without explicitly saying it, gestures towards a form of self-regulation for the tech industry, might therefore be seen as an attempt to demonstrate that companies can behave responsibly without additional legal obligations.</p> <p class="normal">Before we can judge the Accord’s likely impact in addressing the issues it identifies, we will need more to go on. But in the current geopolitical climate, it may at least provide an impetus to move us beyond this cyber impasse.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties EU United States Lea Kaspar Fri, 27 Apr 2018 16:10:42 +0000 Lea Kaspar 117547 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In this age of populism, it’s not ‘Cyber’ that’s being Balkanised – it’s people https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/edin-omanovic/in-this-age-of-populism-it-s-not-cyber-that-s-being-balkanised-it-s-pe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Balkans, already facing charges of bringing the world the First World War and the term ‘ethnic cleansing’, are now being blamed with a new offence: ‘Cyber-Balkanisation’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-1176196.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-1176196.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This image, featuring Yugolavian President Slobodan Milosevic, internal security chief Radomir Markovic, and military leaders Colonel General Dragolub Ojdanic, Lieutenant Colonel General Pavkovic, was shown at a Ministry of Defence press briefing in London, March 29, 1999. PA/Press Associaition. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The term itself is dubious. But it’s currently used by learned cyber-experts all over the world, who are usually getting at something fairly simple: the internet, supposed to be a unitary global platform bringing people together, is being split along very non-cyber and real national borders. </p> <p>The evidence is real enough: economic opportunism and aggressive spy agencies around the world are demanding that big tech store the internet’s preferred currency – data – in their national jurisdictions, and modify it to suit their domestic regulations. It’s the internet, but with national characteristics: China and Russia have both recently passed strong data localisation laws. </p> <p>However, the real Cyber-Balkanisation isn’t happening to ‘Cyber’ – ‘Cyber’ isn’t an actual thing – it’s happening to people, through the internet. </p> <p>People-Balkanisation-Facilitated-Through-The-Internet might not be as snappy, but it’s very real. And it is much more dangerous. The much snappier terms used to explain our current world are a part of it: fake news, populism, ethno-nationalism, and echo chambers. </p> <p>What happened to the Balkans in the 90s is now playing out internationally. An underlying driver in Yugoslavia, the effect of a transition away from socialism on people’s lives, is comparable to the effect being inflicted by the new digital economy. </p> <h2><strong>Yugoslavia comes apart by the seams</strong></h2> <p>The economy in Yugoslavia collapsed in the 1980s – people who once had money and economic certainty found themselves living through a series of crises and complete instability, facing severe levels of unemployment, foreign debt, and inflation. The feeling of uncertainty and regression is familiar to people in Britain’s industrial cities or the US rust belt, people who are the principal losers of not only the 2008 global collapse but of the new internet-greased economy.</p> <p>In Yugoslavia, politicians were quick to spot the potential: a series of macho dictators emerged promising salvation through a return to historical national greatness. One of them, a fraudster with ridiculous hair, Radovan Karadzic, and his accomplice Milosevic promised a Greater Serbia. They wanted to make Serbia great again, but mostly they wanted power. </p> <p>And they knew how to get it. They would turn Yugoslavia’s national motto, Brotherhood and Unity, into one of the most bitter ironies of the modern age. The division they stoked was mutually-enforcing: to their counterparts, Croatians became fascist Ustaše, Muslims mujahideen, and Serbs genocidal Chetniks. Once leaders established the threat, they ruthlessly propagated it through the state controlled media. Milosevic weaponised Serbian TV, beaming nightly reports of Serbs under ethnic attack into people’s living rooms. </p> <p>Croatia’s leadership followed the script. It was fake news beamed directly into people’s echo chamber. </p> <p>The obvious solution these dictators proposed was ethno-nationalism: the idea that the state should be extended to ensure that all of your fellow ethnics lived in the same country, for their protection and everyone’s glory. </p> <p>Religion, military greatness, and historical injustices mixed to engineer a national mythology based on the threat of the other. And in order to counter that threat, you had to support the strongman who is willing to stand up for it. The path that leads people to rape, pillage, and organised murder was set.</p> <h2><strong>Fear of the Other</strong></h2> <p>It is a tried and tested source of power and today, the internet is the principal means of delivering it. People’s own echo chambers and the data on which the internet runs and amasses is used to deliver these mythologies with the most accurate targeting system ever invented. </p> <p>One group is told that hordes of scrounging, raping, terrorising foreigners are to blame for all the faults in their life. Another is told that crusaders armed with drones are responsible for the slaughter of their fellow believers. </p> <p>Other groups are targeted with the same myths within their national contexts: in Kenya last year, a Texan-based rival to Cambridge Analytica using data to target ads, said that once elected, presidential candidate Raila Odinga would remove ‘whole tribes’; in Hungary, voters are told George Soros and immigrants are a threat to their ethnic purity and prosperity and that lists of Jews should be made; in the US, it’s Mexicans and a so-called Muslim database; across the world, articles, memes and videos are targeted at and shared with people as political weapons. We share the same world but not the same internet. </p> <p>The proposed solution is again ethno-nationalist and religious. End all immigration, build walls, send them home, join the caliphate, vote for the candidate that will defend your tribe. Their message is mutually-enforcing, giving everyone a sense of belonging, and the likes of Trump, Tommy Robinson, and ISIS exactly what they want – power.&nbsp;The people weaponising data nowadays are different from those in the Balkans, but they’re very familiar. </p> <h2><strong>No borders?</strong></h2> <p>The internet was indeed designed to transcend old national borders. This means that you no longer need to rely on a state TV station to deliver fake news, it can be targeted directly to those you want it to reach. While in Yugoslavia entire villages and countries may have been living in these echo chambers, it’s now possible for people simply living in the same house. This is People-Balkanisation-Facilitated-Through-The-Internet.</p> <p>So what can be done? Well, in the 90s, NATO ended up bombing Serbian TV, but the internet was designed specifically to withstand a nuclear attack. And it doesn’t make sense to censor the internet, you don’t blame ‘television’ just because you disagree with what someone says on it. </p> <p>Calls for state regulation are always dangerous: imagine the new breed of dictator with control over the greatest tool for information ever invented by humankind. Calls for a government-free utopia only leave people at the mercy of corporate power. That power and its influence is as always the principal problem – and on the internet those who have the data have the power. </p> <h2><strong>Privacy, anti-trust and data protection laws</strong></h2> <p>To check that power, it means having checks on access to and use of data. This means, for example, making sure that state organs don’t have access to mass surveillance, that data is not concentrated in the private sector into a few platforms, and that there exists legislation protecting how it is used. </p> <p>It means ensuring that spy agencies don’t have persistent access to everyone’s communications, that firms like Cambridge Analytica aren’t allowed to weaponise data in elections, and that people have control over how their data is brokered by firms they’ve never even heard of. </p> <p>While privacy, anti-trust, and data protection laws might not sound like a revolutionary plan for peace in our time, they’re currently the best defence we’ve got.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Net neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Internet Net neutrality Edin Omanovic Thu, 26 Apr 2018 17:46:12 +0000 Edin Omanovic 117525 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Cam-Book gate scandal will not restore our privacy, will it? https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/idreas-khandy/cambridge-analyticafacebook-scandal-will-not-restore-our-privacy-will- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For us to care about the practices of corporations, reclaim our privacy and contest mass-surveillance we should not need the shock therapy of Trumpian politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/shutterstock_198736082_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/shutterstock_198736082_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shutterstock/Ollyy. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Cam-Book gate is creating ripples across the world as both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scramble to control the damage. The data extracted from Facebook without the informed consent of the users&nbsp;was&nbsp;allegedly used to&nbsp;<a href="https://hackernoon.com/cambridge-analytica-what-the-media-wont-tell-you-772d7ec80e4">influence</a>&nbsp;the outcome of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">US elections</a>, which saw the rise of Trump and his acolytes to power. Suggestions are&nbsp;being made&nbsp;that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/aggregateiq-data-firm-link-raises-leave-group-questions">Brexit</a>&nbsp;was orchestrated&nbsp;by using similar tactics. Cambridge Analytica has maintained that it obtained the data&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-cambridge-analytica-data-mining-and-trump-what-you-need-to-know/">legally</a>.</p> <p>There is <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-cambridge-analytica-india/india-queries-cambridge-analytica-over-alleged-facebook-data-breach-idUSKBN1H00AO">noise coming</a>&nbsp;out of India as well&nbsp;about&nbsp;data breaches. It is mere politicking and not a serious debate as it is a country with no robust privacy laws, and the state is more than happy to give corporations such as Facebook enough leeway as long as they toe its line. India has&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thequint.com/tech-and-auto/tech-news/facebook-gets-2nd-most-user-data-request-from-indian-government-as-per-latest-data">requested user data from Facebook</a>&nbsp;more than every other country except the&nbsp;United&nbsp;States. In the recent past, Facebook has also&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/19/facebook-under-fire-censoring-kashmir-posts-accounts">blocked users</a>&nbsp;from Indian Occupied Kashmir for expressing anti-India sentiments on its platform and so has&nbsp;<a href="https://thewire.in/173958/centres-request-twitter-blocks-accounts-tweets-kashmir-content/">Twitter</a>. Were it not for the whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, how many Facebook users would have been aware&nbsp;of&nbsp;the pervasive data-gathering tactics of the social media behemoth?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It is disappointing to see that while it has&nbsp;been well documented&nbsp;how Facebook has been violating the privacy of its&nbsp;users, users&nbsp;seem not to care. The good old ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument&nbsp;is peddled&nbsp;left, right, and centre. People appear to have wholeheartedly embraced a disturbing ‘<a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674504578">exhibitionism</a>’, argues Bernard Harcourt in his&nbsp;must-read&nbsp;book ‘<em>Exposed-Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age’</em>.&nbsp;This is not the end of the road: Facebook’s hunger for data has only grown regardless of how much its users provide willingly. </p> <p>Facebook has aggressively pursued a merger and acquisitions strategy from its earliest days, and&nbsp;has&nbsp;so&nbsp;far succeeded&nbsp;in&nbsp;acquiring as&nbsp;many as 67 businesses, including other tech giants such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Jibbigo, tbh, and ConnectU among others. Many of these acquisitions were purely data grabbing exercises, as was pointed out in case of the&nbsp;<a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/pgkmw7/facebook-whatsapp-ftc-complaint-epic">WhatsApp acquisition</a>. It has&nbsp;spent <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2013/02/28/facebook-acquires-atlas/">millions of dollars</a>&nbsp;to reinforce&nbsp;its&nbsp;capacity to target its users with a barrage of ads, the same feature which was allegedly exploited by the Trump campaign. </p> <p>Let’s forget politics for a minute, and talk about how Facebook boosts the numbers of likes and engagement for pages that pay for such a boost. A YouTube channel by the name of Veritasium pointed out way back in 2014 that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag">Facebook&nbsp;utilises&nbsp;click farms in third-world countries</a>&nbsp;to increase the number of likes for pages, a practice that Facebook says is a violation of its policies. </p> <p>Facebook, in fact, has never really cared about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/02/admiral-facebook-data-insurers-internet-of-things">users’ privacy</a>: privacy and Facebook’s business model, to put it bluntly, are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/facebook-personal-data-online-privacy-social-norm/">antithetical to one another</a>. It is ironic that the same company has put itself&nbsp;in charge&nbsp;of the fight against ‘fake news’. </p> <p>So what Cambridge-Analytica did was that to apply these practices, which are central to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/25/17161726/facebook-cambridge-analytica-data-online-marketers">Facebook’s business model and known to its clients</a>, to politics. The question that arises is – was this a first of its kind occurrence? Not at all.</p> <p>The US elections&nbsp;were&nbsp;not the first time Facebook has&nbsp;played a central part in shaping the outcome of an election. How Team Obama made use of Facebook in its campaign for a second term is well known and has become part of&nbsp;<a href="http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/22598/1/Gerodimos_and_Justinussen_%282014%29_final_proofs.pdf">academic literature</a>&nbsp;as well.&nbsp;Although, Obama campaign managers claim that they used the data scrupulously,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/17/obama-digital-data-machine-facebook-election">a Guardian story from 2012 says</a>, “<em>The re-election team, Obama for America, will be inviting its supporters to log on to the campaign website via Facebook, thus allowing the campaign to access their personal data and add it to the central data store”.&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Furthermore, The Intercept reported on March 14, 2018, how Facebook ‘<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/14/facebook-election-meddling/">quietly hid’</a>&nbsp;all the blog posts where the company was apparently bragging about its ability to influence elections. So, why this outpouring of outrage and disbelief that something like this could happen. Why are the hashtags of #deletefacebook being endorsed by the likes of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thedrum.com/news/2018/03/24/elon-musk-supports-deletefacebook-campaign">Musk</a>, now? The answer apparently is the rise of Trump to power. Framing the issue of privacy violation as a subset of Trump’s rise to power is deeply problematic. Are we being asked to really only care about our privacy when distasteful politics like that of Trump comes to the fore?&nbsp;</p> <p>For us to care about the practices of corporations, reclaim our privacy and contest mass-surveillance we should not need the shock therapy of Trumpian politics. Privacy and consent are the two essential pillars that support the idea of liberty itself. Take either of them away, you either get coercion or self-censorship, and potentially on a massive scale. Privacy is far too important to be thought of as a by-product of other processes; it is worth defending and demanding in its own right.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anita-gurumurthy-amrita-vasudevan/snowden-to-cambridge-analytica-making-case-for-social-value-of-pri">Snowden to Cambridge Analytica – making the case for the social value of privacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/people-before-party-having-actual-conversations-in-digital-era">From Obama to Cambridge Analytica: how did we get here? (Podcast)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/battle-for-decentralized-internet-navigating-troubled-waters-to-g">The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. Focus on decentralizing power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/ivan-manokha/cambridge-analytica-surveillance-is-dna-of-platform-economy">‘Cambridge Analytica’: surveillance is the DNA of the Platform Economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item even"> Net neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties UK EU India United States Democracy and government International politics Internet Net neutrality Idreas Khandy Sun, 15 Apr 2018 16:04:34 +0000 Idreas Khandy 117289 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dreadful symmetry: kill boxes, racism and US sovereign power in the digital age https://www.opendemocracy.net/neal-curtis/dreadful-symmetry-kill-boxes-racism-and-us-sovereign-power-in-digital-age <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nearly all of the killings and excuses for killings carry this mark of the “pre-insurgent”. All the time we hear, “we thought he was reaching for a gun”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35752554.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35752554.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 28, 2018, New York: protests over the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man in Sacramento, California. Erik McGregor/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I started writing this just as the funeral for <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/03/29/funeral-begins-for-stephon-clark-amid-outrage-over-fatal-police-shooting/?utm_term=.31ed99391722">Stephon Clark</a> was taking place in Sacramento. Clark was the latest in a very long line of unarmed African Americans summarily killed by police in the US. </p> <p>In this case, a black man carrying nothing but a cell phone was shot 20 times in his own garden after police were called out to a reported incident in the area to which Clark had no connection. The banality of standing in your own garden contrasted with the violence of 20 shots – so extreme it tore his body apart, preventing the family from ritually washing it – seems to make this case stand out. But it doesn’t. </p> <p>The <a href="https://blacklivesmatter.com">Black Lives Matter</a> movement acts as testimony to the countless deaths within the black community and the continuation of the personal and state violence that has been visited upon them since the onset of colonialism and the mass exploitation, torture and murder that was slavery.</p> <h2><b>The language of ‘bare life’ and the ‘war on terror’</b></h2> <p>The funeral of Stephon Clark follows the court decision not to charge the officers that killed <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/27/us/alton-sterling-investigation/index.html">Alton Stirling</a> in Baton Rouge in 2016. This fits the pattern in which the killing of black men in particular appears to have no legal consequence. From the perspective of the families these are homicides or murders. From the perspective of political activists these are akin to state executions or assassinations. But the language is important here. Murder assumes some sort of legal redress, while execution suggests some intended legal or institutional support. </p> <p>Although I am convinced the US legal system and its police force remain deeply racist and that these killings might be deemed sanctioned executions from that perspective, these events are much closer to the production of what Giorgio Agamben in his book <i>Homo Sacer</i> called <a href="http://criticallegalthinking.com/2015/07/02/sovereign-exception-notes-on-the-thought-of-giorgio-agamben/">“bare life”</a>. </p> <p>This concept refers to what happens in a state of emergency when the sovereign who is seen as the guarantor of the law during peacetime suspends it in response to an external or internal threat. Ordinarily we call this “emergency powers”, defined by the suspension or withdrawal of the usual legal protections. </p> <p>At such times, this suspension of the law allows people to be incarcerated, harmed or killed without any legal redress. Instead of people being protected they are exposed as “bare life” and subjected to violence without any mediation. For Agamben, the ultimate space of this exceptional politics is the concentration camp. From the perspective of the law, “bare life” literally doesn’t matter, which is why the name of the latest black civil rights movement is so pertinent.</p> <p>Since the announcement of the “War on Terror” in September 2001, this exceptional politics or state of emergency has become our normal condition. Not only did the US support the use of torture and use the full force of digital warfare to launch pre-emptive strikes, it also undermined domestic civil rights with far-reaching surveillance legislation under the euphemistically named <a href="https://www.aclu.org/issues/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/surveillance-under-patriot-act">PATRIOT Act</a> that gave the state unparalleled access to personal data collected through search engines, social media, and mobile phone records. </p> <p>After the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which the entire Iraqi population was treated as “bare life”, and where specific sites of sovereign power like <a href="https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=A0geK99Ua71a0UcAAWoPxQt.?p=Middle+East+eye+man+under+the+hood+abu+Ghraib&amp;fr=yhs-Lkry-SF01&amp;fr2=piv-web&amp;hspart=Lkry&amp;hsimp=yhs-SF01&amp;type=ANYS_A09AW_ext_bsf#id=1&amp;vid=598a0cb404b2f4eb812505b7c8ee3195&amp;action=view">Abu Ghraib</a> became notorious, US foreign policy took a dramatic shift under Obama. Although, the earlier invasion had already been marked by the use of <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3855079/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/digital-warfare-systemhuntsiraq-rebels/#.WsLr22Z7FLA">digital technologies</a>, Obama decided that the will of America would be delivered through the drone <a href="https://understandingempire.wordpress.com/2-0-a-brief-history-of-u-s-drones/">apparatus</a>; a collection of pilotless armoured planes, human operators, data banks, screens, algorithms, computers and the Internet. Given that the Internet was a military invention, the drone apparatus is the ultimate fantasy in the military desire for decentred, flexible, multi-theater, “casualty-free” warfare.</p> <h2><b>‘Five Eyes’ and the ‘kill box’ come home </b></h2> <p>This apparatus – made international through the <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/01/nsa-global-surveillance-sigint-seniors/">“Five Eyes” programme</a> – works by using the collection of data from the web, email, digital social networks, as well as locative media and visual surveillance technologies to track down known suspects or detect people deemed to be potential terrorists, or what is termed “pre-insurgent”. </p> <p>Of course, because “pre-insurgency” is epidermally biased it is not hard to imagine how easy it is to become a target if you are brown or black and live in North Africa or the Middle East. These targets that are found by the apparatus itself are fed back into the “kill chain”, a hierarchy of human command that signs off on their killing. In the language of the apparatus, the system produces spaces known as <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/life-in-the-kill-box-eye-in-the-sky-targets-the-ethics-of-drone-strikes/">“kill boxes”</a> in which any legal right the target has under International Law as a civilian or under the Geneva Convention as a soldier/warfighter is removed, allowing them to be killed with impunity. Instead of large, static spaces like Guantanamo Bay in which the politics of the exception has been brought to bear on “foreign” bodies, the “kill box” is a micro, momentary, and fleeting space that produces “bare life” and through which contemporary sovereign power operates.</p> <p>Surveillance <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeL8DAnjk40">footage</a> of Stephon Clark’s garden taken from the helicopter called out to assist in the reported incident in which he was an innocent bystander brought to mind the operations of the drone apparatus, and how perfectly – and with a dreadful, terrifying symmetry – the military euphemism of the “kill box” fits with the domestic execution of US sovereign power. </p> <p>Like the state of emergency that underpins its foreign policy, a state of emergency also operates domestically. This is a self-induced crisis brought about by its gun cult, the persistence of white supremacy, and its system of gross economic inequality. </p> <p>Nevertheless, in a country that prides itself on the rule of law, this politics of ‘exception’ continually opens up these micro spaces in which black life is reduced to bare life and no one need be held to account. These micro, temporary kill boxes that open up on US streets with a frightening regularity are, of course, the latest in a long history of violence against black people and appear within a social space already racially biased. </p> <p>Just like the enemy abroad, black people at home are seen as “pre-insurgent”, as if the fear of slave revolts still hangs heavy over US culture. Nearly all of the killings and the excuses for the killings carry this mark of the “pre-insurgent”. All the time we hear, “we thought he had a gun” or “we thought he was reaching for a gun”. From the position of white supremacy a person of colour is always about to be a <a href="https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/3/17/14945576/black-white-bodies-size-threat-study">threat</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Curtis KIll video screenshot.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Curtis KIll video screenshot.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot.</span></span></span></p> <h2><b>Black Lives Matter</b></h2> <p>The Black Lives Matter Movement went viral after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in 2013. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has since become an international sign for justice, and has demonstrated how important social media and the web are for organizing political resistance, in an age in which the logic of the exception and the state of emergency are becoming the new normal. </p> <p>It is beholden upon anyone with a concern for our fast dwindling democratic protections to support this movement.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/daniele-archibugi/targeted-killings-through-drones-are-war-crimes">Targeted killings through drones are war crimes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction">Weapons of maths destruction </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/stephen-graham/foucault%E2%80%99s-boomerang-new-military-urbanism">Foucault’s boomerang: the new military urbanism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/carly-nyst/un-privacy-report-five-eyes-remains">The UN privacy report: Five Eyes remains</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bassam-gergi/need-for-national-action-on-us-gun-reform">The bleeding need for national action on US gun reform</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties hri United States Neal Curtis Wed, 04 Apr 2018 08:42:55 +0000 Neal Curtis 117006 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Manifesto on algorithmic humanitarianism https://www.opendemocracy.net/dan-mcquillan/manifesto-on-algorithmic-humanitarianism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Compact">The nature of machine learning operations mean they will actually deepen some humanitarian problematics and introduce new ones of their own. This banality of machine learning is also its power.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-24825892_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-24825892_3.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Small grocery shop in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais, 2015. Debets/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2> intro </h2><ol><li>Artificial Intelligence (AI) is undergoing a period of massive expansion.</li><li>This is not because computers have achieved human-like consciousnesss but because of advances in machine learning, where computers learn from training data how to classify new data.</li><li>At the cutting edge are the neural networks that have learned to recognise human faces or play Go.</li><li>Recognising patterns in data can be used as a predictive tool, and AI is being applied to echocardiograms to predict heart disease</li><li>to workplace data to predict if employees are going to leave</li><li>and to social media feeds to detect signs of incipient depression or suicidal tendencies.</li><li>One activity that seems distant from AI is humanitarianism;</li><li>the organisation of on-the-ground aid to fellow human beings in crisis due to war, famine or other disaster.</li><li>But humanitarian organisations, too, will adopt AI because it seems able to answer questions at the heart of humanitarianism</li><li>such as 'who should we save?' and 'how can we be effective at scale?'</li><li>It resonates strongly with existing modes of humanitarian thinking and doing</li><li>in particular the principles of neutrality and universality.</li><li>The way machine learning consumes big data and produces predictions</li><li>suggests it can both grasp the enormity of the humanitarian challenge and provide a data-driven response.</li><li>But the nature of machine learning operations mean they will actually deepen some humanitarian problematics</li><li>and introduce new ones of their own.</li><li>Thinking about how to avoid this raises wider questions about emancipatory technics</li><li>and what else needs to be in place to produce machine learning for the people.</li></ol><h2>maths</h2><ol><li>There is no intelligence in Artificial Intelligence</li><li>nor does it really learn, even though it's technical name is machine learning</li><li>it is simply mathematical minimisation</li><li>Like at school, fitting a straight line to a set of points</li><li>you pick the line that minimises the differences overall</li><li>Machine learning does the same for complex patterns</li><li>it fits input features to known outcomes by minimising a cost function</li><li>the fit is a model that can be applied to new data to predict the outcome</li><li>The most influential class of machine learning algorithms are neural networks</li><li>which is what startups call 'deep learning'</li><li>They use backpropagation: a minimisation algorithm that produces weights in different layers of neurons</li><li>anything that can be reduced to numbers and tagged with an outcome can be used to train a model</li><li>the equations don't know or care if the numbers represent Amazon sales or earthquake victims</li><li>This banality of machine learning is also its power</li><li>it's a generalised numerical compression of questions that matter</li><li>there is no comprehension within the computation</li><li>the patterns are correlation not causation</li><li>the only intelligence comes in the same sense as military intelligence; that is, targeting</li><li>But models produced by machine learning can be hard to reverse into human reasoning</li><li>why did it pick this person as a bad parole risk? what does that pattern of weights in the 3rd layer represent? we can't necessarily say.</li></ol><h2>reasoning</h2><ol><li>Machine learning doesn't just make decisions without giving reasons, it modifies our very idea of reason</li><li>that is, it changes what is knowable and what is understood as real</li><li>It operationalises the two-world metaphysics of neoplatonism</li><li>that behind the world of the sensible is the world of the form or the idea.</li><li>A belief in a hidden layer of reality which is ontologically superior,</li><li>expressed mathematically and apprehended by going against direct experience.</li><li>Machine learning is not just a method but a machinic philosophy</li><li>What might this mean for the future field of humanitarian AI?</li><li>It makes machine learning prone to what Miranda Fricker calls epistemic injustice</li><li>She meant the social prejudice that undermines a speaker's word</li><li>but in this case it's the calculations of data science that can end up counting more than testimony</li><li>The production of opaque predictions with calculative authority</li><li>will deepen the self-referential nature of the humanitarian field</li><li>while providing a gloss of grounded and testable interventions</li><li>Testing against unused data will produce hard numbers for accuracy and error</li><li>while making the reasoning behind them inaccessible to debate or questioning</li><li>Using neural networks will align with the output driven focus of the logframe</li><li>while deepening the disconnect between outputs and wider values</li><li>Hannah Arendt said many years ago that cycles of social reproduction have the character of automatism.</li><li>The general threat of AI, in humanitarianism and elsewhere, is not the substitution of humans by machines but the computational extension of existing social automatism</li></ol><h2>production</h2><ol><li>Of course the humanitarian field is not naive about the perils of datafication</li><li>We all know machine learning could propagate discrimination because it learns from social data</li><li>Humanitarian institutions will be more careful than most to ensure all possible safeguards against biased training data</li><li>but the deeper effect of machine learning is to produce new subjects and to act on them</li><li>Machine learning is performative, in the sense that reiterative statements produce the phenomena they regulate</li><li>Humanitarian AI will optimise the impact of limited resources applied to nearly limitless need</li><li>by constructing populations that fit the needs of humanitarian organisations</li><li>This is machine learning as biopower</li><li>it's predictive power will hold out the promise of saving lives</li><li>producing a shift to preemption</li><li>but this is effect without cause</li><li>The foreclosure of futures on the basis of correlation rather than causation</li><li>it constructs risk in the same way that twitter determines trending topics</li><li>the result will be algorithmic states of exception</li><li>According to Agamben, the signature of a state of exception is ‘force-of’</li><li>actions that have the force of law even when not of the law</li><li>Logistic regression and neural networks generate mathematical boundaries</li><li>but cybernetic exclusions will have effective force by allocating and withholding resources</li><li>a process that can't be humanised by having a humanitarian-in-the-loop</li><li>because it is already a technics, a co-constituting of the human and the technical</li></ol><h2>decolonial</h2><ol><li>The capture, model and preempt cycle of machine learning will amplify the colonial aspects of humanitarianism</li><li>unless we can develop a decolonial approach to its assertions of objectivity, neutrality and universality</li><li>We can look to standpoint theory, a feminist and post-colonial approach to science</li><li>which suggests that positions of social and political disadvantage can become sites of analytical advantage</li><li>this is where our thinking about machine learning &amp; AI should start from</li><li>but I don't mean by soliciting feedback from humanitarian beneficiaries</li><li>Participation and feedback is already a form of socialising subjects</li><li>and with algorithmic humanitarianism every client interaction will be subsumed into training data</li><li>They used to say 'if the product is free, you are the product'</li><li>but now, if the product is free, you are the training data</li><li>training for humanitarian AI and for the wider cybernetic governance of resilient populations</li><li>Machine learning can break out of this spiral through situated knowledge</li><li>as proposed by Donna Haraway as a counterweight to the scientific ‘view from nowhere’,</li><li>a situated approach that is not optional in its commitment to a particular context</li><li>How does machine learning look from the standpoint of Haiti's post-earthquake rubble or from an IDP camp</li><li>No refugee in a freezing factory near the Serbian border with Croatia is going to be signing up for Andrew Ng's MOOC on machine learning any time soon</li><li>How can democratic technics be grounded in the humanitarian context?</li></ol><h2>people's councils</h2><ol><li>It may seem obvious that if machine learning can optimise Ocado deliveries then it can help with humanitarian aid</li><li>but the politics of machine learning are processes operating at the level of the pre-social</li><li>One way to counter this is through popular assemblies and people's councils</li><li>bottom-up, confederated structures that implement direct democracy</li><li>replacing the absence of a subject in the algorithms with face-to-face presence</li><li>contesting the opacity of parallel computation with open argument</li><li>and the environmentality of algorithms with direct action</li><li>The role of people's councils is not to debate for its own sake</li><li>but the creation of alternative structures, in the spirit of Gustav Landauer's structural renewal</li><li>An emancipatory technics is one that co-constitutes active agents and their infrastructures</li><li>As Landauer said, people must 'grow into a framework, a sense of belonging, a body with countless organs and sections'</li><li>as evidenced in Calais, where people collectively organised warehouse space, van deliveries and cauldrons to cook for 100s, while regularly tasting tear gas</li><li>I suggest that solidarity is an ontological category prior to subject formation</li><li>collective activity is the line of flight from a technological capture that extends market relations to our intentions</li><li>It is a politics of becoming – a means without end to counter AI's effect without cause</li></ol><h2>close</h2><ol><li>In conclusion</li><li>as things stand, machine learning and so-called AI will not be any kind of salvation for humanitarianism</li><li>but will deepen the neocolonial and neoliberal dynamics of humanitarian institutions</li><li>But no apparatus is a closed teleological system; the impact of machine learning is contingent and can be changed</li><li>it's not a question people versus machines but of a humanitarian technics of mutual aid</li><li>In my opinion this requires a rupture with current instantiations of machine learning</li><li>a break with the established order of things of the kind that Badiou refers to as an Event</li><li>the unpredictable point of excess that makes a new truth discernible</li><li>and constitutes the subjects that can pursue that new truth procedure</li><li>The prerequisites will be to have a standpoint, to be situated, and to be committed</li><li>it will be as different to the operations of Google as the Balkan aid convoys of the 1990s were to the work of the ICRC</li><li>On the other hand, if an alternative technics is not mobilised,</li><li>the next generation of humanitarian scandals will be driven by AI.</li></ol> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><i>Presented at the symposium on 'Reimagining Digital Humanitarianism', Goldsmiths, University of London, Feb 16th 2018</i>. More details of the symposium can be <a href="https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=11362">found here.</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anita-gurumurthy-amrita-vasudevan/snowden-to-cambridge-analytica-making-case-for-social-value-of-pri">Snowden to Cambridge Analytica – making the case for the social value of privacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/neal-curtis/dreadful-symmetry-kill-boxes-racism-and-us-sovereign-power-in-digital-age">Dreadful symmetry: kill boxes, racism and US sovereign power in the digital age</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction">Weapons of maths destruction </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties hri Civil society Conflict Ideas International politics Internet Dan McQuillan Wed, 04 Apr 2018 07:08:38 +0000 Dan McQuillan 117024 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Snowden to Cambridge Analytica – making the case for the social value of privacy https://www.opendemocracy.net/anita-gurumurthy-amrita-vasudevan/snowden-to-cambridge-analytica-making-case-for-social-value-of-pri <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard">Constitutionally inculcated rights and morality are slowly being undone “by the use of automated processes to assess risk and allocate opportunity”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Zuck-Zuck.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Zuck-Zuck.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An image of Mark Zuckerberg in Shadow Ink app. 2016. Wikicommons/ Annika Laas. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>After days of prodding by the media, Mark Zuckerberg has offered a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/21/mark-zuckerberg-response-facebook-cambridge-analytica">mea culpa</a>, apologizing for the <a href="https://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=damage+control">“breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it”.</a> </p> <p class="Standard">The news that Facebook shared user data with a number of organizations including Cambridge Analytica seems to reflect the paradox of surveillance society – that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/elinor-carmi/whose-data-is-it-anyway">our personal data is never safe</a>, but share it we must.</p> <p class="Standard">So once again, in a Snowdenish moment, we are hit by the revelation that Cambridge Analytica conducted behavioural modeling and psychographic profiling (creating personality profiles by gauging motives, interests, attitudes, beliefs, values etc.) based on data it collected, to successfully target – allegedly – Americans prior to the recent presidential election. </p> <p class="Standard">Meanwhile, in countries like India, political parties have <a href="http://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/bjp-and-congress-accuse-each-other-for-hiring-cambridge-analytics-118032101154_1.html">accused each other</a> of hiring Cambridge Analytica for their own election campaigns.</p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>The soothsayer</strong></h2> <p class="Standard"><a href="https://www.facebook.com/full_data_use_policy">Facebook </a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/full_data_use_policy">collects</a> all kinds of social data about its users, like their relationship status, place of work, colleagues, last time they visited their parents, songs they like listening to, as well as other kinds of information such as device data, websites visited from the platform etc. </p> <p class="Standard">This may be information that is shared by the user or what their friends may share about them on the platform. That aside, let us not forget that Facebook has bought WhatsApp and Instagram and can tap into data from those platforms, apart from the data it buys from data brokers.