What is the relationship between our movement and technology? It’s been complex, challenging and enormously productive. It’s now also being threatened at the very moment when its potential is greatest. To protect it from the attacks against it and to realize the potential of our relationship with technology, we need to study how this relationship got to this place and what that means for our movement and for technology. At the 2020 Allied Media Conference over 50 activists came together online to build a collective timeline documenting this relationship - the past, present and even the future.
We at the Progressive Technology Project stand in solidarity with Black-led protests in Minneapolis and other cities around the country in response to the murder of George Floyd by police. We stand with movements rising up to resist police and state violence. We stand in solidarity in the fight for the lives and liberation of Black people…Indigenous peoples…and People of Color Communities. We believe that change comes from the grassroots, through movements led by people of color from the global majority who have been systematically excluded from the power and wealth that they have produced.
Beyond COVID 19 and Disaster Capitalism: Why We Need Sustainable, Secure Left Tech Infrastructure for Social Justice Movements
by Jeremy Saunders, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY and Board Chair of Progressive Technology Project, and Alice Aguilar, Executive Director of Progressive Technology Project Image credit: “Photogamer — Jan 22, 2008” by RedRaspus is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Covid-19 has exposed the failures of our health, economic, and emergency response systems. Our priorities now are to take care of ourselves and one another, creating communities of care. Front-line movement groups are organizing to respond to the immediate needs of their communities, while struggling to move much of their on-the-ground organizing work online.
Progressive Technology Project staff joined many Powerbase using organizations this week to protest both Palantir and Amazon’s contracts and complicity with ICE. Over a hundred people showed up monday morning in front of Palantir’s office. Several days later, hundreds more protested Amazon’s annual developers conference at the Javitz Center in New York. Over the last several years, corporate technology’s true colors have been emerging: Facebook’s pathological disregard for privacy, Google’s employment of over 120,000 temp and contract workers (more than half their total workforce), and Yahoo’s security breach exposing 3 billion accounts just to name a few.
What do databases, the cloud and a morally unjust immigration system have in common? It turns out: quite a lot. According to a recent report from mijente, “technology companies [are] playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the expansion and acceleration of arrests, detentions, and deportations.” In the course of researching Palantir, the relatively unknown software company with huge Department of Homeland Security contracts (founded by the famously right-wing Peter Thiel), mijente discovered that many roads lead back to a much more familiar company: Amazon.
Progressive Technology Project Executive Director Alice Aguilar has been interviewed by Rebekah Barber on Facing South! Check out the full interview. From the Intro: This week the nation’s attention was focused on the nefarious ways technology is deployed, as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about how his company has violated the privacy of its customers and allowed the vast amount of data it collects from them to be used for ethically and legally questionable political propaganda efforts.
To many of us, the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal sounds like old news: we have known that Facebook is collecting a dangerously large amount of our personal information for years. However, there is something different with this scandal and it may change the way the US movement thinks about the corporate Internet and our strategies for change. Since the rise of centralized Internet services like Google and Facebook there have emerged two main arguments against them.
Last Spring, the Progressive Technology Project’s executive director Alice Aguilar joined 50 other movement technologists at the Highlander Center to directly confront the intersection of technology and movement politics. In a historic gathering of movement technologists (about 90 percent people of color, 50 percent women), the challenges of corporate technology domination over our progressive movements was discussed. One result of the gathering was a thoughtfully written petition we are asking all movement technologists to sign.
By freiheitsfoo (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Resources from the webinar COINTELPRO destroyed movements, relationships, and activists’ lives. It destroyed the trust and hopefulness needed to build and sustain a movement. It destroyed the movement for justice in this country. But this time, we have ways of fending it off and protecting ourselves. More than 200 listeners joined our webinar and hundreds more signed up to access the resource documents and tips we shared when PTP and May First / People Link organized a December call to discuss surveillance and what to do about it.
For organizers, it’s fundamental: no decisions about us, without us. But the opposite is happening in technology that local and movement organizing groups use today, and the challenges we are about to face will increase exponentially with the incoming Trump administration. Bias is rampant online. The way to fix it is to insure the people controlling access to the internet and who are writing the apps, algorithms and software that govern bigger chunks of our lives share at least some of our values and vision for racial equity.