Digital Rights Archive Newsletter - Seventh edition
On its face, the title of Merten Reglitz’s article, “The socio-economic argument for the human right to internet access,” harkens back to a simpler time, in the 1990s and early 2000s, when the biggest digital problem was that governments weren’t getting people on the internet quickly enough. Those were the days of information wants to be free and libertarian dreams of the death of the state, unfettered freedom of expression, “that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.”
Things, as we know, have turned out differently, and a commercial, libertarian approach to the development of the internet has created entire sets of problems that we now have to deal with. Including, as Reglitz – who’s very much of the present – points out, new obligations not only to guarantee Internet “access for everyone,” but to mitigate against “certain objectionable interferences (e.g., surveillance, censorship, online abuse).” All of which involves the heady task of “Internet that is crucially different from the one we currently have.”
The myriad attempts at government regulation of online content, digital currencies and the hodgepodge of tech that now goes by the increasingly unhelpful term “artificial intelligence” are, I’d argue, an attempt to do just that.
Here in Canada, Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, has been the subject of a shocking number of polemics for what is effectively a cultural policy bill designed to bring content intermediaries (think YouTube and TikTok) under Canadian regulation. Reactions have been over the top: people who should know better are equating the Canadian government to the Soviets and specifically Stalin, and the bill to something dreamt up by the Nazi propagandist Joseph Gobbels. For those outside of Canada wanting to understand what the fuss is about (and even those of us within the country looking for some run-of-the-mill – in a good way – reportage, the BBC has you covered. Spoiler: Canadians will still be able to find The Master and Margaritaonline if you want).
Europe remains at the heart of moves to regulate the digital economy. This month, FES Global looks at European platform workers and the state of play of platform work in France, Greece, Italy and Germany. While Steven Feldstein (open access) looks at the extent to which European AI regulatory initiatives are influencing actions elsewhere, Soraj Hongladarom and Jerd Bandasak go deep to consider, via an examination of AI guidelines from non-Western countries, exactly how deep “universal agreement on the key ethical principles underlying AI ethics” actually goes.
As Reglitz suggests, the internet has created a whole new set of problems and obligations. Case in point: Rainer Mühlhoff (open access) introduces the concept of “predictive privacy,” “a novel form of privacy violation through inferred or predicted information” that “is violated when personal information about them is predicted without their knowledge and against their will based on the data of many other people.” While this concept is not reflected in privacy laws, Mühlhoff argues they should be. And when you consider that predictive analytics lies at the heart of the promises of “Big Data,” “machine learning,” “artificial intelligence” – pick your term – the challenge such a framing poses to the very use of these technologies becomes clear.
- Blayne Haggart
Origin Stories: Plantations, Computers, and Industrial ControlMeredith Whittaker | Logic(s)
Offering a critical history of Charles Babbage's proto-Taylorist ideas on how to discipline workers – ideas embedded in the calculating engines that were his life's work, and ideas which themselves were first developed to control enslaved and racialized people.
No Crypto : Comment Bitcoin a Envoûté La PlanèteNastasia Hadjadji | Éditions Divergences
Bitcoin and the magical currencies of the Internet have aroused fervor, often tinged with fanaticism, but also mistrust and even rejection. To shed critical light on the cryptocurrency phenomenon, this book travels the globe, from the Californian Cypherpunks, Satoshi Nakamoto's white paper, the Bitcoin mines of Kazakhstan and Texas, to the crypto offensives in El Salvador, Puerto Rico and Africa. He lifts the veil on the economic failures of an industry that has spawned numerous scandals, as well as on the ecological aberration it represents.
Platform Worker in France, Greece, Italy & Germany: What Can We Learn from Each Other?Oliver Philipp, Odile Chagny, Emmanuel Matsaganis, Ivana Pais, Valentin Niebler | FES Global
Despite multiple legislative and grassroots efforts, many platform workers are still working under precarious conditions. What pressing issues do platform workers and Trade Unions continue to face today, and how might we learn from the ways in which different countries are trying to address these issues?
Evaluating Europe's Push to Enact AI Regulations: How Will This Influence Global Norms?Steven Feldstein | Democratization
Europe has raced ahead to draft comprehensive legislation, the Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA), to oversee these technologies and systems. What has motivated the EU to pursue this approach? And how will this effort influence AI norms globally? This paper describes how Europe’s AI norm-building process represents an effort to ensure EU priorities are reflected in the AI governance landscape. Europe’s approach faces uncertainty. While it is likely that the AIA will meaningfully influence global AI norms, several factors may hinder its global diffusion and adoption.
Non-Western AI Ethics Guidelines: Implications for Intercultural Ethics of TechnologySoraj Hongladarom, Jerd Bandasak | AI & SOCIETY
An attempt to survey all non-western AI ethics guidelines that are available either in English or in Thai was made to find out whether there are any cultural elements within them that could shed light on how we understand their backgrounds and how these elements could advance the discussion on intercultural ethics of technology. This analysis leads to a normative argument that what is understood to be universal in intercultural ethics is in fact based on the desire of many cultures to live and work together, and not, as ethical universalists seem to argue, on some culture-transcendent standard of morality.
Antitrust and Competition: It’s Time for Structural Reforms to Big TechAI Now Institute
Even as they adopt a more muscular stance toward prosecuting Big Tech firms for antitrust violations in the courts, enforcement agencies are using other levers to make changes in the here and now. The changes afoot will necessarily be slow, and will likely involve political losses: antitrust cases take years to move through the courts, and take significant investments of resources and time from the agencies that pursue them. But these changes will be well worth the fight.
Predictive Privacy: Collective Data Protection in the Context of Artificial Intelligence and Big DataRainer Mühlhoff | Big Data & Society
A person's predictive privacy is violated when personal information about them is predicted without their knowledge and against their will based on the data of many other people. Predictive privacy is then formulated as a protected good and improvements to data protection with regard to the regulation of predictive analytics are proposed. Finally, this article points out that the goal of data protection in the context of predictive analytics is the regulation of ‘prediction power’, which is a new manifestation of informational power asymmetry between platform companies and society.
The Socio-Economic Argument for the Human Right to Internet AccessMerten Reglitz | Politics, Philosophy & Economics
This paper argues that Internet access should be recognized as a human right because it has become practically indispensable for having adequate opportunities to realize our socio-economic human rights. Accepting a human right to Internet access minimally requires guaranteeing access for everyone and protecting Internet access and use from certain objectionable interferences (e.g. surveillance, censorship, online abuse). Realizing this right thus requires creating an Internet that is crucially different from the one we currently have.
Does Canada Really Need a Digital Loonie?Peter Armstrong | CBC
The Bank of Canada is wading into the fraught and controversial world of digital currencies, launching public consultations this week into how Canadians might use a digital dollar. And yet the bank maintains there is neither a need nor a plan to launch a digital loonie. An analysis on the benefits and disadvantages of digital currency.
Bill C-11: Why is YouTube mad at Canada?Robin Levinson-King | BBC
The story of a new law that seeks to give Canadian artists a leg up online has left many influencers and tech giants alike seeing red.