How 150+ organisations and individuals in the Global Coalition for Tech Justice are using their strengths to turn the #yearofdemocracy campaign idea into action.
15 September is the International Day of Democracy. It was started in 2007 by the UN to promote and uphold the principles of democracy. And this year, the Global Coaliton for Tech Justice will be launching our #YearOfDemocracy campaign to coincide with it.
Why? Because next year, 65 countries will hold elections, the most this century. And these elections, particularly in global majority countries, are at risk of influence and interference by Big Tech. Disinformation spread on social media has stoked hate, incited people to riot and reject democratic processes. Recent elections and upheaval in Brazil and Kenya, and internet shutdowns in Zimbabwe and Gabon, are proof that now more than ever, democracies are under threat.
On 15 September we’ll be officially asking Big Tech to respond to our campaign asks, which we codesigned with civil society organizations and activists from around the world. Since launching the Global Coalition for Tech Justice in June, 149 members have signed-up and that number is growing daily. They are journalists, funders, human rights charities, digital rights activists, policymakers and other coalitions wanting Big Tech to take their power seriously and safeguard elections.
Convening our first all-members meeting
We recently convened our first all-members meeting. It was important to have this moment so they could all actively listen to the work each of them are already doing in the field, as well as their concerns focused on the local realities. We then helped our members share their skills and expertise to input on five campaign workstreams:
- Campaigns & Media
- Research and Investigations
- Election preparation support
- Company influencing
- Policy development and government/institutional engagement
Convening a global coalition isn’t easy. As well as language and cultural barriers, each organisation and activist has their own unique experience of Big Tech harms. It has been fascinating for all of us to connect and build up a more in-depth understanding of these harms and how Big Tech has, and could, influence elections.
A global perspective of online harms and their impact
Some of these harms are systemic. The Big Tech business model of trading people’s personal data and attention spans for advertising revenue means algorithms favor click-bait content over truth. Critical thinking, nuance and protecting human rights is not their priority.
Some harms might feel specific to regions or communities and this is a possible result of the global equity crisis. These companies – Meta, Google, Twitter – have global reach but they treat countries outside of the USA and Europe very differently. Less investment in contextually-sensitive content moderation, less safeguards to flag disinformation, processes that let political ads slip through without scrutiny, algorithms that spread hate speech that persecutes a specific part of the community…
We know to make change happen at a global scale, we need to understand and raise awareness of the harms that different communities are experiencing at a local level. If Big Tech wants to dominate the world, then they need to safeguard it too. And that starts with elections as a minimum.