As a lifelong science-fiction enthusiast, I believe in the digital future as an open vista. But for everyone to feel safe and free to explore it, the harmful, hateful and violent behaviours and expression of bigots must be actively held at bay through enforceable regulations that are updated regularly to reflect an ever changing internet. As GDPR forces businesses to inform internet consumers of their data collection practices, so too, should regulation inform individuals of how/whose data was used to devise predictive policing, financial creditworthiness, and facial-recognition algorithms.
The real-world ghetto is a concept loaded with negative connotations. So are spaces on the web where women, racial and gender minorities are successfully attacked and drowned out. The trifecta of cruelty, exclusion, and complacency imposed in the real world has its equivalent in the digital world: only the scope of harm has changed, in the (nearly) borderless realms of the internet. For me, a black woman who grew up poor, the digital world that I experience today offers no more freedom, privacy, fairness or anonymity than the real world – too often, it offers less. This is why we must demand protective tools (hate filters, abuser de-platforming) for vulnerable groups from the entities that profit handsomely from these platforms. The nature of those tools can and should be discussed, but the fact that we are still stuck in discussions around acknowledging the problem is deeply concerning.
The realities of doxxing, deepfakes, data tracking and dubious abuse regulation policies on every major social media platform inhibit many marginalized voices from being heard. These voices are essential to the evolution of human interaction, and deserve protection from the threats of silencing, violence and privacy violation. GDPR has shown that fairness and policy disclosures can be mandated, but GDPR is only the start.
This article was first published (12th November 2019) online via hiig.de and is part of the publication "Critical Voices, Visions and Vectors for Internet Governance".