</p> <p class="Standard">Data that is collected is used to draw up the profile of users – a detailed picture of the persona that emerges by piecing together known activity and aptitude and generating predictions about possible proclivities and predispositions. <span class="mag-quote-center">That big data can be put to use in ways that reinforce ‘social and cultural segregation and exclusion’ is fairly well accepted now.</span></p> <p class="Standard">The mechanics of big data thus recreate the sum total of user traits and attributes – without necessarily verifying them per user. What follows then is the clustering of users into hyper segments with similar attributes for micro-targeting ads. </p> <p class="Standard">You may merely be ‘liking’ an article on <a href="https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/northern-white-rhino-male-sudan-death-extinction-spd/">the l</a><a href="https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/northern-white-rhino-male-sudan-death-extinction-spd/">ast male white Rhino</a>, but Facebook <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5802.full">wi</a><a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5802.full">ll</a><a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5802.full"> </a><a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5802.full">predict</a> with a fair amount of accuracy your political affiliation and sexual orientation, using algorithmic modelling to nudge you to buy the thing you are most likely to buy. Hyper-segmentation based on social media profiling can also be used to create a consumer base for political messaging, as has been suggested in the case of Cambridge Analytica.&nbsp; </p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>The target</strong></h2> <p class="Standard"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/burcu-kilic-renata-avila/digital-giants-trading-away-our-right-to-privacy">Many digital corporations, including Uber, Twitter and Microsoft sell their data to third parties who build apps and provide services on top of it</a>. With machine learning, the targeting of individuals assumes new dimensions; it becomes possible to do <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270107608_Advertising_Microtargeting_and_Social_Media">nanotargeting</a>, that is, to zoom in precisely on one individual. </p> <p class="Standard">A fintech startup in India rejected an applicant because they could uncover that she had actually filed for a loan on behalf of her live-in partner who was unemployed. The boyfriend’s loan request had been rejected earlier. The <a href="https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/need-small-loans-these-fintech-startups-are-tracking-your-moves/articleshow/59553055.cms">start-up’s machine</a><a href="https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/need-small-loans-these-fintech-startups-are-tracking-your-moves/articleshow/59553055.cms"> learning algorithm</a> had used GPS and social media data – both of which the duo had given permissions for while downloading the app – to make the connection that they were in a relationship.</p> <p class="Standard">That big data can be put to use in ways that reinforce ‘<a href="https://edps.europa.eu/sites/edp/files/publication/15-11-19_big_data_en.pdf">social and cultural segregation and exclusion</a>’ is fairly well accepted now. This slippery slope from micro-targeting to the social allocation by algorithms of opportunities and privileges poses serious concerns. A <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-doesnt-tell-users-everything-it-really-knows-about-them">ProPublica investigation from 2016 coll</a>ected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook used to classify users into micro target-able groups. It then went on to buy Facebook advertisement for housing that demonstrated how it was possible to exclude African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. As <a href="http://raley.english.ucsb.edu/wp-content/Engl800/Pasquale-blackbox.pdf">Frank Pasquale notes, constitutionally inculcated rights and morality is slowly being undone “by the use of automated processes to assess risk and allocate opportunity”.</a></p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>The public sphere</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">This brings us to the question of what the social role of digital intelligence means for the future of democracy. Elections play a vital role in a robust democracy such as India. We seek to safeguard their free and fair nature through regulations that impose <a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/exit-polls-and-why-they-are-restricted-by-the-panel-dainik-jagran-editor-arrest-4527055/">restriction</a><a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/exit-polls-and-why-they-are-restricted-by-the-panel-dainik-jagran-editor-arrest-4527055/">s</a><a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/exit-polls-and-why-they-are-restricted-by-the-panel-dainik-jagran-editor-arrest-4527055/"> on exit polling</a> or call out parties for unduly influencing voters through the distribution of freebies. </p> <p class="Standard">Wouldn’t then, a nudging of voters through intimate knowledge of their behaviour be a threat to this socio-political hygiene we seek to maintain? Can we allow the replacement of the will of the people by a market democracy in which the masses can be gamed? In the wake of the scandal, <a href="http://www.firstpost.com/politics/cambridge-analytica-row-ec-to-coordinate-with-enforcement-agencies-to-prevent-unlawful-electoral-activities-4403117.html">the Election Commission </a><a href="http://www.firstpost.com/politics/cambridge-analytica-row-ec-to-coordinate-with-enforcement-agencies-to-prevent-unlawful-electoral-activities-4403117.html">in India</a> has said that it will come up with recommendations on how to prevent such unlawful activities. <span class="mag-quote-center">Can we allow the replacement of the will of the people by a market democracy in which the masses can be gamed?</span></p> <p class="Standard">However, beyond electoral fairness, there are severe repercussions for the sanctity of the public sphere in the rapidly unfolding role of algorithms. When people know that online behaviour is monitored, they carefully moderate how they interact online, a phenomenon referred to as <a href="https://www.socialcooling.com/">social cooling.</a></p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>The collusion</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">The Cambridge Analytica episode bears a close resemblance to the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/carly-nyst-rosemary-bechler/after-snowden-can-technology-save-our-digital-liberties">Snowden disclosure of the unholy nexus of the state, private corporations, and uninhibited surveillance</a>. India has already succeeded in building a ‘cradle to grave’ panspectron by seeding citizens’ unique biometric identifier across data bases. The Aadhaar unique ID project has allowed for an <a href="https://books.google.co.in/books?id=J9f1AwAAQBAJ&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=posthumanism&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi-1-S6tILaAhWJQY8KHfWmA5wQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&amp;q=posthumanism&amp;f=false">informatization of life</a> whereby “...the human body is reduced to a set of numbers that can be stored, retrieved and reconstituted across terminals, screens and interfaces”. </p> <p class="Standard">With this biometric, the body can never disassociate with its data, and may be recalled, whenever convenient, sans ‘the individual’. To add psychographic data akin to a ‘behavioural’ biometric to this mix is to endow a ‘God’s eye view’ of society to the state, one that the state is bound to abuse to determine the human condition. </p> <p class="Standard">For instance, China’s profoundly disturbing, <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/">Sesame Credit</a> uses citizen data including data from everyday transactions, biometric data, etc., to dole out instant karma.</p> <p class="Standard">From the other end, corporations who already collect behavioural data are <a href="https://scroll.in/article/823274/how-private-companies-are-using-aadhaar-to-deliver-better-services-but-theres-a-catch">keen on accessing Aadhaar data</a>, for this will allow them to trade data around a unique data point to attain, much like the state, a 360 degree view of their customers.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">Facebook has faced criticism in the past for experimenting with users’ emotions, using unethical <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds">manipulati</a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds">on of</a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds"> </a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds">information</a> to influence the moods of users. The plausibility of nano-surveillance raises fundamental philosophical questions about society and human agency, calling attention to the urgent task of reining in the data capitalists. <span class="mag-quote-center">The plausibility of nano-surveillance raises fundamental philosophical questions about society and human agency, calling attention to the urgent task of reining in the data capitalists.&nbsp; </span></p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>The norm</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">While digital corporations claim to audit how third parties may use the data they have shared, <a href="https://gadgets.ndtv.com/social-networking/features/facebook-cambridge-analytica-scandal-fallout-on-other-tech-companies-1827408">monitoring is lax</a>. India, for instance, does have rules on <a href="http://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/in/in098en.pdf">data shari</a><a href="http://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/in/in098en.pdf">ng</a>; however, these pertain to a predefined list of data types. Traditionally, data protection legislations have focused on ‘personally identifiable information’ (PII), but with technological advances - <em>a la</em> big data analysis and Artificial Intelligence – <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1909366">what is or is not PII</a> is contested. The law therefore needs to be re-imagined to suit contemporary techniques of data analysis.</p> <p class="Standard">Besides the fact of unencumbered data sharing, that Facebook was able to collect such vast amounts and varied kinds of data is itself unsettling. To prevent the frightening prospect of future society being reduced to an aggregate of manipulated data points, it may well be necessary to determine that certain kinds of data will not be collected and certain types of data processing will not be done. </p> <p class="Standard">Restrictions on collection and use can be sector specific, based on well debated <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2567042">social norms</a> and constitutionally driven. &nbsp;For example, Delhi High Court recently upheld the judgment on the grounds of the right to health, that excluding genetic disorders from insurance policies is illegal.</p> <p class="Standard">It is time we moved from individual centered notions of privacy where the ‘user’ is constantly asked to barter the right for entitlements, credits, and convenience<span style="text-decoration: line-through;">. </span>Theories about how individuals must be empowered to monetise the plentiful data they generate and get easier credit, better healthcare, better skills and welfare benefits are a recipe for a disempowered society left to the whims of neo-liberal market democracy. The <a href="http://www.firstpost.com/tech/news-analysis/big-brother-getting-bigger-the-privacy-issues-surrounding-aadhaar-are-worrying-3700365.html">social value of privacy</a> needs to be spotlighted, for it urges us to look not only at the individual’s rights over data, but the social benefits that we derive from their recognition.</p> <p class="Standard">In so far as societies are the products of behavioural modelling, Zuckerberg’s apology does not really count.</p> <p class="Standard"><em>An <a href="http://www.firstpost.com/politics/cambridge-analytica-row-ec-to-coordinate-with-enforcement-agencies-to-prevent-unlawful-electoral-activities-4403117.html">earlier version of this article</a> first appeared in Firstpost on March 23, 2018. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/neal-curtis/dreadful-symmetry-kill-boxes-racism-and-us-sovereign-power-in-digital-age">Dreadful symmetry: kill boxes, racism and US sovereign power in the digital age</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dan-mcquillan/manifesto-on-algorithmic-humanitarianism">Manifesto on algorithmic humanitarianism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties hri United States India Civil society Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Amrita Vasudevan Anita Gurumurthy Wed, 04 Apr 2018 06:18:30 +0000 Anita Gurumurthy and Amrita Vasudevan 117022 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story https://www.opendemocracy.net/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The bitter pill many refuse to swallow shows the difference between the world we think we’re in, and the one we really inhabit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Edward_Christopher_„Ed“_Sheeran_at_Southside_Festival_2014_in_Neuhausen_ob_Eck.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Edward_Christopher_„Ed“_Sheeran_at_Southside_Festival_2014_in_Neuhausen_ob_Eck.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ed Sheeran on stage at the Southside Festival in Germany, June 2014. Wikicommons/ Markus Hillgärtner. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Every so often, moments come along when what seemed like a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory is confirmed as true, and people are forced to say goodbye to the world they thought they lived in and adjust to the one they really lived in all along. </p> <p>Widespread outrage in response to recent disclosure of new details about Cambridge Analytica has all the appearance of such a moment. These types of events have become more common recently: whether it is a new wave of terrorist attacks on European soil, preventable tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower disaster, major electoral outcomes such as the British vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory, or technology whistleblowing events such as this one, the pace at which we are continually having to re-adjust to the world we actually live in seems alarmingly high, and yet all were predictable. </p> <p>No doubt, it is a dismaying picture that confronts us: British company SCL Group, operating under the brand name Cambridge Analytica with the supervision of Steve Bannon, obtained data collected from Facebook by Cambridge University academic Alexandr Kogan, and used systems built by data scientist and whistleblower-to-be Chris Wylie to train its microtargeting algorithms to nudge scores of already-angry voters towards electing Donald Trump and leaving the European Union – a set of experiments largely bankrolled by US hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, 90% owner of Cambridge Analytica.</p> <p>Public reaction to this complex picture has been reminiscent of the last time there was widespread outrage about social media in political life – the revelations made by Edward Snowden in June 2013. And it’s almost uncanny timing that just as that social media-related whistleblowing scandal was made public and the world was meeting Snowden for the first time, Chris Wylie was beginning his employment with SCL Group and the next outrage was being quietly set in motion.</p> <p>What many people came face to face with in that moment was that social media were not the innocent frivolity we thought they were, lest Facebook’s more-than-$100bn initial public offering on the NASDAQ hadn’t already told us this.</p> <p>It turned out that some of the very same powerful entities that have long structured the world – in this case the state security agencies that underpin some of the world’s governments – were intimately connected to our innocuous social media tomfoolery. When you told Facebook you liked Ed Sheeran, or checked in to let your friends know that you were at the London Zoo penguin enclosure, GCHQ and the NSA will know as well, if they are interested. In the minds of populations across the world, social media has changed irrevocably. <span class="mag-quote-center">We are always resistant in these moments of readjustment, and this time will be no exception.</span></p> <p>Or did it? We carried on using social media <em>en masse</em> – in fact our use of them increased. Writing in London Review of Books in August 2017, shortly after Facebook crossed its 2 billion user threshold, <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product">John Lanchester observed</a> that it was not only the number of users that was increasing, but the degree of engagement: “In the far distant days of October 2012, when Facebook hit one billion users, 55 per cent of them were using it every day. At two billion, 66 per cent are.” We are always resistant in these moments of readjustment, and this time will be no exception.</p> <h2><strong>The limits of consent</strong></h2> <p>A common, if contrary, response from some quarters when Snowden’s leak was in the news was: why is it that we are happy for Facebook to know our whereabouts, but freak out when governments have the same information? One answer might be consent: it’s ok for Facebook to have our data precisely because we choose to give it to them, unlike with the security services. And that’s a question and answer that we might apply directly to the present case of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data.</p> <p>But there’s a serious flaw in this logic. Our relationship with Facebook was never a straightforward one in which we simply entrust them with our data, and they keep it safe like some kindly uncle taking care of a bag of sweeties. If Facebook was ever that way, it was a long time ago when only a few Harvard students knew what it was, but even then <a href="https://www.esquire.com/uk/latest-news/a19490586/mark-zuckerberg-called-people-who-handed-over-their-data-dumb-f/">Mark Zuckerberg was referring</a> to fellow-students as “dumb fucks” for being so naïve. It is helpful to remember this naïveté now, because it is a persistent feature of social media’s power.</p> <p>The Cambridge Analytica story isn’t only about social media. It’s got bribery, honey traps, corruption and many other concerning elements that long precede the anthropomorphised bunny rabbit gifs and food porn of social media. Once again, besides the shock revelation that seemingly democratic votes are vulnerable to well-organised propaganda efforts, the surprise seems to be that these more recognisable elements of white-collar deviancy have turned out to be in cahoots with the digital technologies we have come to trust, and intimately integrate into our own lives. </p> <p>But what did we really think would happen when the worst aspects of Silicon Valley, a cynical Etonian establishment, reactionary Anglo-American nationalism and hedge-fund capital found each other? As Mark Fisher once said, “Many of what we call ‘conspiracies’ are the ruling class showing class solidarity.” <span class="mag-quote-center">“Many of what we call ‘conspiracies’ are the ruling class showing class solidarity.”</span></p> <p>Perhaps a more important question to ask is: why do we carry on being shocked when social media’s centrality in our attention and emotional lives doesn’t go well for us? </p> <p>For some reason, technology companies and their products are treated differently to other corporations and their products. When we deal with Coca-Cola Company, Phillip Morris or MacDonalds, we have an idea of whom we’re dealing with. At least when you’re buying a Coca-Cola you know it can melt your teeth (never mind all the other things sugar does to the body), and when you buy cigarettes that they are likely to give you lung cancer. Nobody thinks Big Macs are good for them. </p> <p>The last few decades show a clear story of how we prized these facts out of the grasp of the corporations that wanted them concealed or de-emphasised, and adjusted our expectations accordingly. But somehow large numbers of people have continued to think that when they use Facebook their situation as a consumer is materially better. As Aral Balkan, Shoshanna Zuboff and others have highlighted, it isn’t better – it’s actually worse.</p> <p>Facebook’s entire product is manipulation; the exploitation of its users’ emotional reactions by those with something to push. That is how it makes nearly $200k profit per quarter <em>per employee</em>, more than any other technology company. </p> <p>When Facebook’s customers were the Coca-Colas, MacDonalds and Unilevers of the world, nobody appeared to mind as long as they could carry on mindlessly scrolling through a stream of emotionally stimulating media as a means of distracting themselves from the hopeless emptiness of Anglo-American late capitalism. </p> <p>But when the inevitable happened and the same system was used to influence political change by people who had already been doing so by other means for 25 years, suddenly #DeleteFacebook is such a mainstream idea that BBC Radio 4 is asking people ­– ironically via its Facebook page&nbsp;– whether they intend carrying it out.</p> <p>The Cambridge Analytica story is no more a shock than Facebook <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-advertising-discrimination-housing-race-sex-national-origin">allowing its advertisers</a> to sell things – including housing – only to white people is a shock. It’s no more a shock than the fact that according to the UN, Facebook had a “determining role” in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-facebook/u-n-investigators-cite-facebook-role-in-myanmar-crisis-idUSKCN1GO2PN">spreading hatred</a> against the heavily persecuted Rohingya people of Rakhine state in Myanmar either. These things are only a shock if you’re unaware of what technology, capital, and a complete lack of ethics produce when, inevitably, they combine.</p> <h2><strong>When the majority isn’t right</strong></h2> <p>There is one person however, who should rightly be congratulated in this moment, for whom the only shock is probably that the world finally listened: Observer reporter Carole Cadwalladr. Again and again her tenacious reporting has been the bitter pill many refused to swallow that showed the difference between the world we think we’re in, and the one we really inhabit. It is in this space that genuine democracy is most vulnerable, and yet ironically, the lesson from her reporting is that a majority of wishful thinkers are not always right.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald-peter-york-carole-cadwalladr-james-patrick/dark-money-deep-data-voicing-dissent">Dark Money Deep Data</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/people-before-party-having-actual-conversations-in-digital-era">From Obama to Cambridge Analytica: how did we get here? (Podcast)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/antonis-vradis/don-t-call-it-echo-chamber-it-s-spatial-contract">Don’t call it an echo chamber – it’s a spatial contract</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Marcus J. Gilroy-Ware Thu, 29 Mar 2018 06:57:37 +0000 Marcus J. Gilroy-Ware 116935 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You can't understand the Cambridge Analytica scandal until you understand what its parent company does.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-UStanks_baghdad_2003.JPEG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-UStanks_baghdad_2003.JPEG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US tanks arriving in Baghdad in 2003, by Technical Sergeant John L. Houghton, Jr., United States Air Force, public domain.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">"The Gulf War Did Not Take Place". This audacious claim was made by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in March 1991, only two months after NATO forces had rained explosives on Iraq, shedding the blood of more than a hundred thousand people.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm, Strategic Communication Laboratories, we need to get our heads round what Baudrillard meant, and what has happened since: how military propaganda has changed with technology, how war has been privatised, and how imperialism is coming home.</p><p dir="ltr">Baudrillard's argument centred on the fact that NATO's action in the Gulf was the first time audiences in Western countries had been able to watch a war live, on rolling TV news – CNN had become the first 24-hour news channel in 1980. Because camera crews were embedded with American troops, by whom they were effectively censored, the coverage had little resemblance to the reality of the bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait. The events known to Western audiences as "The Gulf War"&nbsp;–&nbsp;symbolised by camera footage from 'precision' missiles and footage of military hardware&nbsp;–&nbsp;are more accurately understood as a movie directed from the Pentagon. They were so removed from the gore-splattered reality that it's an abuse of language to call them the same thing. Hence, the "Gulf War" did not take place.</p><p dir="ltr"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="315" width="560" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RhpgCaPoBaE"></iframe> <i>(You can see a classic example of this footage courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel)</i></p><p dir="ltr">Not long after Baudrillard’s iconic essay was published, Strategic Communications Laboratories was founded. "SCL Group provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organisations worldwide" reads the first line of its website. "For over 25 years, we have conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries &amp; have been formally recognised for our work in defence and social change.”</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, military propaganda was nothing new. And nor is the extent to which it has evolved alongside changes in media technology and economics. The film Citizen Kane tells a fictionalised version of the first tabloid (or, as Americans call it, 'yellow journalism') war: how the circulation battle between William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World arguably drove the US into the 1889 Spanish American War. It was during this affair that Hearst reportedly told his correspondent, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war", as parodied in Evelyn Waugh's <i>Scoop</i>. But after the propaganda disaster of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tet_Offensive">Tet Offensive</a> in Vietnam softened domestic support for the war, the military planners began to devise new ways to control media reporting.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Cholon_after_Tet_Offensive_operations_1968.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Cholon_after_Tet_Offensive_operations_1968.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civilians sort through the ruins of their homes in Cholon, the heavily damaged Chinese section of Saigon. By Meyerson, Joel D, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">As a result, when Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, they pioneered a new technique for media control: embedding journalists with troops. And, as former BBC war reporter Caroline Wyatt <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/36887f1a-a3a8-3005-a642-1ce7dcccf60b">blogged</a>, "The lessons from embedding journalists with the Royal Navy during the Falklands war were taken up enthusiastically by military planners in both Washington and London for the First Gulf War in 1991."</p><p dir="ltr">The UK defence secretary during the Falklands War when the use of embedded journalists was pioneered was John Nott (who backed Brexit). As my colleague Caroline Molloy pointed out to me, his son-in-law is Tory MP Hugo Swire, former minister in both the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign Office. Swire's <a href="http://www.thepeerage.com/p49322.htm" title="http://www.thepeerage.com/p49322.htm">cousin</a>&nbsp;–&nbsp;with whom he would have overlapped at Eton&nbsp;–&nbsp;is Nigel Oakes, founder of Strategic Communications Laboratories. It's not a conspiracy, just that the ruling class are all related.</p><p dir="ltr">But back to our history: by the time of the 2003 Iraq War, communications technology had moved on again. As the BBC's Caroline Wyatt explains in the same blog, "satellite communications are now much more sophisticated, meaning we almost always have our own means of communicating with London. That offers a crucial measure of independence, even if reports still have to be cleared for 'op sec' [operational security]. The almost total control by the military of the means of reporting in the Falklands would be unthinkable in most warzones today."</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2004, another major disruption in communications technology began: Facebook was founded. And with it came a whole new propaganda nightmare.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time as this history was unfolding, though, something else vital was happening: neoliberalism.</p><p dir="ltr">Looked at one way, neoliberalism is the successor to geographical imperialism as the "most extreme form of capitalism". It used to be that someone with a small fortune to invest could secure the biggest return by paying someone else to sail overseas, subjugate or kill people (usually people of colour) and steal them and/or their stuff. But they couldn't keep expanding forever&nbsp;–&nbsp;the world is only so big. And so eventually, wealthy Western investors started to shift much of their focus from opening new markets in 'far off lands' to marketising new parts of life at home. Neoliberalism is also therefore this process of marketisation: of shifting decisions from one person one vote, to one pound (or dollar or Yen or Euro) one vote. Or, as Will Davies puts it: "<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/04/30/essay-populism-and-the-limits-of-neoliberalism-by-william-davies/">the disenchantment of politics by economics</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">The first Iraq War&nbsp;–&nbsp;the one that “did not take place”&nbsp;–&nbsp;coincided with a key stage in this process: the rapid marketisation (read 'asset stripping') of the collapsing Soviet Union, and so the successful encirclement of the globe by Western capital. The second Iraq War was notable for the acceleration of another key stage: the encroachment of market forces into the deepest corner of the state. During the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the campaign group War on Want, private military companies "burst onto the scene".</p><h2 dir="ltr">The privatisation of war</h2><p dir="ltr">In a 2016 report,&nbsp;<a href="https://waronwant.org/Mercenaries-Unleashed">War on Want</a> describes how the UK became the world centre for this mercenary industry. You might know G4S as the company which checks your gas meter, but they are primarily the world's largest mercenary firm, involved in providing 'security' in war zones across the planet (don’t miss my colleagues Clare Sambrook and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/g4s-securing-whose-world">excellent investigations</a> of their work in the UK).</p><p dir="ltr">In Hereford alone, near the SAS headquarters, there are 14 mercenary firms, according to War on Want's report. At the height of the Iraq war, around 80 private companies were involved in the occupation. In 2003, when UK and US forces unleashed "shock and awe" both on the Iraqi people and on their own populations down cable TV wires, the Foreign Office spent £12.6m on British private security firms, according to official figures highlighted <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/03/britain-g4s-at-centre-of-global-mercenary-industry-says-charity">by the Guardian</a>. By 2012, that figure had risen to £48.9m. In 2015, G4S alone secured a £100m contract to provide security for the British embassy in Afghanistan.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 16.34.46.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 16.34.46.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="165" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">And just as the fighting was privatised, so too was the propaganda. In 2016,<a href="https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2016-10-02/fake-news-and-false-flags-how-the-pentagon-paid-a-british-pr-firm-500m-for-top-secret-iraq-propaganda"> the Bureau of Investigative Journalism</a> revealed that the Pentagon had paid around half a billion dollars to the British PR firm Bell Pottinger to deliver propaganda during the Iraq war. Bell Pottinger, famous for shaping Thatcher’s image, included among its clients Asma Al Assad, wife of the Syrian president. Part of their work was making fake Al Qaeda propaganda films. (The firm was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/12/bell-pottinger-goes-into-administration">forced to close last year</a> because they made the mistake of deploying their tactics against white people).</p><p dir="ltr">Journalist Liam O’Hare<a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/"> has revealed</a> that Mark Turnbull, the SCL and Cambridge Analytica director who was filmed alongside Alexander Nix in the Channel4 sting, was employed by Bell Pottinger in Iraq in this period.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.</p><p dir="ltr">Like Bell Pottinger, SCL saw the opportunity of the increasing privatisation of war. In his 2006 book “<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=K1oiAQAAMAAJ&amp;q=%22strategic+communications+laboratories%22&amp;dq=%22strategic+communications+laboratories%22&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjThLW06o7aAhUkJ8AKHdSyBiAQ6AEINDAC">Britain’s Power Elites: The Rebirth of the Ruling Class</a>”, Hywel Williams wrote “It therefore seems only natural that a political communications consultancy, Strategic Communications Laboratories, should have now launched itself as the first private company to provide 'psyops' to the military.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">While much of what SCL has done for the military is secret, we do know (thanks, again, to<a href="http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/"> O’Hare</a>) that it’s had contracts from the UK and US departments of defence amounting to (at the very least) hundreds of thousands of dollars. And a document from the National Defence Academy of Latvia that I<a href="http://www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/AZPC/Publikacijas/DSPC%20PP%201%20-%20NATO%20StratCom.ashx"> managed to dig out</a>, entitled “NATO strategic communication: more to be done?” tells us that they were operating in Afghanistan in 2010, and gives some clues about what they were up to:</p><p dir="ltr">“more detailed qualitative data gathering operation was being conducted in Maiwand Province by a British company, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) is almost unique in the international contractor community in that it has a dedicated, and funded, behavioural research arm located in the prestigious home of British Science and research, The Royal Institute, London.”</p><p dir="ltr">In simple terms, the SCL Group – Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm – is the psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.</p><p dir="ltr">The skills they developed in the context of warzones shouldn’t be overplayed, but nor should they be underplayed. As far as we can tell, just as the Pentagon used simple tools like choosing where to embed journalists during the Gulf War to spin its version of events, so they mastered the tools of modern communication: Facebook, online videos, data gathering and microtargeting. Such tools aren’t magic (and Anthony Barnett <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">writes well</a> about the risks of implying that they are). They don’t on their own explain either Brexit or Trump (I wrote <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse">a plea</a> last year that Remainers in the UK don’t use our investigations as an excuse for failing to engage with the real reasons for the Leave vote). I wouldn’t even use the word “rigging” to describe the impact of these propaganda firms. But they are important.</p><p dir="ltr">As the<a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/data-democracy-and-dirty-tricks-cambridge-analytica-uncovered-investigation-expose"> Channel 4 undercover investigation</a> revealed, this work has often been carried out alongside more traditional smear tactics, and&nbsp;–&nbsp;as Chris Wylie explained&nbsp;–&nbsp;in partnership with another nexus in this world: Israel’s conurbation of private intelligence firms, a part of a burgeoning military industrial complex in the country which Israeli activist and writer<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183pct7"> Jeff Halper argues</a> is a key part of the country’s “parallel diplomacy” drive.</p><p dir="ltr">(Of course, this isn't unique to the UK and Israel. Until Cambridge Analytica achieved global infamy last week, the most prominent mercenary propaganda firm in the world was Peter Theil's company<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies"> Palantir</a> (named after the all-seeing eye in Lord of the Rings). Theil, founder of PayPal (with Elon Musk) and an executive of Facebook, wrote a notorious<a href="https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian"> essay in 2009</a> arguing that female enfranchisement had made democracy untenable and that someone should therefore invent the technology to destroy it. Palantir’s most prominent clients are the United States Intelligence Community, and the US Department of Defence. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie claimed this week that his firm had worked with Palantir. It’s also noteworthy that one of Palantir's shareholders is Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, former head of the British Army, and adviser to<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain"> Veterans for Britain, one of the groups which funnelled money to AggregateIQ</a> ahead of the European referendum. Guthrie also works for Acanum, one of the leading private intelligence agencies, who, in common with Cambridge Analytica's partners<a href="https://www.blackcube.com/board/"> Black Cube</a>,<a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/meir-dagan-corporate-spy/"> listed</a> Meyer Dagam, the former head of Mossad, as one of their advisers, until he died in 2016. Again, it's not a conspiracy, it's just that these guys all know each other. But I digress.)</p><p dir="ltr">Back to SCL: why are NATO's mercenary propagandists getting involved in the US presidential election and&nbsp;–&nbsp;if the growing body of evidence about the link between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ is to be believed&nbsp;–&nbsp;Brexit?</p><p dir="ltr">The obvious answer is surely partly true. They could make money doing so, and so they did. If you privatise war, don't be surprised if military firms start using the tools of war on 'their own' side. When Eisenhower warned of the Military Industrial Complex, he was thinking about physical weapons. But, just as unregulated semi-automatics invented for soldiers end up going off in American schools, it shouldn't be any kind of surprise that the weapons of information war are going off in Anglo-American votes.</p><p dir="ltr">But in a more general sense, this whole history is exactly what Brexit was about for many of the powerful people who pushed for it. As we’ve been investigating the secret donation which paid for the DUP Brexit campaign, we keep coming across this web of connections. Priti Patel worked for Bell Pottinger in Bahrain. Richard Cook, the front man for the secret donation to the DUP, set up a business in 2013 with the former head of Saudi intelligence and a Danish man involved in running guns to Hindu radicals who told us he was a spy. David Banks, who ran Veterans for Britain, worked in PR in the Middle East for four years – and Veterans for Britain more generally is full of these contacts.</p><p dir="ltr">I could go on. My suspicion is that this isn’t because there’s some kind of conspiracy revolving around a group of ex-spooks. It’s about the fact that power comes from networks of people, and the wing of the British ruling class which was in and around the military is moving rapidly into the world of privatised war. And those people have a strong ideological and material interest in radical right politics.</p><h2 dir="ltr">"The most corrupt country on Earth"</h2><p dir="ltr">Another way to see it is like this: Britain has lost most of its geographical empire. And most of our modern politics is about the ways in which different groups struggle to come to terms with that fact. For a large portion of the ruling establishment, this involves attempting to reprise the glory days by placing the country at the centre of two of the nexuses which define the modern era. </p><p dir="ltr">The UK and its Overseas Territories have already become by far the most significant network of tax havens and secrecy areas in the world, making us the global centre for money laundering and therefore, as Roberto Saviano, the leading expert on the mafia argues, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/29/roberto-saviano-london-is-heart-of-global-financial-corruption">most corrupt country on earth</a>. And just as countries with major oil industries have major oil lobbies, the UK has a major money laundry-lobby.</p><p dir="ltr">Pesky EU regulations have long frustrated the dreams of these people, who wish our island nation to move even further offshore and become even more of a tax haven. And so for some Brexiteers&nbsp;–&nbsp;this money laundry lobby&nbsp;–&nbsp;there was always strong incentive to back a Leave vote: European Research Group statements going back 25 years show as much.</p><p dir="ltr">But what the Cambridge Analytica affair reminds us of is that this is not just about the money laundry lobby (nor the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/big-agriculture-s-brexiteers-are-pulling-wool-over-our-eyes">agrochemical lobby</a>). Another group with a strong interest in pushing such deregulation, dimming transparency, hyping Islamophobia in America and turning peoples against each other is our flourishing mercenary complex – one of the only other industries in which Britain leads the world. And so it's no surprise that its propaganda wing has turned the skills it's learned in war towards its desired political outcomes.</p><p dir="ltr">In his essay, Baudrillard argued that his observations about the changes in military propaganda told us something about the then new post-Cold War era. Only two years after Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, he wrote a sentence which, for me, teaches us more about the Cambridge Analytica story than much of the punditry that we've seen since: "just as wealth is no longer measured by the ostentation of wealth but by the secret circulation of capital, so war is not measured by being unleashed but by its speculative unfolding in an abstract, electronic and informational space."</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise your military propaganda operation. It walked into the space created when social media killed journalism. It is yet another example of tools developed to subjugate people elsewhere in the world being used on the domestic populations of the Western countries in which they were built. It marks the point at which neoliberal capitalism reaches its zenith, and ascends to<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali"> surveillance capitalism</a>. And the best possible response is to create a democratic media which can’t be bought by propagandists.