As state and non-state actors with authoritarian tendencies seek to gain and wield power, technology can be a weapon and the internet a contested territory. The limitations of current governance structures have been made clear by disinformation campaigns, politicized censorship, internet disruptions, surveillance, cyberattacks, and deliberate fragmentation of the web. Private sector intermediaries such as Meta, Google, Telegram and Twitter have become central geopolitical players. The platforms, along with telcos, web infrastructure, and hardware companies deeper down the tech “stack” are implementing policy and making ad hoc decisions with widespread implications for digital freedom, digital rights, civil liberties, and global security.
This reading group will explore, through visiting speakers and selected readings, the role and responsibility of ICT companies, including app-makers and digital technology providers, in countering digital authoritarianism and upholding fundamental rights. Students will leave the course with a critical analysis of the frameworks that purport to, or should, guide decision-making in the tech sector, including business and operational challenges, international human rights law, and aspirational democratic principles.
Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/13, 9/27, 10/18, 11/1, 11/15, 11/29.