An image of sunglasses reflecting a digital landscape
Credit: Joshua Coleman for Unsplash.

Our digital tech ecosystems need democratic accountability.

Digital technologies are now firmly woven into the fabric of our everyday lives.

From social media to remote learning, online retail to electric cars, in recent decades, digital technologies have transformed our world and collided with our democratic systems.  

But who is responsible for the technologies that we now rely upon?

Today, significant control of digital technologies is consolidated in private tech organisations that have unprecedented power across the globe.

This power is often opaque and unaccountable. 

This week, a Washington Post article has shown that Facebook was aware of the negative impacts of race-blind practices around hate speech on minorities on the platform, but that internal decisions were made that did not go far enough to address the issue. 

This demonstrates how opaque decision making processes within these organisations have been shown to be inadequate to deal with issues of harm.

The actions of private platforms are enabling the harm to our societies in many ways, including through complex practices that transcend national borders. 

For example, an MIT Technology Review investigation found that big tech organisations have paid millions of dollars to clickbait actors for adverts, often for content that has exacerbated societal tensions, fuelling “the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

This are just two examples within one week, but highlights the larger question:  

Can we trust these private organisations that are creating our digital information infrastructure? 

Infrastructure on which we learn, work and live our lives.  

Here at the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, we believe that it is crucial now that we assert democratic control over tech monopolies, to protect both our societies and our environment that have developed a growing reliance on digital technology.

Now more than ever it matters to understand shared challenges posed by power, technology, and democracy. 

The relationship between digital technology and society should benefit everyone.

We want to ensure that there is democratic accountability within our digital tech ecosystems.