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz">Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/edward-wilson/from-falklands-to-brexit-cut-price-jingoism">From the Falklands to Brexit: cut-price Jingoism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 28 Mar 2018 16:44:30 +0000 Adam Ramsay 116936 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Cambridge Analytica’: surveillance is the DNA of the Platform Economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/ivan-manokha/cambridge-analytica-surveillance-is-dna-of-platform-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who, in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald’s window during a demonstration. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35616000.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35616000.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chief Executive of Cambridge Analytica (CA)Alexander Nix, leaves the offices in central London, as the data watchdog applies for a warrant to search computers and servers used by CA amid concerns at Westminster about the firm's activities. Dominic Lipinski/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>On March 17, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">The Observer of London</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-trump-campaign.html">The New York Times</a> announced that Cambridge Analytica, the London-based political and corporate consulting group, had harvested private data from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their consent. The data was collected through a Facebook-based quiz app called thisisyourdigitallife, created by Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge psychologist who had requested and gained access to information from 270,000 Facebook members after they had agreed to use the app to undergo a personality test, for which they were paid through Kogan’s company, Global Science Research. </p> <p>But as Christopher Wylie, a twenty-eight-year-old Canadian coder and data scientist and a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, stated in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=63&amp;v=FXdYSQ6nu-M">video interview</a>, the app could also collect all kinds of personal data from users, such as the content that they consulted, the information that they liked, and even the messages that they posted. </p> <p>In addition, the app provided access to information on the profiles of the friends of each of those users who agreed to take the test, which enabled the collection of data from more than 50 million. </p> <p>All this data was then shared by Kogan with Cambridge Analytica, which was working with Donald Trump’s election team and which allegedly used this data to target US voters with personalised political messages during the presidential campaign. As Wylie, told The Observer, “we built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons.”</p> <h2><strong>‘Unacceptable violation’</strong></h2> <p>Following these revelations the Internet has been engulfed in outrage and government officials have been quick to react. On March 19, Antonio Tajani President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, stated in a <a href="https://twitter.com/EP_President/status/975683240777453569">twitter message</a> that misuse of Facebook user data “is an unacceptable violation of our citizens’ privacy rights” and promised an EU investigation. On March 22, Wylie communicated in a <a href="https://twitter.com/chrisinsilico/status/976594279425630209?s=12">tweet</a> that he accepted an invitation to testify before the US House Intelligence Committee, the US House Judiciary Committee and UK Parliament Digital Committee. On the same day Israel’s Justice Ministry <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-to-probe-facebook-over-cambridge-analytica-data-breach/">informed Facebook</a> that it was opening an investigation into possible violations of Israelis’ personal information by Facebook.</p> <p>While such widespread condemnation of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is totally justified, what remains largely absent from the discussion are broader questions about the role of data collection, processing and monetization that have become central in the current phase of capitalism, which may be described as ‘platform capitalism’, as suggested by the Canadian writer and academic Nick Srnicek in his recent <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Platform-Capitalism-Theory-Redux-Srnicek/dp/1509504877">book</a>. </p> <p>Over the last decade the growth of platforms has been spectacular: today, the top 4 enterprises in <a href="https://www.forbes.com/powerful-brands/list/">Forbes’s list</a> of most valuable brands are platforms, as are eleven of the top twenty. Most recent IPOs and acquisitions have involved platforms, as have most of the major successful startups. The list includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Waze, Uber, Lyft, Handy, Airbnb, Pinterest, Square, Social Finance, Kickstarter, etc. Although most platforms are US-based, they are a really global phenomenon and in fact are now playing an even more important role in developing countries which did not have developed commercial infrastructures at the time of the rise of the Internet and seized the opportunity that it presented to structure their industries around it. Thus, in China, for example, many of the most valuable enterprises are platforms such as Tencent (owner of the WeChat and QQ messaging platforms) and Baidu (China’s search engine); Alibaba controls 80 percent of China’s e-commerce market through its Taobao and Tmall platforms, with its Alipay platform being the largest payments platform in China.</p> <p>The importance of platforms is also attested by the range of sectors in which they are now dominant and the number of users (often numbered in millions and, in some cases, even billions) regularly connecting to their various cloud-based services. Thus, to name the key industries, platforms are now central in Internet search (Google, Yahoo, Bing); social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat); Internet auctions and retail (eBay, Taobao, Amazon, Alibaba); on-line financial and human resource functions (Workday, Upwork, Elance, TaskRabbit), urban transportation (Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, BlaBlaCar), tourism (Kayak, Trivago, Airbnb), mobile payment (Square Order, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet); and software development (Apple’s App Store, Google Play Store, Windows App store). Platform-based solutions are also currently being adopted in more traditional sectors, such as industrial production (GE, Siemens), agriculture (John Deere, Monsanto) and even clean energy (Sungevity, SolarCity, EnerNOC).</p> <h2><strong>User profiling – good-bye to privacy</strong></h2> <p>These platforms differ significantly in terms of the services that they offer: some, like eBay or Taobao simply allow exchange of products between buyers and sellers; others, like Uber or TaskRabbit, allow independent service providers to find customers; yet others, like Apple or Google allow developers to create and market apps. </p> <p>However, what is common to all these platforms is the central role played by data, and not just continuous data collection, but its ever more refined analysis in order to create detailed user profiles and rankings in order to better match customers and suppliers or increase efficiency. </p> <p>All this is done in order to use data to create value in some way another (to monetize it by selling to advertisers or other firms, to increase sales, or to increase productivity). Data has become ‘the new oil’ of global economy, a new commodity to be bought and sold at a massive scale, and with this development, as a former Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff <a href="http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/the-digital-debate/shoshana-zuboff-secrets-of-surveillance-capitalism-14103616.html">has argued</a>, global capitalism has become ‘surveillance capitalism’. </p> <p>What this means is that platform economy is a model of value creation which is completely dependant on continuous privacy invasions and, what is alarming is that we are gradually becoming used to this. </p> <p>Most of the time platform providers keep track of our purchases, travels, interest, likes, etc. and use this data for targeted advertising to which we have become accustomed. We are equally not that surprised when we find out that, for example, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/technology/roomba-irobot-data-privacy.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&amp;smid=nytcore-ipad-share">robotic vacuum cleaners collect data</a> about types of furniture that we have and share it with the likes of Amazon so that they can send us advertisements for pieces of furniture that we do not yet possess. </p> <p>There is little public outcry when we discover that Google’s ads are racially biased as, for instance, a Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/02/06/harvard-professor-spots-web-search-bias/PtOgSh1ivTZMfyEGj00X4I/story.html">found by accident</a> performing a search. We are equally hardly astonished that companies such as Lenddo <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bEJO4Twgu4">buy access to people’s social media</a> and browsing history in exchange for a credit score. And, at least in the US, people are becoming accustomed to the use of algorithms, developed by private contractors, by the justice system to take decisions on sentencing, which often result in equally unfair and <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing">racially biased decisions</a>. </p> <p>The outrage provoked by the Cambridge Analytica is targeting only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is infinitely larger as there are countless equally significant instances of privacy invasions and data collection performed by corporations, but they have become normalized and do not lead to much public outcry. </p> <h2><strong>DNA</strong></h2> <p>Today surveillance is the DNA of the platform economy; its model is simply based on the possibility of continuous privacy invasions using whatever means possible. In most cases users agree, by signing the terms and conditions of service providers, so that their data may be collected, analyzed and even shared with third parties (although it is hardly possible to see this as express consent given the size and complexity of these agreements - for instance, it took 8 hours and 59 minutes for an actor hired by the consumer group Choice to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxygkyskucA">read</a> Amazon Kindle’s terms and conditions). In other instances, as in the case of Kogan’s app, the extent of the data collected exceeds what was stated in the agreement. </p> <p>But what is important is to understand that to prevent such scandals in the future it is not enough to force Facebook to better monitor the use of users’ data in order to prevent such leaks as in the case of Cambridge Analytica. The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who, in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald’s window during a demonstration. </p> <p>What we need is a total redefinition of the right to privacy (which was codified as a universal human right in 1948, long before the Internet), to guarantee its respect, both offline and online. </p> <p>What we need is a body of international law that will provide regulations and oversight for the collection and use of data. </p> <p>What is required is an explicit and concise formulation of terms and conditions which, in a few sentences, will specify how users’ data will be used. </p> <p>It is important to seize the opportunity presented by the Cambridge Analytica scandal to push for these more fundamental changes.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali">The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/epochal-election-welcome-to-era-of-platform-politics"> An epochal election: welcome to the era of platform politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/battle-for-decentralized-internet-navigating-troubled-waters-to-g">The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. Focus on decentralizing power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties United States UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Internet Ivan Manokha Fri, 23 Mar 2018 15:42:27 +0000 Ivan Manokha 116843 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From Obama to Cambridge Analytica: how did we get here? (Podcast) https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/people-before-party-having-actual-conversations-in-digital-era <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Where did the controversial 'influence campaigns' come from? Two Obama volunteers look back at the revolution they started in 2008 – and how a grassroots effort in Virginia – people before party – could be key to vanquishing Trump.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="120" width="100%" src="https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&amp;feed=%2FopenDemocracy%2Fpeople-before-party-having-actual-conversations-in-the-digital-era-opendemocracy%2F"></iframe></p> <p>Intro music:&nbsp;<a href="http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kuso/Sursu_and_Tabriz/03-KUSO-Dinoavion">Dinoavion -&nbsp;Kuso </a>-&nbsp;<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0">CC A-NC 3.0</a></p><p><i>Kellen Squire was a blue collar disillusioned Republican and a new Dad. Chris Blask had just sold a cyber-security company and was similarly impressed with what Obama had to say. The Hillary Clinton/ Obama wars is where Kellen and Christopher first came into contact with each other... Podcast - 53 minutes.</i></p><p>“I ended up spending 15 hours a day, seven days a week focusing on this Obama Rapid Response (ORR) thing. On the Obama website you could just join, create blogs and get involved with the ORR, whose core group had 200 members, but there were hundreds maybe thousands of state, regional, local, municipal rapid response teams who were all connected and could all communicate with each other.”</p> <p>How much was there innovation tech-wise? "In short, little, but important. The best comparison was between the Hillary Clinton campaign website and the Obama campaign website at that time. They were both using existing technologies that could have been used by anybody, but the Obama campaign had adopted it in a very open fashion. Volunteers could do little things, large things, big things, whatever they wanted." </p><p>"The Clinton campaign was much more traditional. You would request access to something and someone would maybe approve to let you do something. But from the technology perspective, it was just a point along the continuing evolutionary line that we are on. By that point, some savvy folks early in the Obama campaign would have found existing platforms they could tweak, where they could have large memberships doing the kinds of things we are used to in social media now that weren’t generally done at the time.”</p> <p>“Part of what drove me, because I was so taken by the message that Senator Obama had, was that I was trying to understand where the breakdown was and why Democrats were so acrimonious with each other. We’d go into it with Clinton supporters because we were such unapologetic Obama supporters, and we were trying to bridge the divide and find out what was separating us …"</p> <p>"When Chris was talking about influence campaigns – well that can be influence by both sides. I think 2008 was probably the first time we saw the start of what in 2016 is a science – using trolls and botts and sock-puppet accounts to try and create a false consensus to drive the conversation any way you want. I think Chris and I were fighting against that as well…"</p> <p>"There was a lady who was ostensibly a Hillary Clinton supporter but was always framing her arguments and trying to organise it in such a way as to cause as much strife as possible. Like, 'By God if you don’t support Hillary Clinton, burn the whole thing down!' A lot of us were fighting very diplomatically, and at some point a lot of us were thinking, “How much of this is real and organic, and how much of it is being astroturfed in!?” It led to the PUMA movement&nbsp; – Party Unity My A***! …."</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32026879.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32026879.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Democratic Senator Barack Obama makes a campaign stop at the Marriott while campaigning for the Iowa Caucus in Coralville, Iowa on January 2, 2008. Laura Cavanaugh/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>“Already then you could see the subtle trolls. Concerned trolls, like “Oh I’m really signed up, but I’m just concerned that” … some nuance, right? But there was a huge range. A troll could be some friend of yours who is a bit of a jerk, who is always posting something to get people riled up… &nbsp;Or it could be someone who has a nefarious intent and is listening to the conversation you are having to inject other issues, and you wouldn’t commonly think they were trolling… Influence campaigns – can I yell “fire!” in this theatre? – as a way of dealing that achieves an adversarial goal, these go way back in history. In those days we were seeing this evolve for the first time in a largescale political environment ….”.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Mary Fitzgerald Christopher Blask Kellen Squire Fri, 23 Mar 2018 09:54:28 +0000 Kellen Squire, Christopher Blask and Mary Fitzgerald 116819 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. Focus on decentralizing power https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/battle-for-decentralized-internet-navigating-troubled-waters-to-g <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need open and robust debates. We cannot afford anything less than this. Too much is at stake. Part Three.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.14.09.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.14.09.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of MaidSafe - The New Decentralized Internet website.</span></span></span><em>Cambridge Analytica is on the cover of every newspaper. The company managed to get hold of millions of data points of very sensitive data from Facebook users. Most reporters focus on the meaning of consent in the digital age and Facebook's inability to enforce it. Most reporters covering the Cambridge Analytica story are missing out on the big picture. The scale of the operation was only possible because Facebook has too much data about too many people. Cambridge Analytica is a cautionary tale about the risks of centralizing data and control over the flows of information. The internet and the web were designed to decentralize data and power. Cambridge Analytica's use of Facebook is an example of what a system with a single point of failure leads to. <br /><br />This piece strives to show the bigger picture: How big players – exerting power over internet access, device, platform, and data markets – have become a liability. Cambridge Analytica is but a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. The plot will thicken. We need to talk... now. </em><strong>Juan Ortiz Freuler. </strong><em><br /></em></p><p>Many claim the internet is broken. As I’ve argued in these articles – <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench">here</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/present-and-future-of-centralized-internet">here</a> – these claims are often examples of misdirected anger. The social contract is broken. Inequality is rising, and the tensions associated with injustice are spilling into online space. Since the internet facilitates the collection of structured data and statistical analysis, it allows us to measure and reveal the overarching social tensions as never before. Media and unsavvy researchers often take a narrow focus that places the blame on the messenger, instead of talking about the broader problems that underpin the symptoms of the sick society their investigations reveal. <span class="mag-quote-center">Many claim the internet is broken… The social contract is broken.</span></p> <p>The internet, with its capacity to facilitate communication, aggregate opinion, and coordinate by the thousands in real time, is arguably the most powerful tool at our disposal to solve the social issues at hand. The internet has made it easier for women to coordinate around the #MeToo movement, as it has enabled the growth of Black Lives Matter, to mention two recent examples. Rape, misogyny and racially targeted police violence are not new issues, but the internet provided a platform for these covered-up conversations to take place.</p> <p>From the development of written language to the printing press; from the telegraph to the web, accessing and sharing knowledge has fuelled humankind’s progress and development. &nbsp;Much of what was considered revolutionary only decades ago is mistakenly taken for granted today.</p> <p>The problem with misdirected anger is that it leads to misdirected policies that could undermine the internet’s capacity to catalyze much-needed social change. We need to ensure that when we think about internet policy we think about it with a political lens: how can we ensure the internet will enable us as citizens to share ideas freely, coordinate around common interests, and act in defense of our rights and interests? How can we ensure that people are afforded these conversations as a right today and in the future? How can we ensure these protections even in scenarios where the powers-that-be feel profoundly challenged by people’s capacity to coordinate? <span class="mag-quote-center">How can we ensure these protections even in scenarios where the powers-that-be feel profoundly challenged by people’s capacity to coordinate? </span></p> <p>If we accept that the internet has become a key tool for politics in this broad sense of the term, we can see the internet is indeed facing a problem. A problem that is often neglected for being less tangible, but that underlies much of what concerns the public about the internet. A problem that not only reflects but can reinforce current social problems, and frustrate the goal of ensuring meaningful political participation: centralization.</p> <h2><strong>Centralization and decentralization</strong></h2> <p>Centralization is the process through which intermediaries have reshaped the internet and the web, placing themselves as gatekeepers of information. In the context of an increasingly centralized web the ethos of “move fast and break things” that promoted and spurred bold innovations a decade ago has become deeply problematic. Each ‘mistake’ on the centralized internet of today causes harm to thousands if not millions.&nbsp; And <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/present-and-future-of-centralized-internet">technological developments</a> are increasing the powers intermediation affords the corporations that now employ what used to be a crowd of free-coders. </p> <p>We the people cannot afford the risks this entails to the internet of tomorrow, and its ability to deliver social change. Decentralization is about creating architectural barricades to this process so that power remains distributed across the network. </p> <p>The battle for the net takes place today and everyday. There are no straightforward solutions. Every turn implies hard choices. It is therefore time to involve as many people as possible in this process about thinking about solutions. Unsurprisingly, we need to be aware not only of the power these intermediaries exercise over politics, academia, and the private sector, but how delving into certain of these topics havs become interestingly and unacceptably taboo. <span class="mag-quote-center">Decentralization is about creating architectural barricades to this process so that power remains distributed across the network. </span></p> <p>If we hope to protect the citizens of tomorrow from expected and unexpected scenarios we need to get creative and bold today. And we need the mass of netizens on board. We need open and robust debates. We cannot afford anything less than this. Too much is at stake.</p> <p>If the reason for much of the misdirected anger is that the centralization process is less tangible than the symptoms it might trigger, perhaps a first step must be to make this underlying layer more visible and part of our public discourse. </p> <p>The closed environments in which technology is being developed by private companies, and its metaphors – such as “the Cloud”– which have been used to over-simplify the internet’s architecture, have done nothing but obscure the key political battleground of this century. The intermediaries have the upper hand unless we can shed some light over this structure.</p> <h2><strong>The Neutrality Pyramid</strong></h2> <p>The pyramid below has the humble purpose of re-stating the physical existence of intermediaries, and their power. It shows some of the distinctive layers in which gatekeeping is being exercised today, and which could affect users’ ability to share ideas and produce meaningful change tomorrow.</p> <p>The pyramidal structure suggests that, from a user perspective, different actors exercise various types of control over our ability to deliver a message. &nbsp;Re-aligning incentives for these intermediaries to work in favour of society’s goals might require developing a multi-pronged strategy, with tailored and targeted approaches for each level of the pyramid. </p><p> If an ISP decides that no data packets containing certain keywords should be delivered, then it doesn’t matter what device we have, or what platform we rely on: the message will not be delivered. If a device does not allow the use of certain apps, then certain tools may become unavailable, and so on. The lower an actor is placed on the pyramid, the greater the risk that they pose to the open internet and the open web as tools for social change.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Part 3. 1 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Part 3. 1 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><ol><li><strong><em>Seeing the pyramid</em></strong>: As users and responsible consumers we need to be aware of exactly <em>who</em> each of these intermediaries are and <em>how</em> they manage their role as intermediaries. If they do not respect our rights, we should shift to more decent providers or services. </li><li><em><strong>Observing behaviors within each layer</strong></em>: As a community we need to promote enforceable rules to ensure that each level of the pyramid will be kept from abusing its intermediary powers. Public committees should be set up to assess the degree of horizontal integration and its impact on innovation and competition. Control over personal data and public discourse is increasingly in the hands of a few private companies, and this tendency unchecked leads towards an even bleaker future.</li><li><em><strong>Observing dynamics between layers</strong></em>: As a community we need to ensure each intermediary stays within its segment of the pyramid, ruling out any further vertical integration, and promoting the re-fragmentation of companies that have integrated across these layers over the past decades. <span class="mag-quote-center">Public committees should be set up to assess the degree of horizontal integration and its impact on innovation and competition. </span></li></ol><p>This is not a new fight. A handful of avant-garde activists and innovators are already onto it. But it is ultimately up to us (the mass of citizens, users, and consumers) to signal to representatives and markets alike that we want change. </p> <p><strong>–&nbsp; Personal control over personal data</strong> </p> <p>On the one hand, new blockchain-based platforms like Filecoin, Sia, Storj and MaidSafe seek to decentralize data storage by offering crypto-coins for players who put their latent storage capacity on the market. On the other hand, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, is developing <a href="https://solid.mit.edu/">Solid</a> (Social Linked Data), through which he seeks to complete the original web ideal by decoupling data from the applications that silo it today. Data will be owned and stored by the people, and applications will <a href="https://ruben.verborgh.org/blog/2017/12/20/paradigm-shifts-for-the-decentralized-web/">compete</a> on how they visualize the data, and enhance user experience. An effective implementation would automatically create cross-platform interoperability, making platform neutrality less of a problem. </p> <p>Think about how you can send emails from a Gmail account to an Outlook one, but you can’t tweet to a Facebook user. Silos are socially inefficient but continue to exist because they allow big companies to ensure we don’t leave their walled gardens. You social graph should be yours to keep.</p><p><strong>–&nbsp; Platform neutrality</strong> </p> <p>Last year the EU fined Google for giving unfair and prominent placement of their own comparison shopping services. India has recently followed this decision, and fined Google based on the same behaviour. </p> <p><strong>–&nbsp; Device neutrality</strong> </p> <p>Whereas in Russia Android was fined for continuing to pre-install its associated Google Apps, in 2014 South Korea ruled pre-installed apps should be removable, and the EU started studying the effects of pre-installed apps in 2016. </p> <p>More recently, a Member of the Italian Parliament, Stefano Quintarelli, has been promoting a bill since 2015 that would grant users the right to use any software they like, from sources other than the official – vertically integrated – store. Now the French telecom regulator seems to be picking up that idea as well.</p> <p><strong>–&nbsp; Net Neutrality</strong> </p> <p>Perhaps the most well known of all the layers of the pyramid. Regulators in India, EU and elsewhere have effectively pushed against the pressure exerted by ISPs to keep the owners of the infrastructure from discriminating between the content that travels through the network. As the basis of the pyramid, failure to ensure neutrality of the net would arguably collapse the rest of the layers.&nbsp; </p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Silos are socially inefficient but continue to exist because they allow big companies to ensure we don’t leave their walled gardens.&nbsp; </span></p> <p>The battle to ensure the internet remains a tool for citizens to create a more just society will be our constant companion throughout the next decade. The battle is uphill. With each day that goes by without a thorough debate on our rights, the odds of winning the battle get slimmer. </p> <p>The sketch outlined in these pieces suggests difficult trade-offs. Many questions remain. Yet we should not feel paralyzed by the grave asymmetry of information between us and the intermediaries. Intermediaries rely on the opacity of their systems strategically, and continuously leverage it, to stall conversations about the risk they represent to us and our political system. I hope these pieces illuminate a space around which we can gather and think out loud. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench">Who’s to blame? The internet on the defendant&#039;s bench</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/present-and-future-of-centralized-internet">The present and future of a centralized internet </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio">How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/oldest-sins-in-newest-ways">The oldest sins in the newest ways</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item even"> Net neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Civil society Democracy and government Internet Net neutrality Juan Ortiz Freuler Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:19:54 +0000 Juan Ortiz Freuler 116661 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An authoritarian surveillance state is being built in the US, while a massive land grab for power, by billionaires via our data, subverting British democracy, is well under way.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/24416222648_abf9964e52_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/24416222648_abf9964e52_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexander Nix, left, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, and Matthew Freud, Founder & Chairman, Freuds, on Centre Stage during day three of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Flickr/Sam Barnes/Web Summit. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The scandal deepens. What were the roles of Cambridge Analytica, the abuse of Facebook data, the permissiveness of Mark Zuckerberg’s company, shady funders and Russian bots in Trump’s election, Brexit and other dark abuses of democracy? One part of the story is the extraordinary passivity of the corporate media in face of glaring evidence. Another, the courageous role of reporters and ‘mavericks’ such as the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr and the UK’s ByLine (with whom openDemocracy partners). Cadwalladr’s riveting <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">interview with Christopher Wylie</a> being just the latest example. Their persistence helped to break the complicity and have now brought in bigger news organisations like the New York Times and Channel 4. </em></p><p class="AB"><em>They, at last, are providing the resources needed to expose more of the truth and force legislators and regulators to act – or at least to appear to act, what will actually result remains to be seen. This breakthrough also opens the way for the larger argument to take place about what such corruptions mean and how they relate to the social and economic influences on voters and the political choices we are offered. Here, American in-depth analysis is outstanding, two recent examples being by Tamsin Shaw in the <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/04/05/silicon-valley-beware-big-five/">New York Review of Books</a>, Jane Mayer in <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/12/christopher-steele-the-man-behind-the-trump-dossier">the New Yorker </a>and Lily Hay Newman <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/eternalblue-leaked-nsa-spy-tool-hacked-world/">in Wired</a> (on how NSA hacks are widely available); all essential reading. I made a modest contribution to such coverage last December in the <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/">NYRB Daily</a> under the title ‘Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control’ which has kindly given permission for us to republish it here given the renewed relevance of the issues.</em> Anthony Barnett</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>The British are catching up with an American awareness of the intertwined political influence of the secretive super-rich, social media, and the Kremlin. In America, illicit support for Trump has been investigated by intelligence agencies, Justice Department officials, and major media organizations. Uncovering election interference in Brexit-Britain has been a more freelance business. About a year ago, Carole Cadwalladr, a regular contributor to <em>The Observer </em>newspaper, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook" target="_blank">started researching</a> the “right-wing fake news ecosystem” and its capture of web searches through Google especially. This line of inquiry has also been followed by <em>ByLine</em>, a crowdfunded investigative journalism initiative, which hosts a regular&nbsp;<a href="https://www.byline.com/journalist/jamespatrick/column" target="_blank">column</a>&nbsp;by J.J. Patrick, who has been mapping the scale and penetration of Russian trolls and bots sowing hatred and division via social media.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage" target="_blank">Cadwalladr’s reporting</a> led her to uncover the part played by Cambridge Analytica in the Brexit referendum. This company, London-based but US-owned (principally by the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/cambridge-analytica.html" target="_blank">hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer</a>, who was <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency" target="_blank">one of Donald Trump’s biggest donors</a>), generated the <a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mg9vvn/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win" target="_blank">“220 million” data sets</a> of US voters’ details that underpinned Trump’s Facebook campaign. This employed so-called black ads only seen by targeted voters, a process that bypasses and undermines the shared political community essential for democracy. Cadwalladr found that the firm had also <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/16/15657512/cambridge-analytica-trump-kushner-flynn-russia" target="_blank">acted on behalf of</a> the Vote Leave campaign in Britain – though Cambridge Analytica denied elements of her reporting.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage" target="_blank">In a follow-up article</a>, she described how “a website called CNSnews.com… dominated Google’s search algorithm,” flooding it with reports that established media outlets are “fake” and “dead”; <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-mercers-bannon-trump-20170318-story.html" target="_blank">this site was backed</a>, too, by Mercer’s foundation. Cadwalladr also met with Andy Wigmore, who had been the director of communications for Nigel Farage, the former head of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and leading Leave campaigner who has subsequently emerged as a Trump acolyte. Cadwalladr learned that Farage was friends with Mercer and, as Wigmore told her, that Mercer had directed Cambridge Analytica to help the Brexit campaign. According to the UK’s election law, all gifts in kind must be declared for their monetary worth and none can come from overseas donors. The UK’s Electoral Commission is now investigating this apparent double breach; Cambridge Analytica, meanwhile, is pursuing legal action against <em>The Observer</em>.</p> <p>In March, Farage was spotted going into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge. As Farage left the embassy, a <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/marieleconte/wait-what?utm_term=.temnABqK7#.illNpgdjE" target="_blank">BuzzFeed News journalist asked</a> what he was doing there. Farage replied that he could not remember. In <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy" target="_blank">an overview</a>&nbsp;in May, Cadwalladr pieced together various ties between the Trump campaign, Nigel Farage, and Russian “influence” efforts (including the alleged leaking of hacked information to WikiLeaks). British democracy, she concluded, had been “hijacked”:</p> <p>There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.</p> <p>As Cadwalladr was developing her thesis about this new machinery of political subversion, the UK editor of <em>openDemocracy</em>, Adam Ramsay, made a discovery of his own (I was the first editor of <em>openDemocracy</em> but was not involved with this story). With Peter Geoghegan, Ramsay <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts" target="_blank">showed</a> how large sums of money were sent to the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum via a small, hard-line Loyalist party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). (By curious serendipity, Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to form a coalition government with the DUP after her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in the general election of June 2017.) The loophole-ridden regulations governing British elections permit Northern Irish parties the unique privilege of not having to declare the source of their donations. A policy once justified by security concerns during the Troubles was abused by as-yet unidentified Brexit supporters to channel a secret, roughly <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-dup-brexit-donations-saudi-arabia-tale-tories-theresa-may-a7782681.html" target="_blank">half-million-dollar donation</a> through the DUP to be spent mostly in mainland Britain.</p> <p>In September<em>, openDemocracy</em> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo" target="_blank">followed up with further reporting</a> on a story originally broken last year by the satirical and muck-raking magazine <em>Private Eye</em>. A twenty-three-year-old fashion student had set up his own campaign for Brexit, which he called “BeLeave.” During the period immediately before a referendum, such operations must register with the Electoral Commission. They are permitted a maximum expenditure of £700,000 (about $935,000), while the designated lead campaign on each side is permitted up to £7 million ($9.35 million). Vote Leave led for the Brexit side and as it reached its limit, it gave £625,000 ($835,000) to the tiny BeLeave, that apparently paid it to AggregateIQ, a Canadian data analysis company that was assisting Vote Leave. AggregateIQ is, again, linked to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy" target="_blank">Robert Mercer</a>. The protests that followed this <em>openDemocracy</em> report led, at length, to the Electoral Commission’s opening an inquiry into the payment;&nbsp;<em>openDemocracy</em> also published an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit" target="_blank">analysis</a> of the dubious finances of Arron Banks, the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/arron-banks-brexit-referendum-finance-rules-break-investigation-ukip-donor-leave-eu-a8031086.html" target="_blank">major British funder</a> of UKIP and its anti-immigrant call for Brexit. On the basis of Banks’s multimillion-pound funding of Brexit causes, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/world/europe/russia-brexit-arron-banks.html?_r=0" target="_blank">one lawmaker called for</a> the Electoral Commission to investigate whether Russian meddling was involved in the Leave campaign. Banks has dismissed reports of Russian money as “bollocks.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 13.12.36.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 13.12.36.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot: Sun, June 13, 2016.</span></span></span></p> <p>As Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/25/vote-leave-dominic-cummings-online-guru-mystery-letter-dark-ads">continues to report on</a> the effects of Vote Leave’s “dark campaign” and its funding, she acknowledges others’ arguments that Brexit was also caused by, for example, “rising inequality, frustration with elites, economic uncertainty.” I would add to those factors the resurgence of a particular English nationalism based on the dream of a resurgent “Great Britain,” which was seduced by the pro-Brexit campaign slogan “Take back control.” Nationalist sentiment of this sort will not be undermined by any revelations about Russian trouble-making or covert support from American billionaires – any more than Trump’s base seems likely to abandon the president over what the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller may discover.</p> <p>In both the US and the UK, investigations into the deployment of these shadowy forces are still in progress. In close contests, every influence counts. There is, therefore, an understandable temptation to emphasize that without secretive billionaires, or the Russians, or Facebook, the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election would have been different. And as elections are likely to carry on being close-run, it is important to track down and expose systemic manipulation. But it does not follow that slush funds, algorithms, and alleged conspiracies were primary causes of the electoral shocks of 2016. