The COVID-19 pandemic spurred on existing debates and developments on users’ privacy, government surveillance, and data monetisation. But what do all these mean for the Asia-Pacific, the region where most of the world’s population lives but whose voices are often overlooked in global tech discourse?
EngageMedia chats with Mishi Choudhary, founder of the Software Freedom Law Center, India (SFLC.in), on how recent events are affecting the Asia-Pacific. Mishi also shares how we can boost our voices through – among other solutions – decentralisation and the channeling of our region’s rich history of offline movements towards the digital space.
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- Mishi has been vocal about a number of recent events in the tech space, among them:
- The problems with social media platforms being “arbiters of truth” when it is convenient to them,
- India’s draft Intermediary Rules 2021; and,
- Privacy concerns with contract tracing apps in the COVID-19 era.
- SFLC.in has also recently launched its Free Speech Tracker, “a crowd-sourced research project to track the instances of free speech violations and the laws governing free speech in India”.
- In January 2021, former US President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook in the aftermath of the US Capitol riots. While many lauded the ban, as Trump has historically used social media to spread disinformation and incite violence, opinions remained divided as to whether social media platforms should have the power to be arbiters of truth online. This power should especially be questioned on the global stage. Facebook in particular “has often been late to recognise or remove inflammatory speech in non-English languages, in nations where civic institutions are weak and where it does not maintain full-time staff”.
- Mishi is also one of many working in the open-source and FLOSS communities that are advocating for the decentralisation of the internet and the platforms used to access it. The Mozilla Foundation’s annual Internet Health Report has tackled the benefits of decentralisation to a healthier internet in its 2017 and 2019 editions.
- EngageMedia Advocacy and Communications Director Red Tani previously wrote a three-part series detailing the benefits and risks of federated platforms (also called the Fediverse). Read the three-part series here.
- Online censorship has also become all the more prevalent with the ongoing internet throttling in Myanmar (among other digital rights violations). Check out AccessNow’s #KeepItOn campaign to monitor other instances of internet shutdowns in the Asia-Pacific.
- When probed about what the tech industry needs to do, Mishi brought up the need for tech platforms move away from advertising and surveillance as business models. To learn more about this topic, we recommend Shoshanna Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.