For the 2020 American Views survey, Gallup and Knight polled more than 20,000 U.S. adults and found deepening pessimism and further partisan entrenchment about how the news media delivers on its democratic mandate for factual, trustworthy information. Many Americans feel the media’s critical role of informing and holding those in power accountable is compromised by increasing bias. As such, Americans have not only lost confidence in the ideal of an objective media, they believe news organizations actively support the partisan divide.
The summer of our discontent steams more hotly by the day: a deadly and surging pandemic taking more than 130,000 lives across the nation; an economy bleeding millions of jobs and livelihoods and denying basic subsistence to many; mass protests assembling in streets nationwide to demonstrate against systemic racism and police brutality; and dysfunctional government at all levels and in every branch from White House to Congress to courthouses to statehouses and often beyond. Can we handle it? Can America conquer its ills and overcome? Can our democracy itself deal with its discontents?
On Episode 5 of G&T: Tech on the Rocks, Gigi Sohn talks to Color of Change Campaign Advisor Brandi Collins-Dexter about the history of surveillance of civil rights protestors and communities of color, how sophisticated technologies have made spying ubiquitous and what protestors can do to protect themselves. They also discuss Color of Change's efforts to get Facebook to moderate hate speech and how to ensure that tech companies incorporate civil rights principles in every aspect of their businesses.
In the last decade, the smartphone has become a tool for witnessing police violence toward African Americans. From the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant to the 2020 killing of George Floyd, we reviewed the footage and talked to the people who captured it, to see how the accounts of racial injustice became clearer as the phones evolved. “This is our only tool we have right now. It is the most effective way to get us justice,” said Feidin Santana, who used his smartphone in 2015 to film a police officer killing Walter Scott in South Carolina. “The smartphone is a weapon that tells the story.
The protests continuing around the country are historic displays of social action. For political operatives, the mass gatherings are also a unique opportunity to harvest data on potential voters. Advocacy and voter-registration groups are gathering a trove of data from protests by tracking the cellphones of participants and sending them messages about registering to vote or taking other actions. The tactics, which one user called “deeply spooky yet extremely helpful,” are the latest example of ways political groups are using cellphone data to target voters.
This memo briefly explains how Facebook and Google have come to dominate modern communications networks, what that means for American democracy, and how to fix it.
Google Docs has risen as one of the key tools for organizing George Floyd-related protests.
Our cities are changing at an incredible pace. The technology being deployed on our sidewalks and streetlights has the potential to improve mobility, sustainability, connectivity, and city services. Public value and public inclusion in this change, however, are not inevitable. Depending on how these technologies are deployed, they have the potential to increase inequities and distrust as much as they can create responsive government services.
Over two years ago when I began my fellowship with Benton, I recognized how our cities are changing at an incredible pace. The technology being deployed on our sidewalks and streetlights has the potential to improve mobility, sustainability, connectivity, and city services. Of course, technology can be divisive as well as progressive. Does the potential of the 21st Century data-collecting, responsive, hyperconnected city benefit us all equally? Is it built with resident understanding, feedback, and consent?
No form of modern technology can replace what’s needed to bridge divides that have deepened during decades of disruption in which few have prospered and many have languished. What’s needed is a voluntary, but expected, national service program that allows people to walk a mile in another American’s shoes. This program — let’s call it the American Service Corps — would send eighteen-year-olds to another corner of the country for a year to live in a new community, complete service projects and interact with folks of varied backgrounds and beliefs.