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-popular-vote-final-count/index.html" target="_blank">Nearly 63 million Americans voted</a> for Trump, although Hillary Clinton outspent him by half a billion dollars. In the UK, 52 percent of voters backed Brexit. A widespread revolt against elite entitlement and genuine resentment against a rigged system are the most important explanations in both cases.</p> <p>Trump, at least, can be voted out of office in three years’ time. Britain’s referendum decision to quit the European Union will not be so easily reversed. Should the UK leave the EU on schedule at the end of March 2019, impoverishment and humiliation are likely; even a successful Brexit, if such is possible, will pitch the UK into permanent competition with the Continent. Either outcome is repugnant for large majorities of voters in London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. With the stakes so high, anything that undermines the legitimacy of Brexit fills its Remain-voting opponents with hopes of a reprieve. This could be a dangerous delusion.</p> <p>The emerging picture of efforts to manipulate the outcomes of the US election and the Brexit referendum leads to an awkward paradox. For the first time in a long time, voters who recognized the rigged nature of the system voted in large enough numbers to overthrow “the swamp” of “politics as usual”; at the same time, the system itself was perhaps more rigged than ever, thanks to the new-fangled methods. While it is vital to expose how these worked, it is even more important also to develop a politics that validates voters’ legitimate repudiation of a corrupt establishment, rather than dismisses them as ignorant and gullible. The risk of exaggerating the effect of novel methods of subversion is that it will only reinforce cynicism about politics and government in general—and that would be a win for billionaires like Robert Mercer, and their friends and helpers like Nigel Farage, and all they stand for. <span class="mag-quote-center">Voters who recognized the rigged nature of the system voted in large enough numbers to overthrow “the swamp” of “politics as usual”; at the same time, the system itself was perhaps more rigged than ever, thanks to the new-fangled methods.</span></p> <p>This is the trap from which democracy in Britain and America must now extricate itself. There will have to be a credible alternative and not a return to the status quo that led to the revolts of 2016. In Britain, the advocates of Brexit captured a wish for self-government with their slogan “take back control”—a desire for democratic accountability that must be freed from the grasp of demagogy, not derided. As for the US, <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/full-transcript-trump-job-plan-speech-224891" target="_blank">Trump pledged</a> in Pennsylvania that he would speak for “the millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” By all means, mock his hypocrisy, but the only way to combat his influence effectively will be by a politics that <em>does</em> speak for millions of workers.</p> <p>It is possible to spring the trap. Behind both Brexit and Trump was a widespread repudiation of entitlement. Part of its energy in Britain has now gathered around a resurgent Labour Party, which made unexpected gains in June’s general election despite vicious attacks from the right-wing press on its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. In the US, the current of opposition and resistance is running through the #MeToo wave of revulsion at sexual harassment and male abuse of power. A groper-in-chief president faces his own public reckoning, as more and more voices – this week, a <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/trump-lows-ever-hit-rock-bottom-editorials-debates/945947001/">blistering denunciation</a> from the editorial board of <em>USA Today –</em>call out his presumption of the right to belittle and humiliate. Trump remains in office, and Brexit proceeds, but unearned entitlement is everywhere on the run. The enemies of democracy – from oligarchs to billionaires – have reason to be fearful.</p><p><em>This piece was<a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/12/14/democracy-and-the-machinations-of-mind-control/"> originally published</a> in the New York Review of Books on December 14, 2017.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Anthony Barnett Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:34:56 +0000 Anthony Barnett 116765 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The problem isn’t just Cambridge Analytica or Facebook – it’s “surveillance capitalism” https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jennifer-cobbe/problem-isn-t-just-cambridge-analytica-or-even-facebook-it-s-surveillance-capitali <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We’ve ended up with an internet built not for us – but for corporations, political parties, and the state’s increasingly nebulous ‘security’ demands. We need to better understand this problem so that we can challenge it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/big-brother-2783030_1920.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/big-brother-2783030_1920.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Big Brother Monitoring. <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/big-brother-monitoring-2783030/">Master Tux</a>, Creative Commons.</em></p><p>Over the weekend, allegations emerged surrounding the use of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">Facebook user data by a data analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica</a>. But while they have allegedly broken Facebook’s rules, the real problem is Facebook’s business model. And it’s a model that isn't unique to Facebook. It originated with Google, which realised that the data gathered as people used its search engine could be analysed to predict what they wanted and deliver targeted advertising, and it’s also employed by most ‘free’ online services.</p><p>This isn't just a problem with Facebook. It's a problem with the internet as it exists today.</p> <p>‘Surveillance capitalism’ was the term coined in 2015 by Harvard academic Shoshanna Zuboff to describe this large-scale surveillance and modification of human behaviour for profit. It involves predictive analysis of big datasets describing the lives and behaviours of tens or hundreds of millions of people, allowing correlations and patterns to be identified, information about individuals inferred, and future behaviour to be predicted. Attempts are then made to influence this behaviour through personalised and dynamic targeted advertising. This is refined by testing numerous variations of adverts on different demographics to see what works best. Every time you use the internet you are likely the unwitting subject of dozens of experiments trying to figure out how to most effectively extract money from you.</p> <p>Surveillance capitalism monetises our lives for their profit, turning everything that we do into data points to be packaged together as a profile describing us in great detail. Access to that data profile is sold on the advertising market. But it isn’t just access to our data profile that is being sold – it’s access to the powerful behavioural modification tools developed by these corporations, to their knowledge about our psychological vulnerabilities, honed through experimentation over many years. In effect, through their pervasive surveillance apparatus they build up intricate knowledge of the daily lives and behaviours of hundreds of millions of people and then charge other companies to use this knowledge against us for their benefit.</p> <p>And, as increasing numbers of people are realising, surveillance capitalism doesn't just benefit corporations. It benefits political organisations as well – shadowy ones like Cambridge Analytica, yes, but also the mainstream political parties and candidates. The Obama campaign of 2008 is often described as the first ‘big data’ campaign, but it was in 2012 that his team truly innovated. The <a href="http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/07/inside-the-secret-world-of-quants-and-data-crunchers-who-helped-obama-win/">Obama team’s operations were sophisticated enough that they were able to target voters</a> that the Romney campaign, by their own admission, didn’t even know existed. Their use of analytics-driven microtargeting allowed them to run a highly effective digital campaign and set an example which has been followed repeatedly since. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">if twentieth century campaigns had magnifying glasses and baseball bats, those of the twenty–first century have telescopes, microscopes and scalpels</p> <p>Today, tools like <a href="http://www.adweek.com/digital/facebook-lookalike-audiences-help-advertisers-reach-users-similar-to-current-customers-others-in-their-database/">Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences</a>, which allow advertisers – including political organisations – to upload lists of people, match them with their Facebook profile, filter in the profiles of similar people who aren’t on their list, and target them all, mean that political campaigns can greatly extend the reach of their carefully-crafted messaging. </p><p>As <a href="http://firstmonday.org/article/view/4901/4097">Zeynep Tufekci, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, says,</a> if twentieth century political targeted campaigns had magnifying glasses and baseball bats<em>, </em>those of the twenty–first century have acquired<em> </em>telescopes, microscopes and scalpels in the shape of algorithms and analytics. Campaigns can deliver different arguments to different groups of voters, so no two people may ever see the same set of adverts or arguments. This takes political campaigning from being a public process to being a private, personalised affair, helped along by access to the apparatus of surveillance capitalism.</p> <p>Facebook has conducted its own research on the effectiveness of targeted political messaging using its platform. In the 2010 US midterms it found that it was able to increase a user’s likelihood of voting by around 0.4% per cent by telling them that their friends had voted and encouraging them to do the same. It repeated the experiment in 2012 with similar results. That might not sound like much, but on a national scale it translates to around 340,000 extra votes. George Bush won the 2000 election by a few hundred votes in Florida. Donald Trump won in part because he managed to gain 100,000 key votes in the rust belt. </p> <p>And in countries like the UK, where elections are often decided by relatively few marginal constituencies in which political parties focus their efforts, small numbers matter – one study of last year’s election suggest that the <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/816679/election-2017-news-theresa-may-tories-majority-jeremy-corbyn-labour">Conservative Party was just 401 votes short of an overall majority</a>. Accordingly, in 2013 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23551323">the Conservatives hired Obama’s 2012 campaign manager</a>, and both the Vote Leave campaign and the Labour Party have boasted about their data operations. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and privacy regulation in the UK, is investigating the use of these practices here. The new EU General Data Protection Regulation, when it comes into force in May, promises to provide something of a brake.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">the Government is exploring an agreement with the US that would give British intelligence agencies better access to these databases.</p> <p>But there's also a third group who benefits from the troves of data that surveillance capitalism corporations have gathered about the minutiae of the daily lives of billions of people – the state. The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/didier-bigo/paradox-at-heart-of-snowden-revelations">Snowden revelations</a> in 2013 about GCHQ and the NSA’s activities made headlines around the world. Much of the focus was on programmes which involved, among other things, weakening encryption standards, installing backdoors in otherwise secure networking equipment, and placing interceptors on internet backbone cables so as to siphon off the data passing through. These programmes rake in billions of records every day, with GCHQ’s stated aim being to compile a <a href="https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/09/gchq-tried-to-track-web-visits-of-every-visible-user-on-internet/">profile of the internet habits of every user on the web</a>. </p> <p>There was, however, another element that was largely overlooked – data sharing between surveillance capitalism and state security and intelligence agencies. In the US, tech companies have long been forced to hand over data about their users to the NSA. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/11/yahoo-nsa-lawsuit-documents-fine-user-data-refusal">When Yahoo refused, they were threatened with a $250,000 fine, every day</a>, with the fine doubling every week that their non-compliance continued. Faced with financial ruin, they acquiesced. In the UK, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jane-duncan/britain-s-investigatory-powers-bill-gift-to-securocrats-everywhere">Investigatory Powers Act, commonly known as the “snooper’s charter”</a>, grants the security and intelligence agencies legal authority to acquire personal datasets from technology companies in bulk, and the Government is <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/09153a74-b5bc-11e7-aa26-bb002965bce8">exploring an agreement with the US</a> that would give British intelligence agencies better access to these databases.</p> <p>These are concerning surveillance practices that raise difficult questions about the relationship between the citizen and the state. And since 2013 these questions have been articulated by many – not least by the ECJ, which <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38390150">ruled in 2016 that indiscriminate communications data retention is incompatible with a free and democratic society</a>. This led to the Government's recent consultation on revisions to the parts of the Investigatory Powers Act that allow the Government to require ISPs to retain records of the browsing history of every user in the UK and provide them to security and intelligence agencies, police, and a range of other public authorities upon request and without a warrant or other direct judicial oversight. A challenge brought by Privacy International to the bulk personal dataset powers contained in the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/08/snoopers-charter-tribunal-eu-judges-mass-data-surveillance">Investigatory Powers Act was referred to the ECJ</a> in September.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">This is how the internet of today has been built. Not for us – for them.</p> <p>Surveillance capitalism – with smartphones, laptops, and the increasing numbers of ‘internet of things’ devices making up its physical infrastructure, watching and tracking everything we do, and the public as willing participants – increases the capacity of corporations, political organisations, and the state to track, influence, and control populations at scale. This is of benefit to those corporations, political organisations, and state agencies economically, politically, and in pursuit of the increasingly nebulous demands of ‘security’. This is how the internet of today has been built. Not for us – for them. This is the future that we've sleepwalked into. We need to look beyond Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. It’s time for a wider debate about the role of surveillance in our increasingly digital society.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/agne-pix-bruce-schneier/surveillance-is-business-model-of-internet">&quot;Surveillance is the business model of the internet&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald-peter-york-carole-cadwalladr-james-patrick/dark-money-deep-data-voicing-dissent">Dark Money Deep Data</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/sam-jeffers/how-can-we-better-regulate-elections-in-digital-age">How can we better regulate elections in the digital age?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties uk Jennifer Cobbe Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:26:28 +0000 Jennifer Cobbe 116761 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How can we better regulate elections in the digital age? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sam-jeffers/how-can-we-better-regulate-elections-in-digital-age <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our politicians need to empower our electoral and information regulators to tackle the challenges ahead. Sam Jeffers sets out some starting principles and some radical suggestions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/facebook.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/facebook.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: PA Images. All rights reserved.</em></p><p>The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">Cambridge Analytica revelations this weekend</a> wreck the credibility of Alexander Nix’s company and of Facebook. Cambridge Analytica will probably close down. Facebook will struggle to rebuild trust in its ability to carry political communication. As a user, it’s a reminder you really have no idea who’s behind a message or how it found its way to you. It’s not hard to see the company now deciding that politics isn’t worth the trouble it’s giving them (due to the trouble they’ve given it).</p> <p>Because Facebook can’t be trusted, the company, platforms like it and the wider universe of those who sell data and technology solutions to campaigns, should have their role in political communication regulated. These revelations, among other things, prove they can’t oversee themselves. Facebook itself probably knows this by now.</p> <p>These aren’t the acts of ‘bad apples’ - they’re a result of their business models, where selling access to voters in ever more specific ways has led to a race to the bottom of marketing ethics (note also the responsibility of their clients).</p> <p>But the need for oversight should put fear in the heart of every election, media and data regulator in the world. The US Federal Election Commission failed this specific test – but others would have done the same.</p> <p>In the UK, Ofcom, The Electoral Commission and ICO all have a role to play in ensuring elections are trustworthy. But they’re worried about being seen as ‘political’ and this, ironically, tends to give political campaigns a free rein. Many of the challenges posed by modern elections fall between them, or through them, because they aren’t set up to co-ordinate their work, and can’t imagine a policy response because they aren’t trying to understand the near future.</p> <p>We need some initial guiding principles for new forms of regulation. These principles must do several things. They need to recognise the risk of fragmentation of the electorate. Fragmentation makes it easier to drive a wedge between people, which is bad for getting millions of them to live together. </p><p>They need to ensure that the tools being used can be explained to voters using simple language.&nbsp;They need so support appropriate monitoring and data gathering during campaigns. We should avoid a future where we’re worrying about things from a couple of years ago, with little data to understand how a previous election was fought.</p><p>And the principles need to keep things simple for the regulators themselves. To make things slower. Presume you don’t understand, and that new things may have a big impact for good, or bad. Work to understand them. Like medicines regulators do. </p> <p>These are just proposals. A debate about the unintended consequences of these principles would be very useful as a counterbalance, and to help refine them. But working from the principles helps you generate ideas like:</p> <p><strong>“Drug testing” campaigns data.</strong> A regulator should be able to demand instant access to a campaign’s systems and check that data was legally acquired and is being legitimately used.</p> <p><strong>Limiting microtargeting.</strong> An example might be to restrict segment sizes to a certain proportion of the electorate in a given campaign - for example, no smaller than the average parliamentary constituency. It’s unproven whether hyper-targeted messaging that preys on our psychology and emotions is an effective campaign technique. But do we want to find out? I’m not persuaded it’s something we need to have a better democracy.</p> <p><strong>Demanding radical transparency. </strong>Campaigns should lodge their campaign plans and the techniques they want to use with regulators in advance of campaigns and update them in a timely way throughout them.</p> <p><strong>Reserving the right to outlaw or delay the use of specific techniques for the purposes of political communication.</strong> Bots, AI-assisted advertising products, almost anything that impersonates human communication but isn’t a human. These are the things that tempt campaigns and consultants because they (usually) promise unparalleled accuracy for less money. Regulators should make campaigns wait to use them until their effects are known.</p> <p>Currently, the regulators’ policy work on new campaigning techniques is inadequate to ensure the integrity of campaigns. They lack guidance. Their staff lack the resources and skills, and their impulse to do much about these issues is weak, as they try to avoid the appearance of being politicised.</p> <p>All of that must change. The recent past creates a worrying precedent for what’s wrong with democratic oversight in the internet era. But the near future holds much worse. Politicians, who ultimately give regulators their orders and resources, must start to act.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/facebook-needs-to-face-up-to-new-political-reality">Facebook needs to face up to the new political reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/carolina-mila/democracy-needs-us-less-social-media-and-more-social-interaction">Democracy needs us: less social media and more social interaction</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/leighton-andrews/why-regulators-like-ofcom-are-dropping-ball-on-fake-news-dark-advertising-and-ex">Why regulators like Ofcom are dropping the ball on ‘Fake News’, dark advertising and extremism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties uk Sam Jeffers Mon, 19 Mar 2018 12:00:45 +0000 Sam Jeffers 116736 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The present and future of a centralized internet https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/present-and-future-of-centralized-internet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Understanding the risks future technology and intermediaries might pose to the internet as a tool for social change. Part Two.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33818961.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33818961.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amazon's Echo - Alexa Voice Service presented at the IFA in Berlin, Germany, 1 September 2017. Photo: Britta Pedersen/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In my <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench">previous article</a> I argued that the growing concerns regarding the internet’s social impact is rooted in many different causes: from underlying social problems, to bad science, to bad incentive structures put in place by big platforms, to the ongoing process of centralization that affects the web (the content layer that sits on top of the internet). </p> <p>I defined centralization as the process through which intermediaries reshape the architecture of the web, increasing their gatekeeping power over the information that circulates through it.</p> <p>I argued that the centralization of the web is creating the single point of failure that the original decentralized architecture sought to avoid, and that this should be the key concern of policy-makers hoping to deal with citizen concerns regarding the online. <span class="mag-quote-center">The centralization of the web is creating the single point of failure that the original decentralized architecture sought to avoid…&nbsp; this should be the key concern.</span></p> <p>The culture of <em>fail fast and iterate </em>that has boosted innovation over the past decades has become highly problematic. In a centralized architecture problems are no longer localized and easy to neutralize. In a centralized architecture failure spreads too quickly, and can cause a lot of harm. </p> <h2><strong>Constant evolution</strong></h2> <p>How does centralization take place? The web’s architecture is <em>always and only becoming</em>. It is in constant evolution. Each link that is made, each server that is set up to host content is part of this process. </p> <p>But some actors have bigger wrenches than others. There are gatekeepers at a network, device, browser, and platform level. They have the capacity to influence the decisions of millions of people who produce and consume content, and – through them – how the entangled web evolves, and how we understand the world we live in.</p> <p>These brokers are not merely replacing the traditional media in their role as information brokers. Their power is qualitatively superior. Whereas traditional media managed a one-way stream of information (media--&gt;consumer), new information brokers also harvest a LOT of real-time data about the information recipients (new media &lt;--&gt;user). They can leverage this process and direct users to certain content instead of others, or limit their access to links all-together. </p> <p>This can be more subtle than the usual censorship cases. See for example what happens when you post a link on Instagram, one of the rising social networks owned by Facebook.</p> <h2><strong>Intermediation continues to grow in breadth and depth, fuelling the process of centralization </strong></h2> <p>Intermediation is not in itself a bad thing. Search engines, for example, have become a key ally in enabling the web to scale by helping users find relevant information in the ever-growing web of content. But it can, nevertheless have problematic effects. </p> <p>There are several ways in which intermediation can take place. It can be structurally embedded, such as through algorithms that automatically sort information on behalf of the user, or as part of the interfaces that wrap the content that is being transmitted from one user to another over a platform. </p> <p>Intermediation can also operate <em>within</em> the previously mentioned structure in somewhat organic ways, such as when users unknowingly interact with networks of <em>bots </em>(automated accounts)<em> </em>controlled by a single user or group of users, or armies of <em>trolls </em>paid to disseminate specific information, or disrupt dialogue. In these cases, the bots and trolls act as intermediaries for whoever owns or created them.</p> <p><strong><em>But how did we get to this point where centralization is giving the internet a bad name?</em></strong></p><p><strong>Intermediation, centralization and inequality</strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/unnamed_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/unnamed_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="227" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Part of it is an “organic” cycle whereby the more central a player is the more personal data it can collect, enabling such player to further optimize intermediation services. This optimization and personalization can in turn make services more attractive to users, pushing competitors out of the market, and thus organically reducing the range of providers to which users can migrate. An example of the rich-get-richer dynamic. </p> <p>The other key dynamic occurs beyond the set of existing rules, and I would call it outright illegitimate. That is, intermediaries often leverage their position as a tool to prioritize their own services, allowing them to further increase their market share.</p> <h2><strong>The perils of centralization and a way forward</strong></h2> <p>New technological developments – such as smart assistants, and augmented and virtual reality – will likely increase the breadth and depth of intermediation. This in turn threatens to accelerate and further entrench the process of centralization. </p><p>Whereas in the past, the user was presented with a list of websites of interest, smart assistants increasingly skip that step and provide the user with specific contents or services, without providing the bigger picture. </p> <p>A winner takes all approach. &nbsp;With AR and VR the user is placed in an even more passive role, where she might be "force-fed" information in more seamless ways than through today's online advertising. Whoever operates the code will blend the curated digital world into the physical environment in which our species evolved over millions of years. No contours on your phone, TV or cinema-screen. No cover on your book to remind you of the distinction between worlds. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/4 (1)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/4 (1)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>New technologies are offering intermediaries the possibility of taking personalisation to a new level. Smart assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa are making agreements with companies producing smart devices (cars, refrigerators, thermostats, etc) to allow users to control these swarms of smart objects through these smart assistants. </p> <p>This means the smart assistant gets access to more quantity and quality data about users. Developments in technologies such as AR and VR are capable of further isolating people into algorithmically curated silo-worlds, where information flows are managed by the owners of these algorithms. <span class="mag-quote-center">This means the smart assistant gets access to more quantity and quality data about users. </span></p> <p>This would reduce the probability of people facing random or unanticipated encounters with information – such as a protest on the streets or a bus conversation with a stranger about her daily struggles – that might allow people to connect and empathize with others in ways that are relevant for social movements. </p> <p>Having further isolated and uncommunicated groups would erode the common set of experiences and knowledge required to nurture a sense of belonging and trust within the broader society, which is key for the coordination of big social projects, and to ensure a fair distribution of the benefits of such coordination. </p> <p>Those in control of the information silos are gaining too much control over what conversations and encounters can and will take place. As intermediaries’ power increases it becomes evident that whatever fixes they try to implement they are met with distrust and criticism. At the root of these reactions there seems to be a sense that these corporations have outgrown the shell society had granted them, and the legitimacy of the power they exercise today is slim (if any).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3 (2).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3 (2).jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong><em>Will this impact person-to-person communication?</em></strong></p> <p>The internet has not merely reduced the cost of one-to-one person communication; it has offered a qualitative leap in communications. Whereas the newspaper, radio and TV enabled one-to-many communications, and telephone facilitated one-to-one communications, the internet has facilitated group communications, sometimes referred to as <em>many-to-many</em> communications. </p> <p>This is what we observe in places like Twitter and chat rooms, where thousands if not millions of people interact with millions in real time. The deployment of effective many-to-many communications often relies on curatorial algorithms to help people find relevant conversations or groups. This means that some of the challenges faced in the realm of search affect person to person communications. </p> <p>Yet centralization also poses a distinct set of risks for these communications, amongst them, risks to the integrity of <em>signifiers</em> (representations of meaning, such as symbols or gestures), and their <em>signified</em> (meaning<em>)</em>.</p> <h2><strong>Intermediation in person-to-person communications</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong><strong>A. The intermediary’s responsibility to respect the integrity of a message</strong></p> <p>Millennials might notice that when texting with a new lover it is often the case that a word or emoji is misinterpreted. This often leads to an unnecessary quarrel, and we need to meet up physically to clear things up. <em>Oh, no! That’s not what I <span>meant</span>...What I wanted to say is...</em> Conveying meaning is not simple, and we often require a new medium or set of symbols to explain and correct what went wrong. </p> <p>Now imagine that someone could tamper with your messages, and you might not have that physical space to fix things... And that it’s not your lover you are communicating with, but the electorate or a group of protesters.</p> <p>The internet facilitates engagement by bringing people<em> closer</em> <em>together</em>. The apparent collapse of the physical space between users is achieved by slashing down the time between the moment in which a message is and received, until it's close enough to real time. And for millions of years the only type of real-time communications we’ve had as a species involved physical presence. This illusion often makes us forget that someone is managing the physical infrastructure through which the message is transported. It is fundamental that any and all parties who control these channels respect the integrity of the message that is being delivered. <span class="mag-quote-center">It is fundamental that any and all parties who control these channels respect the integrity of the message that is being delivered. </span></p> <p>Centralization which leaves communication channels under the control of a handful of actors could effectively limit parties from exchanging certain signifiers. If virtual and augmented reality are the future of communications, then we should bear in mind not merely spoken or written language will be sent over communication channels. These communications will include a wide array of signals for which we still have poorly defined signifiers. This includes body gestures and – potentially – other senses, such as smell and taste. To get a sense of the complexity of the task ahead of us, think about the gap between experiencing a movie through <em>descriptive noise captioning</em> and the standard hearing experience of the same content. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.41.05.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.41.05.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: George Costanza, Youtube.</span></span></span>In the past the debate was focused over the legitimacy of the frames traditional intermediaries such as newspapers applied to political events and discourse. With new intermediaries come new risks. By reducing (or eliminating) the availability of alternative mediums of communication between parties, centralization could limit the sender’s ability to double-check with the receiver whether or not a message’s signifiers were appropriately received. <span class="mag-quote-center">Distributed archives… based on Bitcoin’s blockchain model, offer a glimpse of hope in this battle.</span></p> <p>Distributed archives, such as those currently being developed based on Bitcoin’s blockchain model, offer a glimpse of hope in this battle. It must be noted that the phase between the message’s production and its transcription onto the ledger is subject to some of the same risks of meddling present in our current model. Blockchain as such could nevertheless protect the message's integrity from ex-post tampering. </p> <p><strong>B. The effect of centralization on the fluidity of the decoding process</strong></p> <p>A second issue affecting person-to-person communication is the process through which the relationship between signifier and signified comes to be (<em>point B on the diagram</em>). </p> <p>The process of information consumption is not automatic or passive. The receiver plays a role in the decoding process. The word <em>cat </em>triggers a different set of connections to a cat owner, than it does to a person who is allergic to cats. &nbsp;</p> <p>The receiver constructs meaning by relying on her own experiences as well as recalling instances in which members of the community managed to coordinate a conversation by relying on what could be deemed the agreed-upon meaning of this concept. Through this process individuals and groups play an active part in the construction of reality. </p> <p>This active interpretation enables language to be fluid, relationships between signifier (symbol, such as a word) and signified (meaning) to shift over time. The system is open. The <em>noisiness</em> of the process through which we interpret and discuss our world provides the flexibility necessary for critical social changes to be possible. A <em>reflective capacity </em>comes embedded within language. <span class="mag-quote-center">A <em>reflective capacity </em>comes embedded within language. </span></p><p>With <em>cat</em> the process is quite straightforward. Now shift from <em>cat </em>to more abstract concepts – like <em>justice</em> and <em>war, </em>or <em>muslim </em>and <em>latinx</em> – and things get much trickier. Since people do not necessarily deal with these concepts directly, third parties – such as the mass media and the state education system – purvey greater control over their meaning. </p> <p>Much like the elites in charge of writing definitions in a dictionary, mass media often takes over the process of rooting the signifiers onto a broader set of signifiers to construct <em>meaning</em>. The process of constructing meaning is deeply political. </p> <p>Reiterated associations between <em>muslim</em> or <em>latinx </em>to negative concepts can over time lead people to trigger mental responses associated to the negative frame even when the frame itself is not present. </p> <p>A centralized web of content, where the few define which frames should be applied and distributed, becomes a liability – the opposite of the open space the web was meant to create, and which many of us still believe can democratize the exercise of power by redistributing widely the power to construct <em>meaning, </em>and therefore the way we understand our identity, our relationships, and the world we live in. <span class="mag-quote-center">A centralized web of content, where the few define which frames should be applied and distributed, becomes a liability.</span></p> <p>Let’s think how this might play out in 20 years. Many resources are currently devoted to the development of brain-computer interfaces. Brain-computer interfaces imply tending a bridge across the <em>air gap</em> that currently exists between people and their devices (as well as the intermediaries that manage traffic over the internet and onto these devices). </p> <p>Eliminating such air gaps might imply limits to the receiver’s capacity to diverge in the way she processes the signifier: the computer would arguably take over the decoding role, and with it our subject’s ability to decode and reconstruct signifiers into – mistakenly or purposefully – novel and critically transformative meanings. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34732987_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34732987_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A family plays a game of rock-paper-scissors with "Alexa," their Amazon Echo wireless speaker and voice command personal assistant. TNS/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Every step towards the large-scale roll out of these technologies strengthens incentives for intermediaries to ensure that they can operate these systems unchecked. </p><p><em>Next week: Part Three – </em><em>how we should coordinate to solve the mess we are getting into before it’s too late.</em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench">Who’s to blame? The internet on the defendant&#039;s bench</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/battle-for-decentralized-internet-navigating-troubled-waters-to-g">The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. Focus on decentralizing power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Juan Ortiz Freuler Tue, 13 Mar 2018 12:15:19 +0000 Juan Ortiz Freuler 116639 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Silicon Inquiry https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/wendy-liu/silicon-inquiry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Silicon Valley ideology is a morally destitute trap, writes Wendy Liu. Could its well-paid staff transform it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5066004568_d13188b75f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5066004568_d13188b75f_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Googleplex giant deserts, 2010. Wikicommons/ Molly Johnson. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>WIRED Magazine recently published an article subtitled&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wired.com/story/the-other-tech-bubble/">Silicon Valley Techies Still Think They’re the Good Guys. They’re Not.</a>&nbsp;The article described a noticeable shift in public discourse on the tech industry:</p><blockquote><p>As headlines have exposed the troubling inner workings of company after company, startup culture no longer feels like fodder for gentle parodies about ping pong and hoodies. It feels ugly and rotten.</p></blockquote><p>How did we get here? How did we get to a point where even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/californian-ideology">traditionally techno-evangelist</a>&nbsp;publications like WIRED have become so critical? And why is it that so many people inside the industry seemingly refuse to even see it, much less acknowledge their own culpability?</p><p>I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell my story. I used to be one of those people: as a software developer and startup founder, I once loved being part of the tech industry, and I really did think that it was making the world a better place. I used to think that all the criticism of the industry – of its toxic culture, of its outrageous salaries, of its saving-the-world mentality – was based in ignorance or even jealousy. Surely, I thought, it was unfounded, and tech would ultimately triumph over its detractors.</p><p>I no longer believe this. I’ve lost my faith in the industry, and with it, any desire to remain within it. All the perks in the world can’t make up for what tech has become: morally destitute, mired in egotism and self-delusion, an aborted promise of what it could have been. Now that I realise this, I can’t go back.</p><p>This inquiry, based on my personal experiences, is an attempt to explain why I left, and in the process shed some light on the technical and political composition of the industry.</p><h2>In the beginning</h2><p>I started building websites at the age of 12, probably due to having way too much time alone on a computer as a child. I was soon hooked on what I saw as the promise of the Internet: the possibility of a new world beyond my computer screen, which seemed much more interesting than the real-life world around me. I spent a colossal amount of time on the Internet during my teenage years, either steeping in its culture in places like 4chan and Reddit and&nbsp;<a href="http://bash.org/">bash.org</a>&nbsp;or building my own websites. Back then, the Internet was my saviour; it connected me to a larger community of like-minded people, held together by the twin strands of real-world alienation and shared competence with computers.