Photo by Jeff Fielitz on Unsplash

When tools like Alexa, Google Home, Siri etc, the helpful listening presence in your house, were introduced, one of my biggest concerns was that the record of your personal conversations would be passed along to the police and government.

After all, if the database exists, authorities will ask for access to it. This has been true on everything from your browsing history to your DNA. Amazon’s claim “we only listen when we hear you tell us to” is not only illogical, it’s also already been proven false.

However, the rapid growth of interpersonal surveillance devices has thrown a new twist…

I recently attended a thought-provoking event on Reframing Disability organised by the Media Trust. The focus of the event was about representation in news, film and advertising, and also hiring and employment practices in those sectors.

I appreciate the organisers of the event for bringing a lot of people into the room with different experiences, which allowed us to have thoughtful discussions and workshops.

However, since then I’ve been reflecting on how the postive work towards representation and accessibility, can de-politicise disability, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

A broad church
One point that was raised over and over…

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

The web has always been a less safe space for women, trans and non-binary people, than for cisgender white men — although it may have taken a while for the rest of the world to wake up to this. Research in Australia in 2016 found that one in four women under 30 had received threats of physical violence online.

Despite the old claims that “on the Internet nobody knows if you are a dog”, it is often smoothest when you pretend you’re a man. …

Photo by Matias Rengel on Unsplash

In time for Pride month, YouTube’s homophobia and transphobia in its content policies has come back into public attention. Several successful creators on the platform have shown how the algorithms, which decides if a video can earn them income, are discriminating against LGBQ+ related work.

This is the case with Chase Ross (uppercaseCHASE1), a prominent professional YouTuber who recently found that over 100 of his videos were demonetised or restricted over a very short space of time. He also happens to be trans.

Chase has been creating videos for over 12 years discussing his experiences as a trans man…

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

In the last few weeks there have been major stories about abuse in the charity sector. One at Oxfam. One at Save the Children. Sadly, I expect we will see more very soon.

We should be furious about these stories. Just as furious as we have been about abuse in Hollywood. In politics. In journalism. But there’s a defensiveness that the NGO sector is putting out about these stories, that is truly disappointing, and damaging. Specifically, they are directing that emotion towards the papers reporting on the abuse.

It’s true that there is an institutional hostility towards the charity sector…

One Nation Under CCTV, Tom Blackwell (CC-BY- NC 2.0)

A Scottish CCTV company, marketing new cameras that can lip-read and record conversations, recently declared that businesses have a right to our opinions because, “voluntary customer service forms can be dishonest.”

They expect their creepy product to be installed in your local mall so that shops can record and respond to your views on their products. The horror here is not just that they want to create an involuntary database of private conversations, it is that they believe they have a right to them.

This tech company is 100% in on the idea that we, the public, do not own…

Created by the talented Marianela at @undazedandsuch CC-BY

Capitalism has entrenched itself in Western digital rights activism, in the adoption (conscious or not) of “start-up” ideology within our organizations. Tech businesses and the digital rights movement are so tightly tied together, sometimes it is hard to see where one ends at the other begins.

Working alongside these businesses in the fight to save the Internet, we have ended up too comfortable framing our battles in terms of saving ‘innovation’, not people. We justify it to ourselves in the guise that once these battles are won, the benefits will ‘trickle down’ and turn themselves into human rights. Why?


Not as friendly as it seems. Bears! by SteFou! Flickr CC-BY

Facebook’s list of crimes is pretty extensive. Barely a week goes by when I don’t hear of some new action they have taken that causes outrage and seems devoid of principles.

So the right thing to do should just be to quit right? Easy? A quick search on Medium gives me countless articles that already exist of people ditching Facebook and becoming better more enlightened people, but I Just. Can’t. Do. it. They have their claws in my shoulders so tight.

I “made a list of evil” for myself, of all the things they’ve done, from one-off censorship, to digital…

We fought the Internet tax and the link tax to stop the open Internet being crushed in the name of saving the media. But what will we do when the next big idea comes along?

Newspaper boxes Tom Magliery CC BY-ND 2.0

In March, Cynthia Khoo and myself presented a lightning talk to an audience of digital rights advocates and experts at RightsCon Brussels, 2017. This piece is based on our co-written talk. We look ahead to critical inflection points and emerging policy issues when it comes to major online platforms such as Google and Facebook, and their ongoing outsized accumulation of power over our lives.


aaron.inmontreal (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am writing this in a context of a visible, visceral, continuous rise in hate speech. There are nazis in the White House. People were just killed in Québec because of a white terrorist, who listened to the white nationalist speeches of Marine le Pen. Hate speech leads to hate crimes. So we need to take a real, hard look at how free speech activists talk about combatting it.

As free expression campaigners, when people want to shut down hate speech, we tend to respond by saying that the solution is “counter speech” rather than anything we perceive as “censorship”…

Ruth Coustick-Deal

Digital Rights Campaigner | Interested in all things tech + inclusion | Co-host of The Intersection of Things podcast |

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