Like many Americans, I am trying to make sense of what happened in this past election season. In the aftermath of Election Day I have read about racist, homophobic and religious attacks on my neighbors. Simultaneously there has been significant conversation about the blocking of constitutional freedoms, such as the freedom of the press and information - threatening the connective glue that is the people's voice and community : the internet.
As a design technologist, I often wonder how relevant my work is in the grand scheme of things. The thing that I return to is that the Web is a hand - crafted community designed for and by real people. Some of those people are government officials, but most are civilians who need the internet to make their mark on the world and represent themselves how they choose to be represented. As such, the Web is a tool for maintaining political engagement. This is a freedom that we have and should hold sacred.
This perspective is privileged. Many people in the world are unable to access and edit digital platforms. As tech continues to act as a catalyst in conversations between corporations, governments and citizens - a tug of war for control of this large domain has increased. In the most recent Freedom on the Net study it was found that "Two-thirds of all internet users – 67 percent – live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship." This is a crucial conversation to maintain involvement in because it impacts every area of our lives including finance, healthcare, and military decisions.
These are the specific policies that I am interested in:
Net Neutrality - without net neutrality the equal playing field of internet access will become completely undone - making it harder for historically marginalized communities to engage in conversations in this space.
Security and Privacy - governments around the world are beginning to filter, track, and manipulate the openness which allows the greater public to rely on the internet as a mobilization and empowerment tool. In order to combat this we need to ensure that there are policies in place to protect our individual files and rights so that no one entity controls this data.
Internet Freedom - I'm committed to fighting for an Internet that evolves with and for the people. We needed to ensure that it is maintained as an inclusive community space - with the products we create and the policy that empowers us to make them.
I am hopeful about the future. I am seeing the civic tech industry develop and become activated through the work of designers, engineers, political activists and socially engaged citizens. Perhaps this is the best thing to come out of this election season - a smart and mobilized citizen's stand for freedom.