</p><p>Those were heady days. My&nbsp;<a href="https://code.likeagirl.io/paul-graham-blocked-me-on-twitter-c28ca647c7f8">heroes</a>&nbsp;were people I thought of as the pioneers of the Internet, people like Neal Stephenson and Paul Graham and Eric S. Raymond whose writing on hacker culture made me feel like I was part of something bigger, something exciting. One post that particularly resonated with me was Jeff Atwood’s 2007 piece&nbsp;<a href="https://blog.codinghorror.com/the-two-types-of-programmers/">The Two Types of Programmers</a>, which asserted that most – 80% – of all programmers working in the industry aren’t actually very talented, but if you’re one of the lucky few reading this post, then you’re probably in the talented 20%. It’s hard to overstate the role that sort of ideology had on me, and probably countless others, in developing my worldview. All these brilliant and successful people were whispering to me through their writing, telling me that I was special, that I was capable, that I was just intrinsically&nbsp;<em>better</em>&nbsp;than those who didn’t have computer skills. And that if I kept developing these skills, I would be justly rewarded for my efforts.</p><h2>Don’t be evil</h2><p>So I plunged headfirst into tech. I started an undergraduate degree in computer science, and spent my free time working on whatever software development projects piqued my interest. When I got an internship offer from Google, in my third year of university, it felt like that reward was finally in sight.</p><p>In the summer of 2013, I interned as a software engineer in Google’s San Francisco office. My job was to maintain a web application for the capacity planning team, in order to help Google forecast demand for new servers. The code itself involved technologies that were either already familiar to me, or sufficiently documented, and so I didn’t have much trouble getting up to speed. By the end of the first day – which consisted mostly of independent, self-directed exploration of the codebase – I had grasped enough of the architecture to be able to make my own changes.</p><p>The highlight of the job was the level of autonomy involved. On a typical day, I would get in to work around 9:30 – just in time to catch the end of the catered breakfast – and get to my desk around 10. Once there, I would spend anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour catching up on everything I’d missed: email, Facebook, Twitter,&nbsp;<a href="http://thefw.com/take-a-peek-inside-googles-internal-meme-generator/">internal social networks</a>. The work itself was never interesting enough that I ever felt an urge to work on it as soon as I got in, and I was confident enough in my ability to get it done that I wasn’t worried about being reprimanded for not working more efficiently. Every once in a while, I’d have a one-on-one meeting with my boss to frame my progress in management-speak (in terms of&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_indicator">KPIs</a>and&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OKR">OKRs</a>), but it was generally very hands-off; I was trusted to work on the list of outstanding features with minimal superversion.</p><p>The actual technical environment was neither especially challenging nor trivial. In fact, it wasn’t that different from what I would have encountered when working on my personal side projects. The real challenge was that the work itself just felt so&nbsp;<em>meaningless</em>. With my personal projects, I actually cared about what I was working on, whereas at Google, I was only working because the company was paying me to. In Marxist terms, I was alienated from my labour: forced to think about a problem I didn’t personally have a stake in, in a very typically corporate environment that drained all the motivation out of me. I remember thinking: is this it? Is this what my life will be like if I come back full-time? Is this really what I have to look forward to?</p><p>Google was supposed to be the&nbsp;<em>goal</em>, the reward people worked so hard for. And on the surface, it was everything you could have asked for: lots of autonomy, excellent compensation, a workspace that caters to your every need. So why did it feel so empty?</p><p>When I talked to other interns about this, the conversations never got very far. We’d concur that the work was kind of dull, and tentatively wonder if there was something better: maybe a different team within Google, or just a different company in the tech industry. Never did we connect our shared malaise to structural issues with the industry itself; it was much more natural to turn inward, and ask ourselves if our unhappiness was the result of&nbsp;<a href="https://jacobinmag.com/2018/01/under-neoliberalism-you-can-be-your-own-tyrannical-boss">personal failings</a>, a symptom of just not being cut out for the industry.</p><p>When I got my offer to return full-time after graduating, part of me didn’t want to take it, because I thought there&nbsp;<em>must</em>&nbsp;be something better, this can’t be&nbsp;<em>it</em>. This what can’t be what I’ve worked so hard for.</p><p>But I couldn’t find anything else.</p><p>So I resigned myself to it. And because I had nothing else to be inspired by, I focused on the material aspects. At the time, the standard Google software engineer salary for new university graduates in the Bay Area was estimated at $143,000 USD in total compensation: $100,000 base, $15,000 projected bonus, and over $100,000 worth of stock which would vest over 4 years. I calculated how much I would get in each paycheck and, months before even graduating, started budgeting for vacations and luxury purchases and nights out. After all, why not? What else was I supposed to look forward to, except mindless consumption? Wasn’t that the whole point of making that much money? Wasn’t that what drove people to work so hard in the first place?</p><h2>A way out?</h2><p>I never made it back to Google. Uninspired, despairing of a future that looked so hollow, I spent most of my last year at university looking for alternatives, a way to escape the barren path I saw in front of me. Eventually, I found such an escape – at least a temporary one – through startups.</p><p>It was at a hackathon that I first worked with some classmates who would eventually become my co-founders, during one sleep-deprived weekend at the University of Pennsylvania that culminated in us building a web app together. Even though the project was summarily abandoned, the buzz of working on a technical challenge with friends was enough of a high to get me seriously considering turning down Google to do a startup instead. I wanted to extend the hackathon spirit beyond that one weekend, as a way of avoiding the existential dread I associated with a full-time job at Google.</p><p>For a while, it worked. The first summer of that startup became one giant hackathon, a blur of late nights and empty coffee cups in the living room of my cofounder’s apartment. I remember being so intently focused on my laptop screen until the small hours of the morning, so utterly consumed by the esoteric technical challenges at hand that I didn’t want to sleep even though I knew I needed to, that I didn’t even care about the fact that we were working in an apartment filled with ants which my cofounder once misguidedly tried to kill with laundry detergent. The high I felt every time I overcame another technical barrier. Feeling like we were some sort of visionaries, building something so new, so exciting, that it was the only thing that mattered.</p><p>It took us over a year before we had a product that we could actually sell to anyone, and the revenue from our first sale was a grand total of $125. Even then, though, we stubbornly maintained our entrepreneurial hubris. We talked disparagingly about companies that only had $10 million in annual revenue – why even bother if you’re not going to aim bigger?; we scornfully turned down acquisition offers; we scoped out competitors with bigger teams and proven track records and decided we could beat them. We were a bunch of kids in an ant-ridden apartment with barely any funding and no clue what we were doing, and yet during the highs we really thought that our breakthrough was just around the corner.</p><p>The highs rarely lasted very long. In the lows, when deals kept falling through and we were embroiled in interminable cofounder arguments and we still couldn’t get rid of the endless ants, there were so many times that we almost gave up. I think the only thing that stopped us was the lack of any real alternative. We had thoroughly bought into the startup myth that starting a successful company is the only thing worth doing with your life. As a result, we had no real exit strategy; every way out just felt like failure.</p><p>So we stuck with it, even when we had to change our entire revenue model and thus lost any pretense of telos. Although we had originally envisioned ourselves as data science startup, it soon became clear that the only profitable avenue was to become an advertising technology startup, selling consumer data to help companies market their products more efficiently. We went to marketing technology conferences in which we forced ourselves to network with people we despised, people in shiny suits and branded lanyards talking about CAC and LTV and NDAs. Our days became a monotonous blend of 3-letter acronyms and sales decks and meetings with people who didn’t want to be there any more than we did.</p><p>Underneath it all was a desperate yearning for our startup to&nbsp;<em>mean</em>&nbsp;something. We needed all the stress and supplication and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wired.com/2017/06/silicon-valley-still-doesnt-care-work-life-balance/">80 hour weeks</a>&nbsp;to be part of the heroic arc of our own entrepreneurship journey, so that one day we would look back on it all and say that it was worth it. After all, all the&nbsp;<em>real</em>&nbsp;entrepreneurs we knew had gone through the same route; we just had to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtaxU6DZvLs">work harder</a>, and eventually we’d look back on all the&nbsp;<a href="https://techcrunch.com/2014/03/03/the-hard-thing-about-hard-things-ben-horowitzs-honest-and-real-take-on-entrepreneurship/">hard times</a>&nbsp;we’d endured and everything would finally make sense.</p><h2>No way out</h2><p>The worst trap is when you don’t realise that you’re trapped. We were our own bosses – not only did we&nbsp;<em>own</em>&nbsp;the means of production, we sort of&nbsp;<em>were</em>&nbsp;the means of production – and so we thought were free, certainly freer than our regularly-employed friends who were chained to their 9-5. Really, though, we were trapped by our own obstinacy, by our conviction that startups were the path to some sort of greater salvation. We were suffocating in this bubble where nothing seemed more important than our company, and because we were constantly facing existential threats, we were always in crisis mode, always fighting for air. We couldn’t afford to take the time to stop and think about why we were doing it in the first place.</p><p>I don’t remember exactly when it finally changed for me, or why. I just know that at a certain point, I decided that the startup dream I’d been chasing was bullshit and that I couldn’t bear to waste another second of my life on it. That just because I’d poured years of my life into my startup didn’t mean my efforts were intrinsically worthwhile. That there could be more to life than the continual pursuit of self-aggrandizement.</p><p>Eventually, this world stopped feeling like something I could be proud of. My faith in the overall goodness of the tech industry, already shaken by a cold hard look inside the world of advertising technology, had drowned, deluged by the futility of my own startup. I would read about people my age and younger raising millions of dollars for their hare-brained startup ideas and where I might have once felt envy, I could only feel disgust.</p><p>And I began to see the monstrosity lurking at the heart of the industry. Underneath the veneer of innovation and shininess and platitudes about making the world a better place is nothing but decay, a black wave of rot and regret. There’s something grotesque in such an inefficient allocation of resources: all this money trickling down from central banks to VCs to startup founders instead of addressing poverty or funding public services. All this money going towards renting exposed-brick offices in SoMa and creating landfill-destined branded startup t-shirts, just so that some clueless kids drunk on the startup Kool-Aid can delude themselves into thinking they’re making the world a better place for a few years.</p><p>Because it&nbsp;<em>is</em>&nbsp;a delusion, at least for the overwhelming majority. Even if you start out wanting to produce social value, you’ll soon come up against the structural incentives of the industry: startups tend not to get funded unless they’re rapacious, and so you’ll end up continually tweaking your business model in order to appease investors who&nbsp;<a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/26/toxic-vc-and-the-marginal-dollar-problem/">expect massive returns</a>.</p><p>And soon enough, you’ve become an empty husk trudging along Sand Hill Road, inserting ever more ambitious and less socially useful goals into your pitch deck. You’ll resign yourself to the fact that you’re not even that excited about your startup idea anymore, but that’s okay, because once you sell this one you’ll finally have the cachet to do what you really want, even if you haven’t quite figured that out yet. For now, though, you’re going to give it a shot with your e-commerce or blockchain or adtech “play”.</p><p>As if it’s a&nbsp;<em>game</em>. Because, after all, it sort of&nbsp;<em>is</em>, if you’re a founder with the right connections. There are no real consequences to failure. If your startup runs out of money, or you have to sell for less than you raised, rest assured because you’ll probably be able to&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/davemorin/status/944077486144438272">raise more money</a>&nbsp;in the future. As long as you have a half-decent slide deck and fit some rich person’s preconceived notions of a good founder, you’ll never have to get a&nbsp;<em>real</em>&nbsp;job; your material needs will be taken care of by the Silicon Valley Basic Income.</p><h2>The rank and file</h2><p>The wealth dynamics behind startups—the early stages of tech companies – are still present when these companies succeed and grow to the scale of Facebook and Google. Although founders and employees experience different material conditions, the outcomes are the same: they all spend their days thinking of ways to increase profits for a parasitical corporation. Employees, though, have less power over their own circumstances, trapped as they are by the&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/re-write/why-im-leaving-the-golden-handcuffs-of-silicon-valley-behind-to-educate-the-world-d1c8a334d1a3">golden handcuffs</a>&nbsp;of stock grants and dangled raises. Someone who’s worked at a place like Google in Silicon Valley can, after a couple of years, draw&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions/comments/7idcak/official_salary_sharing_thread_for_experienced/">over $300,000 USD annually</a>&nbsp;in total compensation. How do you walk away from that? When you’re submerged in a culture that values you primarily based on how much capital you can accumulate, how do you step away from something so manifestly rewarding?</p><p>Compounding the problem is the link between the material rewards and the idea of merit. Silicon Valley is brimming with the belief that those who make so much money must somehow&nbsp;<em>deserve</em>&nbsp;it, because they&nbsp;<em>worked</em>&nbsp;for it, in a weird revenge-of-the-nerds-type scenario. That’s the whole function of the “meritocracy” ethos within the industry: to justify the existing distribution of wealth and power, no matter how extreme. After all, software developers aren’t driven by solely by money; they’re just&nbsp;<a href="http://www.paulgraham.com/love.html">doing what they love</a>, and if they happen to be well-compensated in the process, they’d earned it by dint of their hard work and skill.</p><p>It’s painful, for me, to see things twisted this way. Because there really is something wonderful about being able to manipulate technology, an exhilarating intoxication when it’s just you versus the machine. That “aha!” moment when things finally click and it’s like you’ve unlocked the secrets of the cosmos. You feel like a kind of god, sometimes.</p><p>And that feeling is great, and more people should have the opportunity to master technology in that way. But technical expertise has morphed into a filter, an excuse for justifying existing patterns of inequality. Those who are on the top clearly just deserve to be so, by fiat; there’s no room to question the validity of the system.</p><p>What’s especially dangerous about the glorification of the brilliant technical worker is how it obscures the very real exploitation going on beneath the surface. These highly-paid technical employees, producing intellectual property, find their dialectical opposite in the low-paid employees who provide the material foundations for the company’s success. Similar to how women’s domestic work was (and still often is) invisible, this work is often done by contractors working under punishing conditions. Facebook has its army of moderators in the Philippines; Apple has its assemblers at Foxconn; Uber has its drivers; Deliveroo has its riders; Amazon has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/amazon-workers-working-hours-weeks-conditions-targets-online-shopping-delivery-a8079111.html">its warehouse workers</a>. And all of these tech companies have the staff that directly caters to the highly-paid employees: cleaners, chefs, baristas, security guards.</p><p>There’s a clever strategy at work here, behind the scenes. This is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publicseminar.org/2015/02/cog-cap/">cognitive capitalism’s</a>&nbsp;answer to the labour-capital crisis of the 70s, in which workers were able to attain enough leverage over key points in order to seriously disrupt production and thus exact concessions from capital in terms of better wages or working conditions. The trick here is to&nbsp;<em>bifurcate</em>&nbsp;labour. First, identify the workers who can contribute directly to the intangible assets and thus could potentially have leverage over production, and&nbsp;<em>treat them really well</em>. Pay them well, of course, with a high base salary and stock grants that refresh every year, but also provide them with free food,&nbsp;<a href="https://thepointmag.com/2017/examined-life/the-google-bus">private buses</a>, and lavish parties at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Why-tech-companies-spend-so-much-on-holiday-5954418.php">San Francisco’s City Hall</a>. Make them feel valued and special and like they’re part of something important.</p><p>In short, do whatever it takes to ensure they have&nbsp;<a href="https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/what-i-fought-for">no reason to organise</a>.</p><p>This is how these companies get away with treating a subset of their workers&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/26/facebook-workers-housing-janitors-unique-parsha">so badly</a>: these workers rarely amass enough company-specific knowledge or access to have any significant bargaining power, and thus easily are replaced. The ones who do have leverage, on the other hand, you can count on to be sheepishly loyal to the corporations on account of their paychecks and the free office La Croix.</p><p>Whether or not that’s a deliberate strategy is debatable; your typical hiring manager is unlikely to be this class-conscious. The point is that it&nbsp;<em>works</em>. It has, at least so far, been an extremely successful method for preventing too much of a Polanyi-esque double movement. Thus these companies owe part of their continued success to their ability to contain labour through strategic stratification.</p><h2>Tech workers of the world</h2><p>It doesn’t have to be this way, though. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of movements to organise tech workers by&nbsp;<a href="https://logicmag.io/tat-solidarity-forever/">building solidarity</a>&nbsp;between high- and low-paid workers. This could be a potent combination: highly-paid workers at crucial production points have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/oct/31/coders-of-the-world-unite-can-silicon-valley-workers-curb-the-power-of-big-tech">so much collective leverage</a>&nbsp;and could demand better conditions for their less well-paid peers, or call for more ethical business practices.</p><p>The challenge is to get those on top to&nbsp;<em>see</em>&nbsp;that, to see the extent of their collective power and thus responsibility. It’s to get these well-paid and well-treated workers to realise that they are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/08/silicon-valley-gentrification-tech-sharing-economy">still workers</a>&nbsp;and, moreover, human beings, whose interests won’t always be aligned with the interests of the corporation they work for. It’s to get them to take a sort of cognitive leap, from seeing the world as mostly fine and just trying to take their place in it, to realising how flawed it is and resolving to do their best to fix it, bit by bit.</p><p>I hope more of them realise what the industry they’re part of has done to the world, and reclaim that long-buried promise of technology to make the world a better place. I hope more of them realise that everything they care about—this abstract world of JavaScript frameworks and Apple Watches and stock options in which they’ve become immured—is just so much superstructure and that with every passing day, the material foundations of their existence are crumbling, crumbling like dirt into the San Francisco bay.</p><p><em>This article was originally published at <a href="http://notesfrombelow.org/article/silicon-inquiry#">Notes from Below</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cathy-oneil-leo-hollis/weapons-of-maths-destruction">Weapons of maths destruction </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Wendy Liu Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:43:08 +0000 Wendy Liu 116635 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Three bits of advice for blockchain advocates who think they understand aid https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/three-bits-of-advice-for-blockchain-advocates-who-think-they-understand-aid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite claims to the contrary, new technologies like blockchain are unlikely to disrupt the aid industry quickly. Here is why.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30414419.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30414419.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zaatari refugee camp is currently home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees - in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on March 5, 2017. Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Before Christmas, the Danish development agency Danida launched <a href="http://um.dk/en/danida-en/Strategies%20and%20priorities/techvelopment/">‘Hack the Future of Development Aid’</a>, a report exploring the potential of blockchain technology to disrupt foreign aid. The Danida report paints a bright picture of what <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jan/17/blockchain-digital-technology-development-money">blockchain</a>, the digital ledger that records encrypted peer-to-peer transactions, can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.</p> <p>In line with blockchain’s foremost advocates, the report suggests that crypto aid money, the corollary of Bitcoin for aid transfers, can speed up aid delivery by circumventing intermediaries between donors and beneficiaries. Land titles, insurance policies, and proof of identity can all be turned into code in the blockchain, rendering paper archives and corrupt governments obsolete. <span class="mag-quote-center">Land titles, insurance policies, and proof of identity can all be turned into code in the blockchain, rendering paper archives and corrupt governments obsolete.</span></p> <p>Danida is not alone in betting on digital technology to innovate aid delivery. Last year the World Food Programme piloted <a href="http://innovation.wfp.org/project/building-blocks">Building Blocks</a>, a cash transfer programme for Syrian refugees in Jordan that made use of an Ethereum blockchain and biometric authentication. In <a href="https://www.coindesk.com/bermuda-launch-blockchain-land-registry/">Bermuda</a>, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-property-blockchain/can-blockchain-save-the-amazon-in-corruption-mired-brazil-idUSKBN1FE113">Brazil</a>, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2017/02/07/the-first-government-to-secure-land-titles-on-the-bitcoin-blockchain-expands-project/#2143b6c24dcd">Georgia</a>, and <a href="https://www.trustnodes.com/2017/07/07/swedens-land-registry-successfully-completes-blockchain-pilot">Sweden</a> national and municipal land registries are currently experimenting with blockchains to make property transfers and land titles more secure and efficient. Peruvian economist <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/60f838ea-e514-11e7-8b99-0191e45377ec">Hernando de Soto</a> recently advocated for the introduction of a global land registry using blockchain. <a href="http://id2020.org/">ID2020</a>, a public-private consortium that includes Microsoft, will soon implement its first digital identity projects in a bid to provide undocumented persons with a legally recognized identity.</p> <p>Blockchain proponents see the end of conventional development aid on the horizon. Yet the endeavour to ‘hack’ development with cryptocurrency and decentralized ledgers is neither simple nor straightforward. Aid disrupters need to bear in mind three bits of advice to avoid repeating old mistakes and to improve their chances of success.</p> <p><strong><em>Know what you want to disrupt. </em></strong></p> <p>The tech world has powerful technology and creativity that it can bring to ‘development’. But at times it ignores the intricacies of international aid. Danida’s report, for example, works from the precept that development agencies’ main challenge is ‘to speed up aid transfers’. Development is no longer, if it ever was, a matter of distributing resources from rich countries to poor. <span class="mag-quote-center">Development is no longer, if it ever was, a matter of distributing resources from rich countries to poor.</span></p> <p>Bringing about social, economic and institutional change is extremely complex. The existing aid architecture with its many bilateral and multilateral actors, multiple rules and requirements and its evolving intervention modalities reflects that complexity. Quick cash transfers are imperative during humanitarian crises, but they are of little concern for long-term development interventions. Determining when to give, whom to give to and with what particular objective to give has always been more challenging for aid workers than the actual resource transfer.</p> <p><strong><em>Disrupt all the way down</em></strong><strong>. </strong></p> <p>Hacking development should be about disrupting the very way we think and do development rather than reproducing the old problems of development. </p> <p>Blockchain and cryptocurrency may be new technologies, but if they only aim to change the conditions or costs of aid transactions they miss an opportunity to transform development as we know it, including donor-driven agendas, duplication of projects and activities and persistent coordination problems. There is a difference between doing the same things differently and then doing different things altogether. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is a difference between doing the same things differently and then doing different things altogether. </span></p> <p>There is a real risk that new tech interventions ignore the bigger picture of economic inequalities, power relations and social marginalization by pushing for a well meant, but ultimately problematic individualization. Disintermediation is good for lowering transaction costs, but bypassing the state in developing countries to target individuals directly underestimates the importance of strong public institutions, both for accountability and democratic oversight, and for economic and social progress. The state may be an enemy of blockchain advocates, but it is crucially important for poverty reduction.</p> <p><strong><em>Code needs context. </em></strong></p> <p>Great code can only change that much. It might come as a surprise to some, but development is just as cryptic and complex as a Bitcoin. The history of aid is full of good intentions that failed on accounts of a limited understanding of local contexts. </p> <p>This has been the case with the adoption of new technologies, whether it is improved fertilizer, mobile phones or blockchain technology. People around the world tend to make different uses of the same technology. A narrow approach to innovation, such as the <a href="https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/how-social-innovation-labs-contribute/">Rockefeller Foundation’s Social Innovation Labs</a>, which downplays expertise and prior experiences in favor of data-driven and radical innovation approaches, is unlikely to succeed. </p> <p>Solutions that presuppose the superiority of technical knowledge, that neglect local realities and ignore indigenous knowledge are doomed to fail. Property rights as blockchain are a case in point: what good does it do if a farmer can access a land title deal with her smartphone if there is no police or local authority to enforce that claim?</p> <p>Disrupting development aid is a worthy cause. But it requires a realistic strategy that builds on long-term learning and exchange between tech innovators and programmers on the one side, and development planners, policy-makers and aid experts on the other side. </p> <p>Development folks need to familiarize themselves with new technology while blockchain proponents need to acknowledge that aid is complex and contextual. Only then can we achieve genuine disruption, including a redefinition of the way we think and do development, not just the pursuit of old goals with new methods.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Economics Ideas International politics Internet Adam M. Fejerskov Tobias Hagmann Wed, 07 Mar 2018 19:57:11 +0000 Tobias Hagmann and Adam M. Fejerskov 116530 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In the Philippines, political trolling is an industry – this is how it works https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jonathan-corpus-ong-jason-cabanes/in-philippines-political-trolling-is-industry-this <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new study uncovers elite ad and PR strategists as chief architects of disinformation. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34537165.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34537165.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>January 19, 2018 - Philippines - Media practitioners and university press organizations held a Black Friday protest against the curtailment of the freedom of the press by the Duterte administration. J Gerard Seguia/Zuma Press/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Georgina* is a transgender digital marketer for a boutique public relations agency in the heart of Manila's business district. A resourceful SEO specialist, 28 year-old Georgina spends her office hours driving traffic to her clients’ pages, even skilfully hiding fake ad links to lure clicks. </p> <p>But Georgina’s 9-to-5 job shows only a fraction of her real value in the digital arena. Georgina is an online influencer – except, unlike the photogenic jetsetters who flood Instagram and YouTube with glossy fantasies of an aspirational lifestyle, she is carefully, completely anonymous. </p> <p>Georgina maintains half a dozen Twitter and Facebook accounts with over a million organic followers in total. Each page boasts a particular brand of content, from lovesick romantic quotes to “inspiring” platitudes to viciously snarky memes. Her legions of followers are quick to like, repost, and retweet her entertaining posts. </p> <p>Once in a while, Georgina slips in a hashtag promoting a new movie release or soft drink brand, which her followers retweet. Before they know it, they’ve helped her make an entire commercial campaign go viral and top Twitter trending rankings globally. </p> <p>Georgina is an anonymous digital influencer who carries out undisclosed paid campaigns for clients that can pay for her reach and influence. She started out working for PR agencies handling household brands and telcos – until the 2016 Philippine elections, when she took on her first campaign for a high-profile politician running for national office. </p> <h2><strong>Highly professional, hierarchical organization</strong></h2> <p>In the Philippines, influential online personalities and “troll armies” are credited with winning Rodrigo Duterte the presidency in 2016. Even after carrying Duterte to victory, “trolls”, or “Dutertards” as his fanatic supporters have been derogatorily dubbed, continue to vociferously share fake news and silence dissenters. </p> <p>But who are they? Who exactly is responsible for creating fake news? What kind of people sign up to become “trolls”, and why? What kind of skills do they have, what motivates them, and what shapes the content they create?</p> <p>As co-authors of a new report published by the British Newton Tech4Dev Network, we found that while the moral panics of the Philippine public are focused on celebrity influencers, the problem of political trolling and disinformation is actually more insidious, systemic, and deeply rooted than any single hero or villain.</p> <p>Undetected and unseen, attention hackers like Georgina form part of a highly professionalized industry of digital political disinformation in the Philippines, a country of 67 million active social media users. </p> <p>We met Georgina, and others like her, while conducting 20 in-depth interviews with people we came to call “architects of networked disinformation.”&nbsp; </p><p>Our informants supplied us with the passwords to their anonymous influencer pages, as well as fake accounts used for political campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.&nbsp; With this unprecedented access, we were able to unearth a shadow industry that is professionalized and hierarchical in its organization, strategic in its outlook, and questionable in its ethics.</p> <h2><strong>Anonymous digital influencers amplify political messages</strong></h2> <p>We also met Felix, a digital advertising specialist who, like Georgina, moonlights as an anonymous digital influencer. When he hit 100,000 followers, he was offered his first commercial contract. Now he runs a "quote page" with 2 million organic followers. </p> <p>Hired for his first political campaign via Twitter direct message, Felix joined a team of anonymous influencers tasked with building their politician client’s image and brand on social media. Felix’s followers amplify his messages until mainstream news outlets pick them up. Other times, he reposts pieces of mainstream coverage&nbsp;– news reports, opinion pieces – that speak well of their client. </p> <p>“You need to go slowly. You can’t post branded content right away; you’ll lose followers. Sometimes they call us <em>bayaran</em> (sellout, paid hack) because branded content comes first,” says Felix. “When something trends organically, only then can we slip in branded content,” he adds. </p> <p>Artificially trending hashtags is only the tip of the iceberg. Other tasks might involve digital black ops – for example, seeding revisionist history narratives or sowing divisiveness in online communities.</p> <p>Anonymous influencers like Georgina and Felix are ranked and paid according to the engagement they generate – likes, favorites, shares, retweets, or video views – and they receive bonuses for outstanding engagement in a campaign. It could be cash, or the latest smartphone model.</p> <h2><strong>Chief architects of disinformation dictate the strategy</strong></h2> <p>Georgina is the right-hand woman of Dex, a seasoned public relations strategist with a select portfolio of elite political clients. Prior to her career in online management, Dex was an advertising executive. Having achieved financial and professional success, she was on the hunt for her next challenge – and found it in political PR.</p> <p>If people like Georgina and Felix are combatants in the political PR battlefield, ad and PR industry leaders like Dex are their generals – the chief architects of disinformation. </p> <p>“I've overcome a lot of competition in other&nbsp;industries, like telecoms for example. Every time I enter a war, I find a way to win. To&nbsp;me,&nbsp;everything is war,” she said in our interview.&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;“What attracted me to politics is because I felt that they were all ignorant about social media. These are old-timers. How can you win a digital war with someone born in 1940 or 1929 for that matter? You cannot. It's impossible. So let’s go to war.”</p> <p>While trolling is attributed to the likes of Mocha Uson and other notorious bloggers, the real chief architects of disinformation hide in plain sight. Holding respectable day jobs as top executives in boutique ad and PR agencies, their political hustles on the side – undisclosed and unregulated – are an open industry secret. </p> <p>Motivated by the challenge of winning in a new arena, chief disinformation architects interface directly with politicians and use professional tricks of the trade – brand bibles, campaign strategies, media valuation reports – to fulfil their clients’ needs. “Whether you're a movie, softdrink, restaurant, or politician, it's all the same to me,” says Dex. “Just give me the brief, I know what to do.”</p> <p>With their track record for launching Facebook business pages, trending hashtag campaigns worldwide, and building engaged communities for household brands, telcos or celebrities, tried-and-tested industry techniques of spin and reputation-building acquire new power and momentum in their hands. </p> <p>“I dictate everything from hashtag, to copy, direction, strategy, black ops,” asserts Dex. “The influencers cannot do it on their own. If they do, it's going to be a disaster.” </p> <p>“Online numbers are useless if there's no core message, something to champion.&nbsp;That’s the strategy I can offer – the messaging, the attack.” </p> <p>Chief architects are skilled not only at messaging and strategy, but at coming up with ways to deflect moral responsibility and professional accountability. They speak of “saving” clients’ careers, giving online personas “refreshing honesty” and “soul”, connecting with “real people behind the screen” who are looking for “empathy and understanding,” and even “helping the country.” </p> <p>Strategy in hand, the chief architects of disinformation staff the teams of anonymous digital influencers to take campaign messages to smartphones and screens. They create the pay structures and come up with the incentives that motivate the influencers. But the work doesn’t stop there. </p> <h2><strong>Fake accounts create illusions of engagement</strong></h2> <p>At the bottom of the hierarchy, community-level fake account operators do what we call script-based disinformation work – i.e., the grunt work. Fake accounts post pre-made content on schedule and actively like and share posts to meet a daily quota. Dex calls them “social nobodies.”</p> <p>“What they do is shallow,” she says. “In my eyes they don't exist because whatever they do has no effect without strategy.”</p> <p>However, they are necessary to generate illusions of engagement. Fake account operators create a bandwagon effect that affirms the key messages of a political campaign, and encourages real, unpaid grassroots supporters and political fans to openly express their support for a particular politician. </p> <h2><strong>The weaponization of a digital workforce</strong></h2> <p>The aim of our research was never to name and shame “trolls,” but to understand their identities and motivations, how they operate, and how they morally justify their work. </p> <p>Beyond the Philippines, global democratic players in the west would do well to pay closer attention to how a highly skilled digital workforce for hire might be weaponized for digital disinformation in other democratic countries such as the United States and United Kingdom.</p> <p>Understanding is the key to finding solutions at every level of disinformation production, which we propose in our report. More importantly, understanding is the key to taking a stand against the way disinformation is influencing free political discourse, rewriting narratives, and shaping the democratic project, both in the Philippines and far beyond. </p> <p>*not their real names</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.newtontechfordev.com">Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines</a></em> is<strong> </strong>published by the Newton Tech4Dev Network and funded by a British Council Newton Fund grant. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em><a href="http://www.newtontechfordev.com">Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines</a></em> is<strong> </strong>published by the Newton Tech4Dev Network and funded by a British Council Newton Fund grant.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/miguel-syjuco/is-populism-problem-story-for-world-forum-for-democracy-2017">“Is Populism a Problem”? – a story for the World Forum for Democracy 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andries-du-toit/beyond-fact-checking-media-populism-and-post-truth-politics">Beyond fact-checking: the media, populism and post-truth politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald-peter-york-carole-cadwalladr-james-patrick/dark-money-deep-data-voicing-dissent">Dark Money Deep Data</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/natalie-fenton-des-freedman/media-and-twenty-first-century-fake-democracy">Media and twenty first century fake democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Philippines </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Philippines Jason Cabanes Jonathan Corpus Ong Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:41:06 +0000 Jonathan Corpus Ong and Jason Cabanes 116244 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/enrico-de-angelis-yazan-badran/crowds-and-individual-why-we-should-rethink-ho <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/8.-Television-trash-874x492_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/8.-Television-trash-874x492_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture by Zoé Carle, with permission. </span></span></span>Last November, an online discussion between two prominent Syrian writers triggered waves of recriminations across and against both. The accusations and counter-accusations between Razan Ghazzawi, a political dissident and feminist activist, and Yassin Haj Saleh, a leftist political dissident, reignited earlier discussions on the role of feminist struggle in the Syrian uprising and the patriarchal nature of its elites. The focus was on the balance, legitimacy and place of the different intersecting struggles within the uprising: specifically (and most of all) those concerned with gender and class.</p><p>The original conflagration was started by an outrageous Facebook post by a young opposition Syrian activist and writer that carried a call for the rape of a pro-regime woman in Gaziantep, Turkey. This was as blatant an example as there could be of the pervasive patriarchy in the so-called secular Syrian oppositional sphere and the ubiquity of symbolic (as well as physical) violence against women in Syria in general.</p><p>The comment itself, as well as the cultural strains it represents, is unacceptable and should be condemned, and the failure to unequivocally and immediately condemn it constitutes in itself an issue to be discussed.