The Biden Administration Embraces “Democracy Affirming Technologies”

Article by Marc Rotenberg: “…But amidst the ongoing struggle between declining democracies and emerging authoritarian governments, the Democracy Summit was notable for at least one new initiative – the support for democracy affirming technology. According to the White House, the initiative “aims to galvanize worldwide a new class of technologies” that can support democratic values.  The White House plan is to bring together innovators, investors, researchers, and entrepreneurs to “embed democratic values.”  The President’s top science advisor Eric Lander provided more detail. Democratic values, he said, include “privacy, freedom of expression, access to information, transparency, fairness, inclusion, and equity.”

In order to spur more rapid technological progress the White House Office of Science and Technology announced three Grand Challenges for Democracy-Affirming Technologies. They are:

  • A collaboration between U.S. and UK agencies to promote “privacy enhancing technologies” that “harness the power of data in a secure manner that protects privacy and intellectual property, enabling cross-border and cross-sector collaboration to solve shared challenges.”
  • Censorship circumvention tools, based on peer-to-peer techniques that enable content-sharing and communication without an Internet or cellular connection. The Open Technology Fund, an independent NGO, will invite international participants to compete on promising P2P technologies to counter Internet shutdowns.
  • A Global Entrepreneurship Challenge will seek to identify entrepreneurs who build and advance democracy-affirming technologies through a set of regional startup and scaleup competitions in countries spanning the democratic world. According to the White House, specific areas of innovation may include: data for policymaking, responsible AI and machine learning, fighting misinformation, and advancing government transparency and accessibility of government data and services.

USAID Administrator Samantha Powers said her agency would spend 20 million annually to expand digital democracy work. “We’ll use these funds to help partner nations align their rules governing the use of technology with democratic principles and respect for human rights,” said the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Notably, Powers also said the U.S. will take a closer look at export practices to “prevent technologies from falling into hands that would misuse them.” The U.S., along with Denmark, Norway, and Australia, will launch a new Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative. Powers also seeks to align surveillance practices of democratic nations with the Universal Declaration for Human Rights….(More)”.