</p><p>At the same time, to view this violence solely from the lenses of gender collapses the complexity of the issue and its intractable link to class, culture and the broader context of violence in the country. Indeed, there are serious, pertinent, and difficult, debates to be had about the intersection of these struggles in Syrian context. This complexity must be taken into consideration if the aim is to bring about a serious cultural transformation in this domain.</p><p>Unfortunately, what could have been a significant opportunity for a fruitful (if conflictual) debate gave way to a series of recriminations, personal accusations and counter-accusations that mainly furthered the polarisation. Of course, to ignore the issue was indeed not an option. Moreover, we hope that there is still a chance that what appears now as a poisoned, divisive, and polarized battleground will be translated at some point into a discussion in which different positions can be articulated and some common ground over the issue of women in Syria and specifically in opposition circles can be found.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake</p><p>This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes. In the hope, perhaps, that in the future similar problems can be contained or partially avoided. Indeed, this is only the latest of many cases on Syrian social media spheres that followed a largely similar pattern.</p><p>Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake. However, we believe that how, where, and by whom these discussions are conducted can have a huge impact on the outcomes and, therefore, on the creation of a larger consensus or, as in this case, the recognition of what Syrian women have to struggle with on a daily basis.</p><p>This last case, among many others, highlights a significant paradox in how we use social media networks and the effect it has on concrete social struggles. On the one hand, the episode highlights a monumental shift in the discursive power enjoyed by Syrian intellectuals before and after the 2011 uprising. This is, in no small part, due to the status that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter acquired as the main sites of discursive struggle in the sphere of Syrian revolutionaries and the site to express contentious politics. Social media networks equipped activists and intellectuals, like Ghazzawi and Haj Saleh, with unprecedented avenues to raise issues of importance for their primary constituencies and their connected networks. In a context of a brutal military conflict, fragmentation and exile of Syrian activists and intellectuals, these nascent spaces could arguably play a significant role in the shaping of new political blocs, opportunities and subjectivities.</p><p>On the other hand, engaging with these discussions on social media has a price and presents us with many issues:</p><p>One is the inherent individualism embedded in these forms of communication. Social media inevitably place the emphasis on personal authenticity and individuality, rather than collectives and groups. Thus, debates become very emotional and person-centered. Such a mode of communication foregrounds the actor above the issue, and erases the necessary distance between the person of a political actor and the (collective) ideas s/he represents. And thus, it quickly degenerates into the level of quarrel between single individuals, with the underlying political disagreement languishing in the background.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Engaging with these discussions on social media has a price</p><p>In the example above, this is translated into the activation of the relevant networks of both actors (respective circles of friends and like-minded people) into a defense based largely on personal loyalty and affinity. It is not relevant whether it is a conscious strategy or not as it is an almost automatic process. But it was clear that many people were not expressing solidarity or attacking on the basis of the ideas that were supposed to be at the core of the debate, but rather because of their personal relation with the two main actors of the discussion.</p><p>The brevity and the immediacy of a Facebook post or a tweet facilitate misinterpretations and misunderstandings, so that many people are pushed even further to take position on the basis of their sympathies rather than on their knowledge about the topic at discussion. When some longer and less emotional clarifications came, it was already too late, as the machine of comments and insults was already at its peak and the debate was framed only along a “with” or “against” dynamic.</p><p>This tendency towards a polarisation of the debate is further reinforced by the clustering dynamics of social networks creating echo-chambers of like-minded individuals largely isolated from other groups. Networks can give us the illusion that we can reach anyone, but we almost always end up reaching the same people with the same convictions. Networks almost never converge into a more heterogeneous movement, because the investment to articulate this process needs other forms of dialogue and organization. It is quite relevant, for example, that the debate around the specific case we are considering here was often divided into two different spheres: one in Arabic, and one in English.</p><p>In other words, pro-feminist networks on Facebook or Twitter will meet many difficulties in reaching (and convincing) people who think in a different way. Worse still, when one always frequents people who have the same cultural background, one forgets what is needed to communicate with people who do not share crucial elements of that background.</p><p>Another problem is the evasiveness and immediacy of the responses and tools at the disposal of such networks: likes, comments, shares, expressions of solidarity etc. can only sustain attacks on opponents or express solidarity but for a brief moment. After which the actor at the center of the storm is left isolated to deal with the aftermath of what could only be a traumatic episode. The brevity and immediacy with which these tools are used privilege again the emotional short-term response and leaves no room for reflection or organising. It solidifies the in-group but without the mechanisms to produce viable alternative discourses, and cross sectional collaborations and solidarities; it thus leaves both groups even more vulnerable to future challenges.</p><p>The political scientist Jodi Dean in her book “Crowds and Party” makes this point very clearly: being part of a collective (like a party or any other structured organization) is also an affective matter. Having a collective around provides one with a shield when crowds (virtual or not) dissipate and disappear. Expressions of solidarity (likes, tweets, etc.) on social media do not provide this shield and leave the individual activist alone to fight the consequences (accusations, insults, acts of “betrayal”). In this context, the psychological pressure and feeling of isolation may be very difficult to bear. Solidarity on social media can alleviate it, but not resolve it.</p><p>All these factors should be considered when we engage in complex and relevant debates relying on social media as a privileged medium. To be aware of such consequences is particularly relevant for Syrians, given the prominence that these platforms acquired to discuss and connect people geographically dispersed and often still lacking stronger forms of collective organizations.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson</p><p>Alternatives are always available, but they require another, often less visible, collective labour: collective statements and organized media campaigns; engaging of existing actors to negotiate with them before going public; more centralized and stable networks; and, of course, the establishment of more structured organization. In all these cases, the use of social media comes after a patient collective organizing, and should not be the first step.</p><p>Changing the ways we communicate with each other is of utmost importance if we consider the weak and fragmented character of Syrian secular opposition circles nowadays. Such a reflection inevitably involves the leading voices articulating these important issues (gender, class, among others) to take their responsibility in elaborating their positions and points of difference and to seek viable alliances and wider solidarity networks.</p><p>These issues, if debated and articulated collectively, offer invaluable opportunities to articulate new subjectivities and political blocs. The patriarchal culture, often hidden and denied, among many Syrian opposition circles is a reality. In order to change that reality, among many others, other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/zaina-erhaim/battle-between-syrian-secular-activists-and-feminists-we-all-los">The battle between Syrian secular activists and feminists: we all lose</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Enrico-de-angelis-yazan-badran/syria-social-media-communication">الجماهير والفرد: إعادة النظر في كيفية مناقشة القضايا المعقدة على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia digitaLiberties North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Democracy and government Internet social media communication Yazan Badran Enrico De Angelis Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:52:23 +0000 Enrico De Angelis and Yazan Badran 115674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future https://www.opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><ins datetime="2018-01-13T12:10" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins><ins datetime="2018-01-13T12:10" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins>"Instead of talking about the Greek debt and its creditors and the European Central Bank, we decided that a people-to-people message could be much more effective to lift up their spirits."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0258_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0258_preview.jpeg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emma Aviles, second from left, in Team Syntegrity discussion, Barcelona, June 2017. Cameron Thibos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (R.): Hi Emma, we are hoping to talk to you about a combination of themes discussed at the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a> last June in Barcelona; on media and communications and on reinventing politics. I think for you, these two go pretty well hand in hand?</em></p> <p><strong>Emma Aviles (E)</strong>: Since June, I have been in contact with Ash and Richard, and also with Cecilia Milesi, your independent evaluator, but not with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">the others</a> most closely involved in those two discussions. We all have quite crazy agendas, I think, and it was good work just to get us all together there! </p> <p><em>R: I don’t know if you remember how I first encountered your work – but it was via a video interview that you did on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical Municipalism</a> with Sunny Hundal at ‘Fearless Cities’ when you were describing the people-to-people communications that had taken place during the EU crisis over Greece. You talked a lot about ‘We’ in describing that act of solidarity and I wanted to find out more about what exactly that category is for you?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> I come from the Spanish 15M movement. I am a new generation activist who feels deeply embedded into what Manuel Castells called ‘the networked society’. When I speak about a ‘we’ it is a much wider ‘we’ that I identify with, it is a ‘we’ in society that shares some common practices and exchanges ideas knowledge, and ways of mobilising.</p> <p>To be more specific this ‘we’ during the crisis would have been the 15M movement in Spain, which I lived through in Barcelona, and more specifically the <a href="http://auditoriaciudadana.net/">Citizen Debt Audit Platform (PACD)</a> which was set up as a citizen-led platform that actually extended throughout the whole country from 2012. The communication-solidarity moment you are talking about was a video we made to send a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPOUGIYzoj8">message</a> to the Greek people to show them how well we understood the situation they found themselves in, and that we knew that what was happening was not because they were ‘lazy Greeks’, but rather a scam imposed upon them by political and economic powers. We wanted to deliver a powerful and empowering message via that vehicle called ‘the emotions’ which we sometimes forget is more often the basis for politics than ‘facts’. <span class="mag-quote-center">We wanted to deliver a powerful and empowering message via that vehicle called ‘the emotions’ which we sometimes forget is more often the basis for politics than ‘facts’.</span></p> <p>Instead of talking about the Greek debt and its creditors and the European Central Bank, we just decided that a people-to-people message could be much more effective to lift up their spirits in those years of struggle. The video was made using our communications knowledge, strategy and dynamics, and it actually went hugely viral in Greece and all over the place, with newspapers calling us up and so forth!&nbsp; </p> <p>It really worked very well at the international level. We understood only too well that Europe is a terrain on which it is necessary to interact, but at the same time it is not easy to communicate across different languages and cultures. Emotional empowerment, we were right to think, is one of the better ways of doing this.</p> <p>But with regard to our home turf and the Spanish state, the whole of 15M was a big communications success, which of course in turn didn’t come out of the blue, but was rooted in past struggles. It was a very unique techno-political experience that has definitely changed how Spanish politics work – and its actors – and how people here understand the possibilities of a renewed democratic intervention.</p> <p><em>R: Was the rather sophisticated communication strategy around the independence referendum in Catalonia part of this newfound democratic literacy?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong>&nbsp; Yes. Definitely all these experiences are cumulative. Though what was different about the Catalan referendum process was that it also included strongly rural areas, and here we have a particular mixture of experiences that come from a long Catalan history of struggle and grass roots organising, and the tools used by 15M which you could see appearing in similar patterns of coordination and communication.&nbsp; The Catalan grassroots movements (CDRs) are just another example, if you like, of a distributed movement, which people who belong to an empowered and networked society have the ability to organise.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/redes.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/redes.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I don’t know how much detail got through on this internationally, but we had many different political actors mobilising their people in different ways. We had the big civil society groupings like Òmnium Cultural and La Asamblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) which organised their people as well. But then you also had the CDR’s – the committees in defence of the republic – which were self-organising groups of people in different locations who weren’t at all ‘commandeered’ by the political parties or the civil society groups. This was a big success, and the CDR’s in particular pushed the others on to do more than they otherwise would have done. Some people believe that Puigdemont left for Brussels because he realised that people were going to do whatever it took to defend their institutions and that this was completely out of their control. No-one could actually say don’t do this or that, because it was self-organised with people deciding themselves what they wanted to do. When the Catalan leadership realised this – they feared violence, and not wanting blood on their hands, they exited the stage. </p><p>This distributed organising we describe as ‘a beehive’ movement, when emerging systems and collective intelligence decide what happens without an actual top down or centralised coordination node. The Queen Bee doesn’t decide what happens: it is the bees who decide how many eggs she lays…</p> <p><em>R: Your emphasis on emotional literacy is very intriguing, since I know that you know a great deal about the facts around both debt, for example, and technopolitics.</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> There are lots of organisations of course around the world working on debt. In Europe, the emphasis was traditionally on the Global South. But since the economic crisis, there has been a shift to studying debt in the Global North – and especially the European periphery – and how we are living through phases similar in many ways to what Latin America suffered in the 1980’s. The International Citizens Audit Network (<a href="http://www.citizen-audit.net/">ICAN</a>) wanted to bring all these groups across Europe and campaign together. But the situations in each country are very specific and different, and after some years, and the pretence of ‘back to normality’, this collaboration has dropped in intensity.</p> <p>I used to be more of an environmental activist until I participated in the 15M movement, where I ended up learning all about the internet. 15M was a space where we learned a lot about everything. And that is also when I became very interested in debt. Our citizen movement against this scam they called a ‘crisis’ thought we must do something to intervene in the debtocracy mechanism, at a time when the big Bankia private bank (which used to be a public bank) collapsed due to the <a href="https://15mparato.wordpress.com/citizens-against-corruption/">criminal interventions of our politicians</a>, while we received in exchange a European bail-out accompanied by austerity measures, losing our universal healthcare, cuts in education and so on. &nbsp;This generation of activists believes that the mastering of tools and practices, and ‘getting things done’ is fundamental, to push us further forward than what is achieved just by resistance or with advocacy. <span class="mag-quote-center">This generation of activists believes that the mastering of tools and practices, and ‘getting things done’ is fundamental.</span> </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Municipal-Recipes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Municipal-Recipes.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>So the result of that thinking was the launch of an initiative around a citizens’ debt audit. We had to demand a transparency of public data so that we could figure out for ourselves what they had done with our money, and collectively decide what part of the debt, while being legal, was nevertheless illegitimate. How we define ‘illegitimate debt’ is at the end of the day to be decided by us, the people, in a sovereign act of deliberation and consultation, as it is our money! </p> <p>Some of our people from this big, ongoing, collective process of the ‘citizens’ debt audit’ platform have gone into the key institutions and municipalities. One colleague is Deputy in the Spanish Parliament. In Madrid, the number two, Carlos Sanchez Mato, is a member of the platform and they are already starting up citizens’ audits in the various districts of Madrid: they are also auditing big private-public partnership construction initiatives like the ringroad around Madrid. Here in Barcelona there are lots of people in the city council from the platform as well, and they are going to publish all the economic data even though the city council of Barcelona is not indebted in the same way. Making this information transparent to the people is a very important step.</p> <p>All this was done in parallel with a strong communications strategy. We believe that is at the core for building many of these citizen tools, like <a href="https://twitter.com/15MpaRato">@15MpaRato</a> which I’m sure you and Alex know about, led by Xnet.</p> <p>These are all examples of how it is in our hands to make change happen, and that there are so many things we can do which can so empower people. The narratives that we build around these mechanisms of participation are vitally important because we are saying, “ It is we who have the solutions in our hands.” <span class="mag-quote-center">The narratives that we build around these mechanisms of participation are vitally important because we are saying, “ It is we who have the solutions in our hands.”</span></p> <p>As for techno-politics, my path was via Xnet’s project 15MpaRato. I got involved from the moment it launched and that was when I really got to know how it all worked in a much more detailed, in-depth way. For many years now I have been participating in Xnet, who are hard to beat in Spain and probably across Europe for their understanding of techno-politics, and how to communicate to build citizen power and collective action.</p> <p><em>R: So given your experience in this field, and all your points of comparison, what was your personal experience of the Team Syntegrity three-and-a-half-day event in Barcelona? </em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It was quite unique. Yes, we are used to events with facilitation, although the participative methodology we use in Spain is closer to those evolved in Latin America and those work well for us.</p> <p><em>R. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/cecilia-milesi/lessons-observations-team-syntegrity-barcelona-2017">Cecilia Milesi</a>, our independent evaluator, also recommended the Latin American approach, saying that she felt the need for a more focused, shared context, situating a specific change process within a sharply-defined socio-political or organisational ecosystem. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a>, by contrast begins with a ludicrously open, blue skies question, and a deliberate range of people …</em></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0147_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0147_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><strong>E.</strong> The part where we decided what themes we would spend our time on was interesting. They were of course gathered from our own concerns, but I felt more guidance could have been helpful in ensuring that we chose subjects more relevant for more of the people there. It was an interesting decision-making process though, how we arrived at those 12 themes. </p><p>At the time, the algorithm used to allocate which themes people were responsible for as discussants or critics seemed to me totally arbitrary, although of course it was working with our top preferences. And that was a real novelty. You really are leaving people to use their collective intelligence and figure things out for themselves. But some of the discussion-tables had such different points of view that they had to try and reconcile – I suppose the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/david-stefanoski-felix-weth-joan-pedro-cara-ana-simona-levi-ana-segovia/internet">internet discussion’</a> was one of those! Maybe a preparatory exchange could have paved the way for a more efficient encounter between those people. </p> <p>Having said that, for me one of the most interesting aspects of the Team Syntegrity dynamic was the way that ideas were transferred from person to person and group to group. We got to hear about things and participate in discussions that are not the usual focus in our lives, and that is a very enriching experience, not least because it helps you shape ideas about your own line of work in a different way. </p> <p>In many cases I believe this opened us up to creativity. When I saw how feminist issues travelled from one table to another and ended up creating this amazing experience in the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-weatherhead-richard-bartlett-ashish-ghadiali-david-mallery-rui-tavares/parenting-planet">parenting the planet</a>’ all-male discussion group, that seemed hugely valuable. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All-male discussion group on feminism/anti-patriarchy, Team Syntegrity, Barcelona 2017. </span></span></span>The 15M itself was an amazing experience in just this way – bringing many non-experts together, and many non-politicised people out of the blue, who then learned so much from others much more knowledgeable. If we don’t allow this kind of listening to happen, things are not going to move forward. When I participated in the <a href="https://nuitdebout.fr/">Nuit Debout</a> movement in France, one of the reasons why it collapsed was because the traditional ‘expert’ activists just didn’t have the patience to slow down and walk at the same pace as the less experienced participants. I have been in many situations where I know much more about one thing, but much less than them about many other scenarios. </p><p><em>R: It is asking a lot I know. But for the experts too, it is important, isn’t it, to learn how to convey your message effectively to people who think very differently from you… and to have some curiosity about the result.</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> We all have to find a balance between giving and taking! But there are situations where you just have to get up and leave if you feel you can’t afford the time, and one of the tensions that I saw in the internet group was a familiar clash of cultures that has become too time-consuming, between the new internet activists as I have been describing them, and traditional activists who are moving into the digital world, but without fully understanding it. </p> <p>By contrast, our discussion on media and communications was efficient and very comfortable and there was a real flow to the discussion between the other colleagues and myself. The work <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/phil-england/rebuilding-democracy-in-iceland-interview-with-birgitta-jonsdottir">Birgitta</a> has done of course, has been very much connected to the sort of work we have done in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/xnet">Xnet</a> and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Party">X-Party</a>. I didn’t know her personally, but we have been following her work and I know she knows other people in my team. So that was an easy one because we knew we were on the same wavelength. With Agnieszka, who is more of a journalist, it was really interesting to hear her points of view and discover the many synergies between us despite our different backgrounds. But we were ready to listen to each other and suck up each others’ proposals, so it was quite a collaborative table, rather than a confrontational one. </p> <p>One of the reasons it was so easy for us for example to put together our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s-agnieszka-wi-niewska-birgitta-j-nsd-ttir-kate-farrell-wiebke-hansen/team-syntegrity-comm">slideshow of best practise</a> in media and communications at the Team Syntegrity, was because this was part of the existing knowledge arising from practises that everyone in our networked society generation is familiar with. For us it is something similar to the revolutionary technology of the era of the printing press. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is now a big divide between new wave digital activists and the older generation of the more traditional left in this regard. They see the internet as something to be used in a very basic way.</span></p> <p>And I do feel that there is now a big divide between new wave digital activists and the older generation of the more traditional left in this regard. They see the internet as something to be used in a very basic way. My experience in France in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/geoffrey-pleyers/nuit-debout-citizens-are-back-in-squares-in-paris">Nuit Debout</a> movement was that the traditional left regarded the internet as menacing or at best something of a liability. The new generation shares so many practises because we have been developing our struggles and communicate on this terrain and even if we don’t know each other when we come together to try and do something, it doesn’t take long for results to pop up! </p> <p><em>R: Is this because the traditional left assumes that the main direction of communication is going to remain, for example, one-to-many?</em></p> <p>E: Yes, the unidirectional way of communicating is part of this. But it is also the use of language and the fear of sharing our emotions because we might be mistaken for populists! – you know? So it goes much further than this. The preoccupation with unity of message and ‘staying on brand’ is also an issue. We have seen this with a lot of NGO’s. There is a study that has been recently published that has looked at movements and social organisations in the United States, and it seemed to me that they put their finger on the problem. Here it is, ‘<a href="https://sustainabilitynetwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NetChange-NetworkedChange-2016-1.pdf">Networked change: how progressive campaigns are won in the 21st century</a>.’</p> <p>But I’ll give you an example. #15MpaRato was a project launched by Xnet. But Xnet didn’t have their brand on it, because they wanted this device to be anonymous so that the people could appropriate it much more easily.&nbsp; If you want to mobilise, to make the best of the collective intelligence you can bring together, and encourage self-organising in a facilitated down-up environment, having your brand on it will probably be a barrier to success. </p> <p>Yet this is what we see both in political parties and traditional NGO’s: both cling to their branding. That makes it much more difficult to have a broader and more varied user-base than your immediate circle of supporters. You will always be setting up systems that say, ”this is me: that is you”. But if you create an environment that is not branded, it is much easier to unleash the dynamics where people actually step up to the plate, and make use of what is on offer for themselves, that is – appropriate it in some way. </p> <p><em>R: You mentioned meeting up with Richard Bartlett, one of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-bartlett/more-mouthy-male-feminists-please">key participants</a> in that ‘Parenting the planet’ group – how did that happen?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> We were invited to a meeting in Canada of about eighty activists from around North America, including coloured people, white people and natives. An Irish colleague working in techno-politics was organising an event, the ‘Web of Change’ and called me up to ask if I could recommend a list of international participants. I thought it would be interesting for him to invite Richard. It was, of course, fantastic to catch up with him again. And at that event, we did have the feeling that we continued working on the feminist/anti-patriarchal challenges we had begun to explore at the Team Syntegrity last June. What was generated around that discussion-table is part of a wider process that I know from Spanish social movements, but that Richard is also involved in, and one that made us accomplices in the Canadian event, where we managed to inject it once again into the proceedings! So this was a transformative experience.</p> <p>Ash Ghadiali, meanwhile, has been interested in the new communications strategies arising out of the 15M movement. I had told him about how important psychologists, sociologists, communicators and other experts were in helping us build our strategies, and he wanted to understand how this was orchestrated in more detail. Unfortunately, then the Catalan situation blew up, and I was sucked into that furore, so I couldn’t continue that exchange as I would have liked. </p> <p>It has been an absolute tsunami here!</p> <p><em>R: Well let’s talk about how communications for change work under such tsunami conditions. You spoke a lot in the Team Syntegrity about being able to talk to people from your heart and your guts, if you want to involve and engage them. This seems so different from the way that psychometric messaging, algorithms and filter bubbles work – all those tools that billionaires deploy who want to manipulate us via social media. So what is the alternative direction we need to go in? </em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It is really amazing, for those of us who were active in 15M, just to observe how the mega-rich and powerful are deploying the same practises and tools &nbsp;– the bubbles and the messaging – that we have been evolving since 2011. But of course the message they want to convey is completely different. Moreover they have been buying with a lot of money clickfarms and bots to do this work for them, whereas our bots are real people, and lots of them! </p> <p>It’s really interesting though, because there are some strong parallels in the way they are working. In particular, they also are communicating from their guts!&nbsp; That is why it works so well for them! Why then, aren’t the left using the same successful techniques? Take memes: we use these as the doors or windows with which to enter people’s consciousness, in order then to be able to develop a more complex and differentiated message. But we need those entry points, to touch down on people’s culture and their emotions. So we must ask ourselves, how can we use our language and build our messages in order to reach people, as well as of course mastering the tools and practises, and at the same time acquire the numbers of people it will take to viralise, or to break down algorithms.</p> <p>Of course the digital world is just another layer of reality. The physical world also exists and what those who really want to bring about transformative change can add to the memes and the messaging, which are the sparks that light the touch paper, is all the different ways in which collective intelligence can apply itself to doing things together: everything from meeting up for a collective social catharsis which celebrates not being alone, to formulating proposals for action. These things must work hand in hand.</p> <p>For example, in France some fellow activists called us up and invited us to come and help them build a communication device, for many of us could sense that something was about to happen. So we arrived in Paris three weeks before March 31, to help them prepare. The original call came from the coalition ‘Convergence des Luttes’ – the coming together of struggles! And the slogan to accompany this was, “We will frighten the powers that be!”, supposedly with this “convergence”… We had to say that this wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t appeal to citizens who weren’t already politically involved, and it was a priority to build a stronger movement around the small number of people involved at that stage.</p> <p>So we built the communication around one of their slogans: ’Nuit Debout’ – “night standing” – which had no recognisable political connotation at all, and its narrative was built from hope, from the emotions, not from confrontation, telling people simply to come out on the streets, so that they could find themselves and realise that they were not alone. And that worked. Because the analysis was spot on. Here we had a society which was going through the shock-doctrine having lived through the state of emergency, all the state repression and arrests during Cop21, and everything else they had been through. People were feeling isolated and not at all connected with each other. So the objective, through our strategy, <em>was</em> to bring them physically together in a space where they could start seeing each other, talking with each other and learning from each other and start building together from there. </p> <p><em>R: I take your point. And how important was it to the effectiveness of what was achieved, that it was rather different kinds of people who were brought together…?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> The big problem was that once all those people had answered that call and were ‘there’, the traditional activists who had initiated the action started to get very impatient with what they referred to as “these politically immature people”! They were finding the assemblies that gathered for discussion boring, and they started wanting to take control over them. There were people out there on the square from many different worlds. But the <a href="https://paris-luttes.info/reponse-du-mouvement-du-15m-a-la-6197?lang=fr">sad thing</a> was that when <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet">the collision came</a>, it was between all those worlds and the traditional left ‘leaders’. </p> <p><em>R: Having come out under their own steam and for their own reasons, they didn’t like being pushed around. That's important isn’t it?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> Yes, that was it. And it was a very sad moment, because if an exchange of knowledge had been allowed to take its course in all that diversity, maybe something quite different would have emerged. I had learned that lesson not so long ago here in <em>Plaça</em><em> </em><em>Catalunya</em> in Barcelona!</p> <p><em>R: You mean in 15M – tell me more. &nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> One of the things that happened was that it took just two people, people who are known to the existing anarchist liberatarian movements, to convince the others that they should be there in the square with all the new people who were suddenly involved. The first knee-jerk reaction of the seasoned activists in Barcelona was, “Don’t go there. Let’s not get involved. We don’t know who these people are. There could be all sorts of infiltrations, given how immature these people are…” and so on. But these two held their ground and said, “ No, our historical role is to be there with the people and share ideas with them!” And many did it in a way which was not top-down and not manipulative, so it really produced results. <span class="mag-quote-center">But these two held their ground and said, “ No, our historical role is to be there with the people and share ideas with them!”</span></p> <p>A similar process which really worked well for the whole country, was that there was this network of facilitators who were already online sharing their practises and work issues. When the squares filled up, one of the girls who belonged sent an e-mail to the entire network all over the country, saying, “ It’s our duty to be out there helping in the facilitation of the people in the squares.” So we had hundreds of people disembarking into these squares packed with people from all over, trying to deal with assemblies of thousands of people, and actually achieving this! So you see what can happen if you have close coordination between these two layers, the digital and the physical space. We were able to connect up what was going on in the different squares, and that was how we were able to arrive at the experience of being the 15M. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/plaza-catalunya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/plaza-catalunya.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15M in Plaza Catalunya.</span></span></span><em>R: Now we have yet another stand-off between the Catalan independentists and the Spanish state, with seemingly no opportunity to talk across the divides, and no help at all from the supra-national level of the European Union – do you think citizens can use any of these communication processes to break down this polarisation?</em></p> <p>E: First of all, it is very important to say that there are many many different layers of independentism in Catalonia. There is the conservative élite. There are the organised associations of civil society – ANC and <em>Òmnium</em> Cultural – which will have nothing to do with anyone linked to the CUP, for example. Beyond this there is a complex constellation of political actors who sometimes combine and sometimes confront each other. <a href="http://cup.cat/">La CUP</a> [the Popular Unity Candidacy (<a title="Catalan language" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_language">Catalan</a>: <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Unity_Candidacy">Candidatura d'Unitat Popular</a>, CUP</em>), for example, is confronted by many political parties who also stand for independence. <span class="mag-quote-center">There are many many different layers of independentism in Catalonia…&nbsp; Beyond this there is a complex constellation of political actors who sometimes combine and sometimes confront each other.</span></p> <p>Then you find many who feel in the middle between people who don’t want independence and those who do. These people want neither black nor white, neither yes nor no. The palette of colours here is wide and completely invisibilised! </p> <p>For example, the independentists I am closest to are not committed to independence as a neat solution to all our problems, per se. No, but they see it as an important point of rupture with the political status quo. The truth is that the old Spain who won the civil war is still there in this Spanish Government. And we, the ones who lost, are still under their rule 40 years later. So how will we break free from this? It is probably not through the kind of negotiations that happened throughout the transition period. This just extended the problem for all those decades. But, for them, this is where rupture comes in: this could be one of the things that jolts us into revising our entire political system and democratic processes, enabling people to rewrite our constitution, and to rethink and rebuild whatever it is we want to design together. We would have a chance to decide what that should be. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the political experience of the invisibilised middle ground is completely unfair. For them, there is no political representation and no media coverage. It is true that Catalunya en Comu does try to represent this middle position, but the path of ‘equidistance’ doesn’t offer a political rupture point either. So a lot of people in the middle ground find themselves moving towards the independence position, since they too are searching for a way of exposing the nature of the Spanish state as they have experienced it to wider public scrutiny, and they are also seeking change.</p> <p>October 1 was amazing. I participated in a project instigated by various movements in the city, under the heading of <a href="https://agenciauo.org/">AgencyUO</a>. One hundred communications activists who work in various collectives came together to create a media centre that could cover the events of October 1 by our own means and using our own narratives.</p> <p>I was doing the morning shift and my job was to monitor what was happening on twitter, to pick out important developments to focus on and send our people there, because we were broadcasting on various channels: we had radio, tv, a web, social networks, streamers and Telegram groups. </p> <p>October 1 was organised in such a way that older people and young people were encouraged to go and vote in the morning, because if violence occurred, it was expected later on in the day. But the police decided to crack down at 10.30 in the morning, when the old people were voting, and when we saw this, this actually launched many of the people who were caught in the middle out to vote ‘yes’ in the afternoon.</p> <p>So here we have it: this complex situation in which as citizens we find ourselves in the middle of battles between polarised political interests. I did vote ‘yes’ but I am not an independentist. At the same time I have no trouble interacting with them. We have different ideas, but I have no problem with that. We belong to the same community. At the same time of course you have the nationalists and fascists who want independence, and we keep our distance from them, for sure. But the majority of the people who are in the middle and are voting ‘yes’ went into those schools to vote, voting different ways and thinking different things, but happy to be in this together and to be making this possible. </p> <p>Because, October 1 was only made possible by the people.&nbsp; There was a very precise moment when the government lost control over what was happening once the violence started, and it was the people who throughout that whole day, held the electoral process and the gathering of votes together. After finishing my shift in the media centre, I went to vote in a working class area nearby, and when I walked into the school what did I see? Older people, young people, people looking after the ballot boxes but also playing dominoes, providing food or childcare and play activities for the kids, a policeman who had been given flowers – it was civil society that was holding the ring. We saw what people were able to do together on that day. That is one of the most important factors, helping people to believe there is as a way forward. <span class="mag-quote-center">We saw what people were able to do together on that day. That is one of the most important factors, helping people to believe there is a way forward.</span></p> <p>Then at night, I went back to my village about 40 kilometres outside Barcelona, when the counting of the votes was happening at the end of the day. I found farmers with their trucks and other vehicles out blocking the roads, because the police were expected to arrive and take the ballot boxes away from us. The people were guarding the city council where the counting was going on. This was a transformative experience for many millions of people in Catalonia, 2.2 million of whom voted on that day.</p> <p>Now people are feeling a little blue about things, because with Article 155 imposing direct rule on Catalonia, it seems as if the Spanish Government has ‘won’ yet again. But we are in a standby situation in these days running up to the elections of December 21, and we will see what the outcome is. The citizens’ assemblies are still going on, and people keep organising. We have no idea. But people do know that they can believe in each other, and that they have each other, and they have seen the power of what we can do together, and the synapses between the different groups and movements allow us to quickly intercommunicate and organise. So, who knows…? <span class="mag-quote-center">The synapses between the different groups and movements allow us to quickly intercommunicate and organise. So, who knows…?</span></p> <p><em>R: This must also impact on your sense of priorities as a media activist?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It’s interesting. We have been helping activist groups in the city and around Spain to improve their knowhow, especially in creating a decent security environment for them to work in, because we know that there has been surveillance and also interference at different levels. We expect, following the December 21 elections, that there will be a legal crackdown on people who were active on October 1. They are using legality as their execution block.</p> <p>I know Barcelona en Comu are preparing tools for ‘citizen participation’, and that they are working on different ways of opening up governance for the people, so that people can be the ones who put forward their proposals and demand new laws. Of course, this is what we wanted them to go into parliamentary politics for – to open the institutions up to the people, so that their processes became transparent and the politicians themselves were seen not as rulers, but as public workers. But I understand the constraints and contradictions. Walking into that machinery of power must be difficult, and making real deep change quite a considerable challenge. </p> <p>Many of my activist colleagues are feeling quite let down by all the things that haven’t been happening, and we aren't very happy with the latest coalition with the left and the greens here in Catalonia, because they act as a big power bloc internally and coopt “Los Comunes” in an ‘old politics’ sort of way. There is a lot of internal tension. They know how to play the political game, top down, using the old techniques, so the new proposals for ‘Catalonia en Comu’ evoke a certain weariness. </p> <p>As an activist with experience in working in different countries, I think it is very important to have this wider debate and information around municipalism and its networks in different countries across Europe and beyond. But one thing that is missing from this debate so far, is an understanding of why radical municipalism and people power has caught on here in Spain in a way which has been so powerful. For me, what we need to understand is the movement-building and what active citizens were able to create – in short, what came before. It was the creation of a mass of politicised citizens that was the essential phase, previous to launching a set of municipal initiatives. And this should be one of the first aspects of this new politics that we should discuss in depth. And then build.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15m-mutaciones.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15m-mutaciones.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15M network.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fearless cities: how municipal governments are challenging right-wing governments, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjOFgTbvXXs">15 min.video</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical municipalism: demanding the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/repression-and-digital-resistance-in-catalanreferendum">Repression and digital resistance in the #CATALANREFERENDUM</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/how-to-preserve-fundamental-rights-on-internet-guide">How to preserve fundamental rights on the internet: a guide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/catalonian-lessons-civil-society-has-something-to-offer-on-gaming-tab">Catalonian lessons: civil society has something to offer on the gaming tables of governance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet">An open letter to #NuitDebout from the Indignados’ districts of the internet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/emeka-forbes/how-technology-powered-catalan-referendum">How technology powered the Catalan referendum </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kate-shea-baird/new-international-municipalist-movement-is-on-rise-from-small-vic">A new international municipalist movement is on the rise – from small victories to global alternatives</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/kate-shea-baird/how-to-build-movement-party-lessons-from-rosario-s-future-city">How to build a movement-party: lessons from Rosario’s Future City</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ada-colau/first-we-take-barcelona">First we take Barcelona...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill">Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Emma Avilés Sat, 13 Jan 2018 14:17:29 +0000 Emma Avilés and Rosemary Bechler 115632 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Milo Yiannopoulos, product of the crisis of post-modern politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/bal-zs-b-cskei-bal-zs-bark-czi/milo-yiannopoulos-product-of-crisis-of-post-modern-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A troll who might as well be the new prototype of the 21st-century politician, what Milo does to us is what we have done to the world. Therein lies the challenge.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012210.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012210.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters clash during a demonstration outside Milo Yiannopoulos' sold out show at the Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne, Monday, December 4, 2017. Erik Anderson/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Can a non-ideological right exist? Is there such a thing as rebellious conservativism? Can being a member of a sexual minority be used as a shield to hold in front of you when you attack the forts of (supposedly) traditional left/liberal political correctness? These are the questions we should ask in relation to the quasi-invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos, a celebrated star of the Trump (online) subculture and a figure almost completely unknown in Hungary, to a <a href="https://index.hu/kulfold/2017/12/31/nem_a_kormany_schmidt_mariaek_hivtak_meg_milot/">conference organized by the Hungarian government</a>. </p> <p>Typically, in the current reality of Hungarian politics however, we tend to respond to such crisis identities and crisis-political products of (post-)modernism as those of Milo by hysterically stigmatizing the phenomenon as far-rightism. <a href="http://nadas.irolap.hu/hu/nadas-peter-richard-swartz-parbeszed">To quote the dialogue of Péter Nádas and Richard Swartz</a>: "Verdicts appearing in the clothing of finality are valid for one day only (...). They are final verdicts based on the prejudices derived from contemporary taste."</p> <p>Let us examine why Milo should be considered more than just a "far right" provocateur, and why he may instead be a product of the crisis of postmodern politics. </p> <p>Starting his career as a tech journalist and gaining dubious fame for his extreme acts and statements, and actually becoming a real opinion shaper as communication between such individuals and the public became increasingly privatized, Milo reduced public political discourse to the language of social media, thus becoming the face of an "alt-right" that concurrently denies the validity of ideologies, is anti-elite and xenophobic as well as heavily reliant on the fear of postmodern identity-driven politics. He is the face of a right the political essence of which may perhaps be most validly described as ‘troll politics’.</p> <h2><strong>Systematic upsetting</strong></h2> <p>Earlier on, a significant part of Milo's activities was that he went to anti-Trump rallies with his camera during the presidential election campaign, and while the participants of these events were demonstrating for peace, solidarity, and compassion under the flag of a tolerant America, they often reacted arrogantly and violently in Milo's videos. This was the way the Trumpist online network was able to "deconstruct" the self-image of Democrat supporters. Shared at an exponential rate within minutes, these videos, albeit aired with less significant viewership compared to the total American population, managed to reach where they needed to (and even farther), via the new online marketing tools. </p> <p>So the point of these actions was to quickly and widely "deconstruct" or undermine the image that the democrats attempted to convey about themselves. Recording the scene with his mobile phone, Milo accosted democratic protesters who gradually lost their "political temper" to the point when one particular demonstrator began to pound Yiannopoulos with a "Peace" sign, while Milo was broadcasting the whole thing live on Facebook, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. </p> <h2><strong>Bubbles</strong></h2> <p>This kind of "systematic upsetting" could not have worked so well in the time of the slow-response print media. The camera crews of major networks were sometimes unable to cover demonstrations in the era before online media dominance but the appearance and widespread use of (smart) phones has even rendered them unnecessary. Due to the new technology, opinion narration is privatized and the impact of the New York Times opinion column is less significant in the era of visual images (used as [counter-]evidence). We are stepping from one media bubble to another, finding ourselves in the narrative quarantines of meta-realities of whose real or supposed impact we don't really have any idea. </p> <p>The context of the above is described by Péter Csigó as follows: "Collective speculation in financial markets has not been the sole case to manifest the systemic crisis of feedback (or “responsivity”) mechanisms in late modern society. Similarly to financial investors, today’s political actors are also immersed in a self-referential speculative game, a “bubble” that retreats from reality and follows its self-justifying inner logic. While finance actors speculate collectively on financial asset prices and on to what extent these prices faithfully represent underlying “fundamental” processes, the system of “mediatized populist democracy” nurtures a collective speculation about “the people” and “the popular.” </p> <p>Politicians, experts, and observers commonly speculate on how to win the “popularity contest” of politics, how to win the hearts and minds of their popular media-using constituencies. However, this speculative process has detached itself from the real trends of public opinion formation – and it has betrayed the “fundamentals” of the political field just as has been the case with financial bubbles and the real economy." </p> <p>So mediatized democracy struggles with structural feedback and responsivity defects, which then exaggerate the perception of events, individuals and scandals, and the "impact" of which is further intensified by the reactions of a critical public. </p> <p>This is how Milo, who is not simply a troll but the product of the crisis of mediatized politics and the consequence of the disintegration of self-evidence, becomes well-known, popular and even a point of reference. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012457.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34012457.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos clash with left-wing protesters in Lilyfield, Sydney, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Danny Casey. Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Soft-censorship</strong></h2> <p>On the other hand, if you really look into it, the aura of this product of political crisis is not very far-removed from the political technology of contemporary leaders considered as right-wing populists. The primary goal of this political activity is not to promote the common good but to maintain a grip on power by occupying and monopolizing certain sectors (media, entertainment, etc.) and transferring them into the hands of the business elite collaborating with the holders of power, so that the thus "captured" state can manipulate the public through soft censorship. </p> <p>Despite the many differences (that are equally important but not emphasized here), the above political technology seems to work in such countries as Russia, Hungary, Turkey and the United States. The intensity and grade of organized resistance to it depends on the individual features of the given region. </p> <p>However, this is not the only area where the radical innovation of an alternative and populist right manifests itself. It is also demonstrated in understanding the negative effects of postmodern politics. Liberalized by the new leftist movements of the 1960s, the left lulled itself into the illusion that the working class and their attendant social groups had disappeared. The postmodernism of the 1990s basked in the un-narratibility of the world (including the <em>ego</em>) and the diffusion of values (and the <em>ego</em>). </p> <p>At the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the (neo)liberals of the post-bipolar world were celebrating the onset of the eternal peace so desired and the multi-coloured democracy of identities as well as the conforming triumph of the market. In the meantime, the contemporary right attempted to modernize, while also preserving their original meaning, the ideas (nation, family, community) that formed the natural foundation of their political efforts. </p> <p>These values were typically met with irony from progressives, who were using forms of&nbsp; political expression that were coming into line with the principles of marketing (i.e. politicians are to be advertised the same way as detergents) and making tabloidism a key device of political communication. At the time, they were right in thinking that they would be able to dominate the language of political postmodernism. However, that political thought relied on the indomitable nature of political correctness, that is, its applicability to all situations. But this failed to integrate the impulses and the sometimes extreme self-expressions of those at the bottom of the pile, who were thus ashamed of them and therefore suppressed them.</p> <p>These suppressions were liberated by the populist (pop-political) right. In its communication, it preserves the traditional ideas of political conservativism and blends them with the expressions of live speech imitating the language of social media, including its slang components. </p> <p>Power-oriented in its rhetoric, this passionate language is rooted in the sentiments of the oppressed. It is no longer just tabloidism: not only does it open its bedroom doors wide; it also exposes bedroom activities completely unveiled for the political consumer.</p> <p>In the context of "official politics", the Milos of the world are trolls. However, they don't care whether their statements correspond to the reality or the experience they identify reality with. Ignoring debates, they cause scandal and create chaos to force their way into the political discourse, click by click. They no longer want to defeat or surpass postmodern intellectual narratives. Instead, they want to make them their own, turn them upside down so that they could eventually hold them up to the progressive elite as a mocking glass. Ultimately, this ideology-deprived politics aims to sell itself as the natural addiction of the "people" and the amplifier of the voice of those at the bottom – which also sounds all too familiar in Hungary. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34007938_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34007938_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos speaks during an event at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Lukas Coch/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Seriously?</strong></h2> <p>Does Milo Yiannopoulos take himself seriously? He doesn't need to. Do Orbán's people take him seriously? They may, but probably just as much as they have realized that postmodern liberalism must be defeated using postmodernism as the "means", by creating chaos, upsetting or even ridiculing values and throwing around ideological inconsistencies. </p> <p>Milo Yiannopoulos heralds the era of a new politics. He is consciously spontaneous, innovatively conservative, a trend-setting extremist. A troll who might as well be the new prototype of the 21st-century politician. </p> <p>What Milo does to us is what we have done to the world.</p> <p>Therein lies the challenge.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/andries-du-toit/hyper-political-anti-politics">Hyper-political anti-politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/people-debate_36/article_328.jsp">Neither Jews nor Germans: where is liberalism taking us?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openindia/n-jayaram/india-at-70-bigotry-rules">India at 70: bigotry rules</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Australia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Australia EU United States Hungary Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Balázs Barkóczi Balázs Böcskei Wed, 10 Jan 2018 13:28:27 +0000 Balázs Böcskei and Balázs Barkóczi 115592 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let’s set the record straight on fake news, Mr President https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/let-s-set-record-straight-on-fake-news-mr-president <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An open letter and new year's message to President Emmanuel Macron from Paola Pietrandrea, member of the DiEM25 coordinating collective.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34315016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34315016.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>French President Emmanuel Macron presents his New Year wishes to the press at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on January 3, 2018. Blondet Eliot/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Mr. President,</p> <p>On January 4, you used your annual New Year’s speech to the press to express great concern about the circulation of fake news on the Internet.</p> <p>As a specialist in the field and a committed citizen, I can only thank you for having opened this crucial debate for the preservation of modern democracy.</p> <p>I must, however, ask you to clarify certain elements of your speech, to dispel some misunderstandings that it may have created and especially invite you to take into account in your reflection, some elements of the global context that promote the nuisance power of tendentious speech, propaganda and fake news.</p> <p>In your speech, you attribute the recent eruption of fake news in the media field to the following:</p> <blockquote><p>“By a fascination for an absolute horizontality, we considered that all words could indeed be equal and that their regulation was inevitably suspect as mere choice”.</p></blockquote> <p>adding:</p> <blockquote><p>“This is not the case, not all words are equal.”</p></blockquote> <p>Now, in the country which you represent, it is established since the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 that:</p> <blockquote><p>“The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen can therefore speak, write, print freely, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law…”</p></blockquote> <p>Let us dispel misunderstandings, Mr President, since, unfortunately, your speech lends itself to misinterpretation, and clarification seems necessary. Can you confirm that in speaking of the “fascination for absolute horizontality,” you are not referring to the principles that inspired the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen: and that by saying that all words are not equal, you do not mean to say, in the exercise of your functions, that all speakers do not have the same rights of free speech?</p> <p>As a democrat, I am obliged to teach my students that all words are equal, that all speakers have the same right to speak. However, I agree with you on one point: it is true that not all speeches are equal. Our democratic life is defined in its very essence by the exercise of a continuous discursive practice that allows citizens to collectively construct epistemic, moral and deontic judgments. It is, indeed, through speech, or rather through ‘speech acts’, that we manage to decide together what is true, what is right and what it is necessary to do. However, for the democratic process to be honest, correct and useful, the discourses that animate it must have an unavoidable characteristic: they must be falsifiable. A falsifiable discourse is a precise discourse, where referents are identifiable, where all the predications are openly supported by the speaker or attributed to clear sources, where all the argumentative relations are explicit. These characteristics, which relate public discourse to scientific discourse, allow discourses to be contradicted through argumentation – rather than authority – and to be overtaken, if need be. These two properties allow public debate to remain both healthy and lively.</p> <p>In this perspective, your opposition between the authority of the journalist and the unreliability of “any blogger” can sound simplistic.</p> <p>The authority of a speaker, Mr. President, does not derive from his social status, but from his effort to be honest.</p> <p>There are unofficial discourses constructed with all the responsibility demanded and official speeches that do not fulfil the conditions of acceptable speech in public debate; the evidence, Mr. President – I’m sorry to say – is in your very address to the press. Although official, your speech is not exempt from the typical vices of toxic discourse: you refer, for example, to “a strategy and a strategy financed” by “powers” in “certain illiberal democracies” as the source of the spread of fake news. By saying that, Mr President, you create alarm without taking responsibility. The object of your accusations being unclear, no one will ever falsify your speech, but you will achieve the effect of making us feel threatened.</p> <p>Another example from your speech: you say that the rise of fake news:</p> <blockquote><p>“Is very often used by powers that somehow take advantage of the weaknesses of democracy, its extreme openness, its inability to sort, to prioritize, to basically recognize a form of authority. ”</p></blockquote> <p>In saying that the extreme openness of democracy is a weakness, Mr President, you allow us to infer your intention to limit this openness, without however taking responsibility for what you said. The Democrats will not be able to accuse you of having made liberticidal remarks, but the pathway to liberticidal speech acts will have been opened.</p> <p>I do not take a position, Mr President, on the nature of the measures you have announced: others have done so by showing that <a href="http://www.liberation.fr/france/2018/01/04/fake-news-la-fausse-piste-de-macron_1620423"><strong>they add nothing to the existing legislation</strong></a>, that the very notion of ‘fake news’ is vague, ambiguous, and lacking in precise reference; and that therefore any prohibition on the dissemination of information based on the idea of fake news is <a href="https://www.codingrights.org/open-letter-from-latin-american-and-caribbean-civil-society-representatives-on-the-concerns-around-the-discourse-about-fake-news-and-elections/"><strong>incompatible with international standards</strong></a> defining the restriction of freedom of expression.</p> <p>However, I will allow myself a few general considerations: you open, by tackling this subject, a fundamental debate of our time, the debate on the government – or governance, as we have been saying for some time – of the digital revolution. This is a broad and complex debate about a radical change affecting our entire civilization, not just the manipulation of the electoral game that you have placed at the centre of your speech.</p> <p>As a citizen, I wonder if we can tackle this issue by continuing to ignore the fact that we have let the industry manage the digital revolution, that we have allowed the giants of the web to gain monopoly positions by feeding them citizens’ data that politics did not want to protect; that we do nothing against the filter bubbles that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth"><strong>manipulate and pervert public debate</strong></a> even more than the spread of fake news; that we allow digital businesses to dictate the selection, format, design, framework, and timing of information dissemination (whether false or true); that we have not been able to create the right conditions to rethink the education of young people and continuing education in the light of this revolution, leaving citizens bereft of any critical thinking or critical tools to meet the impact that this radical change has on their personal lives as on their public life.</p> <p>DiEM25, the movement to which I have the honour and the pleasure of belonging, confronts all these themes within the general framework of a reflection on the democratization of the economic, ecological, cultural and strategic foundations of our society. And we do it by adopting a participative democracy approach. We consider that in the effort to democratize the foundations of our society, an effort that you seem to support, all citizens must be involved in the public debate, not only because, as our fathers taught us, all words are equal, but because all the words, or better still, all the responsible words, are necessary to this end.</p> <p>DiEM25 is committed to marshal these words, Mr. President: I very much hope that you will be able to listen to us.</p> <p>In asking you to accept my New Year message, allow me to close by wishing you the opportunity our motto recalls, to “pick the moment” that makes you a true defender of democracy: Carpe DiEM, Mr. President.</p> <p>Paola Pietrandrea<br /> Linguist<br /> Member of <a href="https://diem25.org/cc/">DiEM25’s Coordinating Collective</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/natalie-fenton-des-freedman/media-and-twenty-first-century-fake-democracy">Media and twenty first century fake democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andries-du-toit/beyond-fact-checking-media-populism-and-post-truth-politics">Beyond fact-checking: the media, populism and post-truth politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitalliberties/truth-about-algorithms">The truth about algorithms</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Paola Pietrandrea DiEM25 Tue, 09 Jan 2018 14:03:29 +0000 Paola Pietrandrea 115574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/frank-pasquale/from-territorial-to-functional-sovereignty-case-of-amazon <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As digital firms move to displace more government roles over time, from room-letting to transportation to commerce, citizens will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF7HFQSpDQE">expanding</a>&nbsp;or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=pVyxCwAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA184&amp;lpg=PA184&amp;dq=%E2%80%9CThere+is+government+whenever+one+person+or+group+can+tell+others+what+they+must+do+and+when+those+others+have+to+obey+or+suffer+a+penalty.%E2%80%9D&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=lju7lKxAjZ&amp;sig=ZzZgKcuyYWU7nPY0B1LNZIIhIeY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi4mNqE4OvXAhWGSN8KHTg3At8Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&amp;q=%E2%80%9CThere%20is%20government%20whenever%20one%20person%20or%20group%20can%20tell%20others%20what%20they%20must%20do%20and%20when%20those%20others%20have%20to%20obey%20or%20suffer%20a%20penalty.%E2%80%9D&amp;f=false">stated</a>, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”</p><p>We are familiar with that power in&nbsp;<a href="http://iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2017_Fall_Pasquale.php">employer-employee relationships</a>, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise&nbsp;<em>juridical&nbsp;</em>power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as&nbsp;<a href="http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/frank-pasquale-will-amazon-take-over-world">massive digital platforms</a>&nbsp;exercise more power over our commercial lives.</p><p>A few weeks ago, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fesdc.org/about/friedrich-ebert-stiftung/">Friedrich Ebert Stiftung</a>&nbsp;(a think tank affiliated with the Social Democratic Party in Germany) invited me to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzOTuQ1sJbc">speak</a>&nbsp;at their&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fes.de/de/digitalcapitalism/">Conference on Digital Capitalism</a>. As European authorities develop long-term plans to address the rise of&nbsp;<a href="http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/frank-pasquale-will-amazon-take-over-world">powerful platforms</a>, they want to know: What is new, or particularly challenging, in digital capitalism?</p><p> <iframe allow="encrypted-media" gesture="media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/GzOTuQ1sJbc?rel=0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>My answer focused on the identity and aspirations of major digital firms. They are no longer market participants. Rather, in their fields, they are market makers, able to exert regulatory control over the terms on which others can sell goods and services. Moreover, they aspire to displace more government roles over time, replacing the logic of territorial sovereignty with functional sovereignty. In functional arenas from room-letting to transportation to commerce, persons will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.</p><p>For example: Who needs city housing regulators when AirBnB can use data-driven methods to effectively regulate room-letting, then house-letting, and eventually&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fastcodesign.com/3062246/an-exclusive-look-at-airbnbs-first-foray-into-urban-planning">urban planning</a>&nbsp;generally? Why not let Amazon have its own&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/19/georgia-mayor-wants-amazons-second-headquarters-in-town-named-amazon.html">jurisdiction</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://concurringopinions.com/archives/2010/07/in-the-venal-colony.html">charter city</a>, or establish&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-foxconn-wisconsin-law-20170920-story.html">special judicial procedures for Foxconn</a>? Some vanguardists of functional sovereignty believe online rating systems could replace state&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2881732">occupational licensure</a>—so rather than having government boards credential workers, a platform like LinkedIn could collect star ratings on them.</p><p>In this and later posts, I want to explain how this shift from territorial to functional sovereignty is creating a new digital political economy. Amazon’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/opinion/amazon-whole-foods-jeff-bezos.html">rise</a>&nbsp;is instructive. As Lina Khan&nbsp;<a href="https://www.yalelawjournal.org/note/amazons-antitrust-paradox">explains</a>, “the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it.” The “everything store” may seem like just another service in the economy—a virtual mall. But when a firm combines tens of millions of customers with a “marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house…a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space,” as Khan observes, it’s not just another shopping option.</p><p>Digital political economy helps us understand how platforms accumulate power. With online platforms, it’s not a&nbsp;<a href="http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1716&amp;context=ylpr">simple narrative</a>&nbsp;of “best service wins.” Network effects have been on the cyberlaw (and digital economics) agenda for over twenty years. Amazon’s dominance has exhibited how network effects can be self-reinforcing. The more merchants there are selling on (or to) Amazon, the better shoppers can be assured that they are searching all possible vendors. The more shoppers there are, the more vendors consider Amazon a “must-have” venue. As crowds build on either side of the platform, the middleman becomes ever more indispensable. Oh, sure, a new platform can enter the market—but until it gets access to the 480 million items Amazon sells (often at deep discounts), why should the median consumer defect to it? If I want garbage bags, do I really want to go over to Target.com to re-enter all my credit card details, create a new log-in, read the small print about shipping, and hope that this retailer can negotiate a better deal with Glad? Or do I, ala Sunstein, want a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/21/opinion/shopping-made-psychic.html">predictive shopping</a>&nbsp;purveyor that intimately knows my past purchase habits, with satisfaction just a click away?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/15733221648_0701343c03_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/15733221648_0701343c03_o.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amazon warehouses provide more goods than ever to consumers worldwide. Image: Scott Lewis, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p>As artificial intelligence improves, the tracking of shopping into the Amazon groove will tend to become ever more rational for both buyers and sellers. Like a path through a&nbsp;forest trod ever clearer of debris, it becomes the natural default. To examine just one of many centripetal forces sucking money, data, and commerce into online behemoths, play out game theoretically how the possibility of online conflict redounds in Amazon’s favor. If you have a problem with a merchant online, do you want to pursue it as a one-off buyer? Or as someone whose reputation has been established over dozens or hundreds of transactions—and someone who can credibly threaten to deny Amazon hundreds or thousands of dollars of revenue each year? The same goes for merchants: The more tribute they can pay to Amazon, the more likely they are to achieve visibility in search results and attention (and perhaps even favor) when disputes come up. What&nbsp;<a href="https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2012/12/feudal_sec.html">Bruce Schneier</a>&nbsp;said about security is increasingly true of commerce online: You want to be in the good graces of one of the neo-feudal giants who bring order to a lawless realm. Yet few hesitate to think about exactly how the digital lords might use their data advantages&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2828117">against</a>&nbsp;those they ostensibly protect.</p><p>Forward-thinking legal thinkers are helping us grasp these dynamics. For example, Rory van Loo has described the status of the “<a href="http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1491&amp;context=yjreg">corporation as courthouse</a>”—that is, when platforms like Amazon run dispute resolution schemes to settle conflicts between buyers and sellers. Van Loo describes both the efficiency gains that an Amazon settlement process might have over small claims court, and the potential pitfalls for consumers (such as opaque standards for deciding cases). I believe that, on top of such economic considerations, we may want to consider the political economic origins of e-commerce feudalism. For example, as consumer rights shrivel, it’s rational for buyers to turn to Amazon (rather than overwhelmed small claims courts) to press their case. The evisceration of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/the-death-of-the-class-action-lawsuit/">class actions</a>, the rise of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/business/dealbook/arbitration-everywhere-stacking-the-deck-of-justice.html">arbitration</a>, boilerplate&nbsp;<a href="https://press.princeton.edu/titles/9837.html">contracts</a>—all these make the judicial system an increasingly vestigial organ in consumer disputes. Individuals rationally turn to online giants for powers to impose order that libertarian legal doctrine&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/books/review/democracy-in-chains-nancy-maclean.html">stripped from the state</a>. And in so doing, they reinforce the very dynamics that led to the state’s etiolation in the first place.</p><p>This weakness has become something of a joke with Amazon’s recent decision to incite a bidding war for its second headquarters. Mayors have abjectly begged Amazon to locate jobs in their jurisdictions. As readers of Richard Thaler’s “<a href="https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/richard.thaler/research/pdf/the%20winner%27s%20curse.pdf">The Winner’s Curse</a>” might have predicted, the competitive dynamics have tempted far too many to offer far too much in the way of incentives. As journalist Danny Westneat recently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/this-city-hall-brought-to-you-by-amazon/">confirmed</a>,</p><p>Chicago has offered to let Amazon pocket $1.32 billion in income taxes paid by its own workers.</p><p>Fresno has a novel plan to give Amazon special authority over how the company’s taxes are spent.</p><p>Boston has offered to set up an “Amazon Task Force” of city employees working on the company’s behalf.</p><p>Stonecrest, Georgia even offered to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-stonecrest-georgia-rename-amazon-20171003-story.html">cannibalize itself</a>, to give Bezos the chance to become mayor of a 345 acre annex that would be known as “Amazon, Georgia.”</p><p>Note that these maneuvers–what Tracey Kaye calls “<a href="https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/20106/03-Kaye_Final.pdf;sequence=1">corporate seduction</a>” via tax and other incentives–are not new. But as they accelerate, they mark a faster&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Power-Inc-Business-Government-Reckoning/dp/0374533679">transfer of power</a>&nbsp;from state to corporate actors. The mayors are in a weakened position because their tax revenues are not high enough to support high quality municipal services, and now they’re succoring a corporate actor with a long history of&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=i_jyKcVbCw0C&amp;pg=PA87&amp;lpg=PA87&amp;dq=amazon+tax+holiday+1990s&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=LT8vz0eBod&amp;sig=W0dOjWP4jxI1tfYO7ZP0Z0cN0qM&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjEnuj2i9vXAhVGct8KHefaBRo4ChDoAQhCMAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=amazon%20tax%20holiday%201990s&amp;f=false">fighting</a>&nbsp;to push taxation&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/04/amazon-eu-tax-bill-luxembourg-deal.html">even lower</a>. Similarly, the more online buyers and sellers are relying on Amazon to do their bidding or settle their disputes, the less power they have relative to Amazon itself. They are less like arms-length transactors with the company, than they are like subjects of a despot, whose many roles include consumer and anti-fraud protection.</p><p>Even the federal government may soon&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674737730">privatize</a>&nbsp;critical procurement functions,&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/11/02/amazon-amendment-online-marketplaces/">relying</a>&nbsp;on Amazon’s giantism to extract deals that the Defense Department is itself unable to demand. Procurement premised on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/big-green-buy/">public purpose</a>&nbsp;could contribute to a&nbsp;<a href="https://b.3cdn.net/nefoundation/8f737ea195fe56db2f_xbm6ihwb1.pdf">Green New Deal</a>. When it is, instead, premised merely on the cheapest cost, it’s an open invitation to continue the same&nbsp;<a href="http://www.govexec.com/excellence/management-matters/2017/10/how-government-supported-forced-labor-undercutting-american-manufacturers/141739/">unethical sourcing</a>&nbsp;that has plagued so much government purchasing.</p><p>Solutions to Amazon’s power will, no doubt, be hard to advance as a political matter—consumers like 2-day deliveries. But understanding the bigger picture here is a first step. Political economy clarifies the stakes of Amazon’s increasing&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/@Michael_Spencer/wtf-is-amazon-future-of-tech-34802913dc9e">power</a>&nbsp;over commerce. We are not simply addressing dyadic transactions of individual consumers and merchants. Data access&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2612562">asymmetries</a>&nbsp;will disadvantage each of them (and advantage Amazon as the middleman) for years to come. Nor can we consider that power imbalance in isolation from the way Amazon pits cities against one another. Mastery of political dynamics is just as important to the firm’s success as any technical or business acumen. And only&nbsp;<a href="https://ilsr.org/amazon-stranglehold/">political organization</a>&nbsp;can stop its functional sovereignties from further undermining the territorial governance at the heart of democracy.</p><p><i><strong>"From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon"</strong> was originally published by <a href="https://lpeblog.org/2017/12/06/from-territorial-to-functional-sovereignty-the-case-of-amazon/">Law &amp; Political Economy</a>.</i></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Frank Pasquale Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:07:53 +0000 Frank Pasquale 115515 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The bigger battle to defend democracy online https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/will-wright/bigger-battle-to-defend-democracy-online <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With the big tech companies masters of the world’s new public square, it is vital they work to address anti-democratic manipulation of their platforms everywhere, not just in the United States.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/14964588967_efb6e9af83_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/14964588967_efb6e9af83_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="403" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mark Zuckerberg with Mexican President Peña Nieto in 2014. Flickr/Presidencia de la República Mexicana. CC-BY-2.0.</span></span></span>The recent focus on Russia-linked hacking and information operations aimed at the US presidential election has overshadowed another related and important story: governments around the globe are increasingly using these same new digital tactics domestically, often to great effect.</p><p dir="ltr">For the big technology companies to truly champion the “don’t be evil” values they strive to embody, it is vital that they also address the manipulation of their platforms by nondemocratic actors aiming to manage public opinion and repress political opposition in their own countries. The companies can best do this by listening to targeted activists, independent journalists, and other in-region experts who understand how platforms are being used (and abused) in different countries, and then harnessing their tremendous internal technical capacities and creativity to implement solutions.</p><p dir="ltr">A 2017 <a href="http://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/89/2017/07/Troops-Trolls-and-Troublemakers.pdf">paper</a> by Oxford Internet Institute researchers concluded that cyber troops are now a “pervasive and global phenomenon,” citing organized social media manipulation in at least 28 countries. Across these countries, they found that every authoritarian regime has run campaigns targeting their own populations, while only a few have also targeted foreign publics.</p><p dir="ltr">Freedom House researchers, in their 2017 Freedom on the Net <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2017">report</a>, identified 30 countries where “governments are employing armies of ‘opinion shapers’ to spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media.” For example, members of a special unit within the Sudanese state security service <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2017/sudan">created</a> fake accounts on Facebook and WhatsApp in order to promote government views and denounce critics within popular groups. In Mexico, an estimated 75,000 automated Twitter accounts known as “<a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/z4maww/how-mexican-twitter-bots-shut-down-dissent">Peñabots</a>” have worked to drown out criticism of President Enrique Peña Nieto by flooding popular antigovernment hashtags with spam and by artificially promoting alternative hashtags ahead of trending antigovernment ones on Twitter’s top-10 list.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">In Mexico, an estimated 75,000 automated Twitter accounts known as “Peñabots” have worked to drown out criticism of President Enrique Peña Nieto.</p><p dir="ltr">In most cases, the private companies that control today’s digital space can take meaningful steps to responsibly maintain their platforms as enablers of free expression and civic organization. When social-media fueled protests erupted in Syria in early 2011, bots run by a Bahraini company <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/apr/21/syria-twitter-spambots-pro-revolution">sprang to life</a> on Twitter to flood the #Syria hashtag with pro-regime messages as well as apolitical spam. In response to numerous complaints, Twitter simply restricted the spam to these accounts’ followers, effectively removing it from the feeds of the many citizens sharing news and organizing around the #Syria hashtag. However, despite the recent attention to the problem of automated and fake accounts working in an organized manner to manipulate public debate and opinion, this sprawling problem is still far from solved. An increased commitment to improving detection systems, and to actively removing accounts despite the effect this may have on a company’s all-important user metrics, is part of the answer.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Bad actors are also constantly evolving their techniques. A private firm in Poland <a href="https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/blog/computational-propaganda-in-poland-false-amplifiers-and-the-digital-public-sphere/">told</a> Oxford researcher Robert Gorwa that it has created more than 40,000 unique online identities with accounts across social media platforms. Clients can hire the firm to target Polish opinion leaders with messages in order to influence their understanding of the public’s position on key issues. Due to the difficulty of detecting such sophisticated tactics, companies would be wise to regularly offer independent journalists and researchers meaningful opportunities to raise concerns about how platforms are being used in their region. They are often aware of such activity and more than willing to flag it, when given the chance.</p><p dir="ltr">In Belarus, the Facebook account of an opposition leader organizing a “Freedom Day” demonstration last March was <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2017/belarus">hacked</a> and used to send out fake messages discouraging people from attending the demonstration. Google’s recently launched <a href="https://www.blog.google/topics/safety-security/googles-strongest-security-those-who-need-it-most/">Advanced Protection Program</a>, which offers several extra security protections for especially at-risk users like journalists or activists, is one example of how companies can help defend their services from politically-motivated exploitation.</p><p dir="ltr">Returning to the case of Russia, investigative journalists with RBC recently <a href="https://www.rbc.ru/magazine/2017/11/59e0c17d9a79470e05a9e6c1">published</a> new details on how the “USA desk” of the now infamous <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/magazine/the-agency.html">Internet Research Agency</a> swelled threefold in the summer of 2016 at the height of its activities around the US presidential election, reaching 80 to 90 salaried employees. Nonetheless, this still represented only about one-tenth of its entire staff. On the whole, the troll factory’s primary work has been posting comments under Russian news articles and across the Russian-language space of popular social media networks to support Kremlin policies and undermine its critics. For example, after Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot in Moscow in February 2015, employees were ordered to leave comments on news stories suggesting that the opposition itself had arranged the murder.</p><p dir="ltr">Pro-government forces in Russia, of which the Internet Research Agency is just one part, have launched a wide-ranging digital assault in recent years to undermine political expression and debate online at home, including by manipulating social platforms. In one example, the accounts of various popular Russian journalists on YouTube and Facebook have been <a href="https://www.change.org/p/facebook-stop-political-blocking-on-facebook">repeatedly suspended</a> after community violations were reported en masse to trick these platforms’ partially automated content moderation systems. Companies could address this issue by hiring more staff with relevant language skills and political and cultural knowledge to oversee automated moderation systems or by using a “whitelisting” strategy, in which users likely to be targeted for political reasons can apply to have their accounts marked for manual review before suspension.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Domestic online manipulation operations in Russia are almost certainly more impactful, and harmful to democracy there, than were&nbsp;clumsy Russia-linked efforts&nbsp;aimed at US voters.</p><p dir="ltr">While it is difficult to measure the ultimate political impact of online manipulation campaigns, many domestic operations in Russia are almost certainly more impactful, and harmful to democracy there, than were&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-recruited-youtubers-to-bash-racist-btch-hillary-clinton-over-rap-beats">clumsy Russia-linked efforts</a>&nbsp;aimed at US voters, such as the YouTube video bloggers claiming to be from Atlanta who ranted against Hillary Clinton but spoke in thick African accents and referred to LeBron James as the best “basket” player of the year. In general, it makes sense that trolls would operate more effectively on their home turf. This of course means that many of the most successful efforts by nondemocratic actors to manage public opinion and repress political opposition by manipulating digital platforms are taking place in far-flung corners of the world with which US companies are not as familiar.</p><p dir="ltr">The global reach and massive user base of key technology companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter can certainly make monitoring and countering abuse and exploitation of their online platforms and services a challenging and complicated task. With great power comes great responsibility, however, and now that the big tech companies have found themselves masters of the world’s new public square, it is vital that they continually work to address anti-democratic manipulation of their platforms everywhere, not just in the United States.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/will-wright/quiet-battle-for-control-of-internet">The quiet battle for control of the internet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/juan-ortiz-freuler/who-s-to-blame-internet-on-defendants-bench">Who’s to blame? The internet on the defendant&#039;s bench</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/jimmy-tidey/what-china-can-teach-west-about-digital-democracy">What China can teach the west about digital democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Will Wright Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:27:11 +0000 Will Wright 115199 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From #Resistance to #Reimagining governance: 6 shifts that can improve the way we solve public problems https://www.opendemocracy.net/stefaan-g-verhulst/from-resistance-to-reimagining-governance-6-shifts-that-can-improve-way-we-solve- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For change to be meaningful and positive, the question arises: What kind of government do we really want? One that moves us beyond <em>resistance,</em> to begin <em>rebuilding.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3@台大E論壇.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3@台大E論壇.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>v-Taiwan in action.</span></span></span>We live in turbulent times. Around the world, old certainties are in flux, being jettisoned by voters and protestors for new, often radically different ideas and institutions. This upheaval is evident in specific political events – the Arab Spring, the election of Trump, Brexit – but also in a more general distrust of conventional wisdom, élite authority, and technocratic control. </em></p> <p><em>At the same time, trust in government worldwide is at an all-time low. According to a recent <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2017/05/03/public-trust-in-government-1958-2017/">Pew survey</a>, only 20% of Americans say they trust the government always or most of the time. Other surveys indicate that faith in democracy as a form of government has fallen to recent lows in many western nations, including in the United States and Europe. </em></p> <p><em>These are just some of the many indications of a general lack of faith and confidence in established institutions, including government, the media, science, and the financial sector. We are living, as an article in the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-era-of-disbelief/2017/02/26/e4fa3786-faac-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.be209e2f7404">Washington Post</a> put it, in an “era of disbelief.”</em></p> <p><em>The upheaval generated by this disbelief seems to feed on itself. Action leads to reaction, and changes to political, economic or cultural sources of authority often lead to pushback and new forms of resistance. The growing meme of Resistance (#Resistance, to borrow the terminology of its adherents) has been particularly evident in the United States since the election of Donald Trump. But the sentiment is also evident in other parts of the world, notably Europe, where street protests and extremists often push past political norms and ideological boundaries – notably in Brexit and the rise of far-right parties across the continent (though Emmanuel Macron’s election in France suggests the continuing potential of counter-movements). Similarly, the Arab Spring emerged largely as a resistance movement, seeking to overthrow long-established rulers and systems of authority. </em></p> <p><em>There is no doubt that #Resistance (and its associated movements) holds genuine transformative potential. But for the change it brings to be meaningful (and positive), we need to ask the question: What kind of government do we really want? </em></p> <p><em>Working to maintain the status quo or simply returning to, for instance, a pre-Trump reality cannot provide for the change we need to counter the decline in trust, the rise of populism and the complex social, economic and cultural problems we face. We need a clear articulation of alternatives.&nbsp; Without such an articulation, there is a danger of a certain hollowness and dispersion of energies. The call for #Resistance requires a more concrete –and ultimately more productive – program that is concerned not just with rejecting or tearing down, but with building up new institutions and governance processes. What’s needed, in short, is not simply #Resistance.</em></p> <p><em>Below, I suggest six shifts that can help us reimagine governance for the twenty-first century. Several of these shifts are enabled by recent technological changes (e.g., the advent of big data, blockchain and collective intelligence) as well as other emerging methods such as design thinking, behavioral economics, and agile development. </em></p> <p><em>Some of the shifts I suggest have been experimented with, but they have often been developed in an ad hoc manner without a full understanding of how they could make a more systemic impact. Part of the purpose of this paper is to begin the process of a more systematic enquiry; the following amounts to a preliminary outline or blueprint for reimagined governance for the twenty-first century.</em></p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 18.15.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 18.15.44.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em></p><h2><strong>Shift 1: from gatekeeper to platform</strong></h2> <p>To begin assembling this blueprint, we first need to consider how the old model of government as a centralized gatekeeper of information and resources can be replaced by a more open model in which government serves as a platform to match distributed resources (supply) to distributed needs (demand). </p> <p>Our society faces increasingly complex and inter-dependent challenges – climate change, social inequality, terrorism, rapid and unplanned urbanization. This is the demand side of the equation. At the same time, on the supply side, technological advances have given us two new resources to address the challenges: data and an increasingly connected global population, which in turn leads to a more collective and distributed expertise. The opportunity is thus to unlock both the data that is being collected and tap into and connect the distributed expertise to provide innovative, inter-disciplinary, and cross-border or cross-agency solutions. <span class="mag-quote-center">On the supply side, technological advances have given us two new resources to address the challenges: data and an increasingly connected global population, which in turn leads to a more collective and distributed expertise.</span></p> <p>If we are to seize this opportunity, then we need to begin by moving beyond existing approaches to governance and information-sharing, where a centralized agency determines who (or what institution) should have access to what specific (often sector-specific) data. What’s required instead is a far more flexible, distributed platform that can match the supply and the demand of data. Such a system is far better equipped to efficiently channel information to those who can best use it. It is also more strategically placed to gather and collect expertise and insight from disparate and dispersed sources, for example using crowdsourced information and the collective intelligence of both data creators and users.</p> <p class="Normal1">Some examples of such “people centric platforms” do exist. They include, for instance, <a href="http://www.sermo.com/media/press-releases-view/94">SERMO</a>, a global social network that allows physicians to share expertise, evaluate patient prescriptions, and communicate with peers. Similarly, <a href="https://www.goodsamapp.org/">GoodSAM</a> in the UK or <a href="http://www.pulsepoint.org/">Pulsepoint</a> in the US are mobile applications that allow users to self-identify as CPR-trained in order to respond to cardiac emergencies in their area; both platforms demonstrating the potential for citizens to supplement government services, particularly emergency services. </p> <p>More than 100 examples are collected and analyzed in the GovLabs’ “<a href="http://datacollaboratives.org/">data collaboratives</a>” project, which seeks to identify innovative uses of private (often corporate) data to meet public challenges. For example, one notable data collaborative is a partnership between telecommunications company Safaricom and the Harvard School of Public Health, where Safaricom provides de-identified mobile phone data to researchers; they, in turn, map the incidence of malaria and the movement of people. All these examples point to the emergence of new models of public-private partnerships that, considered together, represent an important shift in governance practices and processes.</p> <h2><strong>Shift 2: from inward to user-and-problem orientation</strong></h2> <p>Too much government is currently focused on government itself: inwardly directed, aimed more at bureaucratic expediency than the needs of citizens. Government processes and institutions should be re-designed to focus on outcomes – to solve real problems faced by the public, and to address the needs of citizens rather than government officials. </p> <p>One way to facilitate this shift is to introduce more design thinking and other user-centric methods into government. Several government innovation labs (e.g., <a href="http://mind-lab.dk/en/">MindLab</a> in Denmark or <a href="https://www.marsdd.com/systems-change/mars-solutions-lab/">MaRS Solutions Lab</a> in Canada) have already begun this process. Early results are encouraging, but one key challenge they face is finding ways to scale practices so that there is a government-wide adoption of a user-centric mindset. <span class="mag-quote-center">One key challenge they face is finding ways to scale practices so that there is a government-wide adoption of a user-centric mindset. </span></p> <p>Moving to more user-centric forms of government also means striving for less complexity. Some examples of such initiatives include Portugal’s <a href="http://historico.simplex.gov.pt/downloads/whatissimplex.pdf">Simplex program</a>, which seeks to address the need for simplifying the Portuguese public sector and its service delivery; or the US’s “<a href="https://plainlanguage.gov/">plainlanguage</a>” initiative, which seeks to support the use of <a href="http://thegovlab.org/simplexity/">clear communication</a> in government writing. </p> <p>What’s essential in such approaches is to stop the steady and apparently inexorable creep toward more bureaucracy (attempted, for example, in Slovakia, with its <a href="http://www.stopbirokraciji.si/en/home/">Stop Bureaucracy</a> initiative). It is also important to become more sensitive to context, and to adopt design principles that focus on constant iteration and improvements so as to improve the responsiveness and accountability of government and its participants.</p> <h2><strong>Shift 3: from closed to open</strong></h2> <p>Openness should become a core principle of effective twenty-first century governance. The traditional closed, top-down model of government is not only anachronistic, but also increasingly ineffective in an era of open sourcing and crowdsourced innovation. Indeed, it is precisely this closed characteristic of governance – embodied in hierarchical, authoritative patterns and bureaucratic control&nbsp;– that the dispersed #Resistance movement is directed against. </p> <p>Opening-up government will not only make government more effective; it will also go a considerable way to overcoming the growing deficit of trust that today characterizes the relationship between citizens and the state. <span class="mag-quote-center">Opening-up government will not only make government more effective; it will also go a considerable way to overcoming the growing deficit of trust.</span></p> <p>In practice, becoming more open means, at a minimum, opening up government data, and using open innovation methods to solicit input and ideas from a broader base. The Obama administration’s move to increase access to government data (in particular its launch of the data.gov site) has played a large part in increasing the global visibility and the legitimacy of the concept of open governance. &nbsp;</p> <p>Around the world, in both developed and developing countries, governments have created or are considering creating open data programs and portals. As evidenced by <a href="http://odimpact.org/">research</a> conducted by the GovLab (supported by Omidyar Network), open data projects are playing an increasingly important role in economic and social development, spurring progress in areas as varied as healthcare, education, banking, agriculture, climate change and innovation. </p> <p>Similarly, several governments have started to experiment with open mechanisms, including prizes and challenges, to encourage and incentivize innovation in governance. Such efforts include the White House’s <a href="https://www.challenge.gov/about/">Challenge.gov</a> platform, where more than 740 challenges from more than 100 agencies across federal government have been launched since its creation in 2010. These efforts remain fledgling – though promising – and <a href="https://medium.com/@sverhulst/governing-through-prizes-and-challenges-677f3ef861d1">more research</a> is required to increase our understanding of whether, and under what conditions, they can really lead to lasting, sustainable shifts in governance paradigms. &nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Shift 4: from deliberation to collaboration and co-creation</strong></h2> <p>Traditionally, citizen engagement has been focused on deliberation or enabling citizens to “air their voice.” Yet people don’t just possess voices; they also possess expertise that can be used to co-create solutions. Citizen expertise comes in a range of flavors – from interests and experiences to skills and credentialed knowledge. All of these are potentially valuable for governments to engage with and harness when attempting to solve problems. <span class="mag-quote-center">People don’t just possess voices; they also possess expertise that can be used to co-create solutions.</span></p> <p>Expertise in the twenty-first century has several distinctive characteristics. For one thing, it is fundamentally dispersed and fragmented – spread across disciplines, geographies and other boundaries. This fragmentation is a result both of new technologies, which spread insights more widely, and the increasing complexity of public problems, which calls for a great mix of disciplines and perspectives. </p> <p>Given these characteristics, it naturally follows that effective solutions can only result from greater inter-connectivity – i.e., bringing together people’s dispersed expertise to create more collaborative forms of governance. Crowdsourcing is one powerful example: it allows disparate actors, many of whom have traditionally been excluded from the processes of governance, to share knowledge and collaboratively generate solutions. <a href="https://civichall.org/civicist/vtaiwan-democracy-frontier/">vTaiwan</a> is an interesting example of a collaborative platform that can lead to collaborative solutions. It is an AI-driven discussion platform that collects questions, suggestions and comments from citizens. Once collected, these questions are addressed in public meetings, broadcast online, whose goal is to build consensus around priority problem areas and important considerations in solving those problems. The final goal of the platform is to lead to crowdsourced legislation drafting – often called <a href="https://crowd.law/">crowdlaw</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>In addition to their role in drawing on dispersed expertise, such crowdsourced approaches may have other advantages. At its core, collective intelligence is fundamentally concerned with bringing in outliers’ expertise. As such, it may also go some distance toward addressing perceptions of inequality and marginalization that have contributed to the current crisis of governance and the birth of #Resistance movements and ideologies.</p> <h2><strong>Shift 5: from ideology to evidence-based</strong></h2> <p>Today’s government is in many ways a relic of the past. Institutions and processes are based on what worked (or was perceived to work) decades or even centuries ago; in many cases, they are the result of archaic beliefs or ideologies about the role of the state and its relationship to citizens. Today, however, governments can leverage the vast troves of data and analytical capacity, often available in real time, to move toward a more evidence-based governance model. </p> <p>Boosting analytical capacity is central to this shift. This means new hiring and training practices, as well as a willingness to invest in and build the technical tools required to sift through vast piles of often unstructured data. Institutions must also commit to acting on the insights and lessons gleaned from data. Most fundamentally, government (its institutions and processes) must be re-conceptualized as a constantly evolving, iterative project – one that is far more nimble and agile than its current incarnation. <span class="mag-quote-center">Government (its institutions and processes) must be re-conceptualized as a constantly evolving, iterative project – one that is far more nimble and agile than its current incarnation.</span></p> <p>Some countries have taken steps in this direction. The UK, for instance, has pioneered the What Works Network, a collaborative of 7 independent <a href="https://www.gov.uk/guidance/what-works-network#more-about-the-what-works-centres">What Works Centres</a> and 2 affiliate members that collate evidence to evaluate how effective policy programs and practices are. The <a href="https://www.cep.gov/about.html">Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP)</a> was established&nbsp;by the US Congress in 2016 to “develop a strategy for increasing the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality”. In its <a href="https://www.cep.gov/cep-final-report.html">final report</a> among other steps, the Commission has<strong> </strong>recommended establishing a National Secure Data Service “to facilitate access to data for evidence building while ensuring privacy and transparency in how those data are used.” The goal of this new service is to link existing government data on a temporary basis (without creating a permanent data warehouse) in order to help institutions, policymakers and other actors better analyze the effectiveness of government programs and processes. </p> <h2><strong>Shift 6: from centralized to distributed</strong></h2> <p>The final shift that needs to take place is a move from the current centralized, top-down model of government to one that is decentralized and distributed. Much as knowledge in the twenty-first century is dispersed, so are lines of authority, communication and even personal identities (citizens’ allegiances and sense of self are rarely as cohesive and unitary as in the past). </p> <p>In response, every stage of the policy cycle should be re-designed in a more decentralized and <a href="https://www.gp-digital.org/news/gpd-publishes-new-paper-on-distributed-internet-governance/">distributed manner</a> – from agenda-setting to response identification, to implementation, enforcement and review. </p> <p>A good example of distributed agenda setting can be found in Madrid’s open government platform, <a href="https://decide.madrid.es/proposals">DecideMadrid</a>, developed by <a href="http://medialab-prado.es/">Medialab-Prado</a>, which encourages citizens to submit proposals to improve the city. If at least 1% of site visitors (currently 27,064 people over the age of 16 visit the site<strong> </strong>on a regular basis) are interested in a submitted idea, then the idea moves to a voting phase. In February 2017, after a preliminary vote, two submitted ideas were actually enacted by the city council. Other successful examples of distributed governance include the Constituent Assembly used to draft Egypt’s constitution, and the Democracy in Action incentive that encourages citizen engagement and participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward. </p> <p>It is worth noting that the emergence and application of <a href="https://blockchan.ge/">blockchain technologies (BCT)</a> can accelerate distributed approaches to governance. BCTs deploy a shared, synchronized, distributed ledger of transactions, guaranteeing privacy and security; this leads to greater integrity of data and increased trust by providing a permanent record of who accessed ledgers and what they did. <span class="mag-quote-center">By providing transparency and accountability in new and distributed ways, BCTs have the potential to positively empower populations to become part of the governance process using trusted identities.</span></p> <p>By providing transparency and accountability in new and distributed ways, BCTs have the potential to positively empower populations to become part of the governance process using trusted identities. One interesting example can be found in the <a href="https://voatz.com/">Voatz</a> platform, which seeks to provide a mobile election platform using blockchain technology. The platform seeks to allow for more direct citizen engagement on a wider variety of topics, and has been used, at the local level like the <a href="https://tuftsdaily.com/opinion/editorial/2017/09/28/editorial-use-voatz-step-right-direction/">Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate election</a> or during events like the <a href="https://blog.voatz.com/?p=256">Massachusetts Democratic Party State Convention</a>.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; * * *</strong>&nbsp; </p><p>In combination, the six shifts outlined above suggest a radically new approach to governance – one focused more on flexibility and responsiveness, and better attuned to the inherent need for meaningful relationships between citizen and the state. Old barriers and old hierarchies that limit growth and change must be replaced by the more collaborative approach described above. Citizens are no longer simply governed; they are, in fact, essential components of governance. <span class="mag-quote-center">Citizens are no longer simply governed; they are, in fact, essential components of governance.</span></p> <p>Of course these six shifts represent only an outline, the scaffolding of a #Reimagined governance for the twenty-first century. While we have provided some specific examples, the precise manifestation of these principles will vary from context to context, geography to geography. </p><p> What matters is the effort to move beyond mere <em>resistance</em> and onto a more substantive engagement with <em>rebuilding</em> – to ask what comes next, and to harness the current disenchantment and loss of faith in a more productive manner. It is said that moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity. There is little doubt that we face a crisis of governance at the moment; this is also a chance to design a new and improved government</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy was at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/home">WFD2017 website</a> for details).</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/patrick-chalmers/tapping-will-of-people-route-to-radically-better-democracy">Tapping the will of the people – a route to radically better democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">An interesting Brexit experiment worthy of analysis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Brexit2016 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Stefaan G. Verhulst Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:50:55 +0000 Stefaan G. Verhulst 115273 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internet equality in question again: perspectives on Net Neutrality https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/internet-equality-in-question-again-perspectives-on-net-neutrality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the US regulator seeks to erase Net Neutrality, we ask a number of commentators to share their views on this momentous decision.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1">Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISP) should not decide what content web users get when they connect to the internet – if I pay for internet bandwidth then decide to visit YouTube or a personal blog or openDemocracy, then I get to see whichever of those sites I request, so long as I haven’t run out of my agreed bandwidth allowance.</p> <p class="p1">Its proponents say that it is what allows web users to see all web sites at the same speed – no site gets to pay an ISP to load preferentially on the web, which would be a major advantage. It’s what makes any site, big or small, rich or poor, accessible to all – it’s what lets good sites and good ideas rise up no matter who runs them, they say.</p> <p class="p1">The US regulator in charge of enforcing Net Neutrality regulations is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/technology/fcc-repeal-net-neutrality.html">pushing to dismantle legal protections</a> for it with a vote this Thursday 14th of December. Civil society organisations are <a href="http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/167731589148/net-neutrality-protests-to-hit-verizon-stores">fiercely opposing it</a>.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If the US makes this change, a serious precedent will be set to reverse Net Neutrality globally and the open web could change for good. We sought a few perspectives, for and against, on this critical issue.</p><p class="p1"></p><hr /><p></p><hr /><p><span>“Net Neutrality is once again under attack. Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, has announced his plan to “restore internet freedom” which is, as it turns out is not your freedom as a consumer to use the bandwidth you have purchased as you see fit, but rather the freedom of your ISP to charge you for whatever it wants to.</span></p> <p class="p1">“So if you don’t want to wind up with the Portugal situation from above, go ahead and call Congress.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.battleforthenet.com/">Thankfully the website Battle for the Net makes this super easy. Do it</a>!”</p> <p class="p1"><strong><a href="http://continuations.com/post/167766173495/uncertainty-wednesday-pay-extra-to-read-or-fight">Albert Wenger</a>, Technology writer and investor</strong></p><p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/NetNeutrality.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/NetNeutrality.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="419" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This infographic shows how commercial providers might break down internet packages without Net Neutrality protections to stop them.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p><span><span>“</span>Net neutrality was attractive in the early web because we knew back then the damage to creativity that market power could confer. We had seen Microsoft stifle the PC market through its operating system stranglehold, some of us had experience of the supplier barriers to entry on the otherwise brilliant and pioneering Minitel. We hated Compuserve and its walled garden. The open, free internet, with the ethos that is so brilliantly captured by Jonathan Zittrain in "The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It", was a delicate flower trying to burst forth. We could see that the telecoms companies - slow, statist, unimaginative, captured by securocrats, hooked on fixed rates of return - would trample that flower bed.</span></p><p><span><span>“</span>So Net Neutrality was the nitrogen fix that our efflorescence needed. And it worked. The Internet - not just the Web ... Usenet, Email, Gopher were all part of it - before the first dotcom boom was an ecosystem that produced a wonder of diversity and invention, and no doubt network operators would have nipped every promising plant in the bud. When Web2.0 started to emerge out of the dot com boom,&nbsp; enthusiasts tended to think that this would be the same wondrous jungle, but with better graphics and smoother load-times. </span></p><p><span><span>“</span>But the snake had entered the garden in the form of the advertising based revenue model and the hoovering of all data for ad-targeting. We had protected the early web from monopolists who could control data only to hand it over to data-controllers who thereby became monopolists. The efflorescence has now gone, replaced by the monotony of AI-grown knot-weed whose fertiliser is attention. So Net Neutrality was an important and liberating anti-monopoly tool in the growth of the web; but it allowed us to take our eye off its purpose - to limit control by any large corporate interests - and to focus on what was merely a historically contingent means to it.</span></p><p><span>“The problem today is not packet-discrimination by network operators; it is granular attention-discrimination by out-of-control advertising fuelled behemoths. And in fact, we can regulate network operators much more readily than the now all-too-powerful data monopolists ... so it could be that we should think about a policy combination which involves an abandonment of net neutrality; public control over the networks; and packet-discrimination policy operated for the public good.”</span></p><p><span><strong>Anton Kurz is a London-based policy wonk</strong></span></p><hr /><p><span><span>“</span></span><span>Net neutrality echoes engineering arguments about network design that took place in the 1980s. Most engineers came to realize that modern networks need flexibility to support diverse applications, so the losing side turned to the legal/policy community to force its preferences on ISPs.</span></p> <p class="p1">“The public, largely oblivious to the technical costs neutrality imposes on innovation, incorrectly sees Title II as a protector of free speech. Our experience of the Internet shows that its major problems come from advertising-supported platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that censor speech and reward trolls. Net neutrality doesn’t solve any real problems.”</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Richard Bennett,&nbsp;<span>Engineer and publisher,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://hightechforum.org/" target="_blank">High Tech Forum</a></strong></p><p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/PA-33932191.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/PA-33932191.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of net neutrality protest outside a Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on November 28, 2017. The activists gathered in protest of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai’s, plan to repeal the Obama era net neutrality regulations. Ronen Tivony/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><hr /><p><span>“There’s roughly 6,000 internet and telecommunications providers in Ukraine. But national legislation does not in any way directly regulate net neutrality, and domestic providers of internet services operate as they see fit. Several of them directly violate the principle of net neutrality: for instance, for several years in a row Ukrainian mobile operators have offered tariff plans whereby users do not have to pay for social network traffic or streaming services (or if they do, then at a reduced rate).</span></p> <p class="p1">This gives the advantage to the big services — Facebook, Twitter, Youtube. One important detail: until recently, Russian internet companies were also part of this group, but in May 2017 the authorities blocked the Russian social networks VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, the Yandex search engine and email service Mail.ru. Access to these online resources is now blocked at the provider level. So now we can say that Facebook has strengthened its monopoly, having become the main social media provider for Ukrainian internet providers.”</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Vitalii Atanasov, Ukrainian journalist and administrator of <a href="https://t.me/digitshadow">a Telegram channel</a> on digital capitalism.</strong></p><hr /><p><span>“The Internet was born neutral and therefore open, non-discriminatory, diverse and free. Net neutrality is essential to guarantee that everyone has the freedom to choose what information seeks, receives and imparts on the Internet and that everyone has access to the same opportunities. The neutral digital ecosystem, where everyone is able to innovate without asking for permission, has grown to become what it is today thanks to that fundamental principle. Every lose of that basic openness to the interest of a few Internet service providers will always cause essential harms to our freedoms, democracy and society.”</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong><a href="https://xnet-x.net">XNet</a>, Internet and democracy activist’s network</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-belli/scramble-for-data-and-need-for-network-self-determination">The scramble for data and the need for network self-determination</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/luca-belli/scrapping-fcc-net-neutrality-rules-would-be-mistake">Scrapping FCC net neutrality rules would be a mistake</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luca-belli-christopher-t-marsden/european-net-neutrality-at-last">European net neutrality, at last?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anita-gurumurthy/net-neutrality-crossroads-heres-why-india-s-policy-process-has-important-lessons-fo">Net neutrality at a crossroads: why India’s policy process has important lessons for the US</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/michael-j-oghia/future-of-us-net-neutrality-under-trump">The future of US net neutrality under Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/samir-dayal/billionaire-big-data-and-net-neutrality-facebook-and-democracy-in-india">The billionaire, big data and net neutrality: Facebook and democracy in India</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/des-freedman/big-media-and-big-money-in-2017-from-disneymurdoch-to-net-neutrality">Big media and big money in 2017 - from Disney/Murdoch to Net Neutrality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/matthew-linares/internet-equality-is-about-to-get-trumped-let-s-build-wall-to-defend-it">Internet equality is about to get Trumped – let’s build a wall to defend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/sara-bundtzen/why-you-should-know-about-germanys-new-surveillance-law">Why you should know about Germany&#039;s new surveillance law </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/timothy-karr/breaking-ideological-gridlock-from-bottom-up">Breaking ideological gridlock from the bottom up </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Net neutrality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties Net neutrality Matthew Linares Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:22:33 +0000 Matthew Linares 115127 at https://www.opendemocracy.net