We all live in digital civil society

Italians singing from their balconies.

Spaniards doing calisthenics, led by one trainer on rooftop.

Peruvians thanking doctors – and me watching it in California.

Penguins walking down stairs in an empty (of humans) aquarium

Virtual museum tours

People sending cash directly to strangers in need, via their phones.

Governments expanding their surveillance capabilities under the guise of public health, but neatly omitting any plans to “turn it off” when situations change.

Online class recommendations about racist robots, shared from one faculty to another. 

Global, distributed professionals who work for every kind of firm from commercial to nonprofit, universities to tech firms, independent contractors and professional service providers suddenly all dependent on one single digital platform (zoom) all day, every day, effectively bringing much of the data on their phones and laptops onto one company’s servers (and no, you didn’t read the privacy policies). Yep, you’re working in zoom’s world now; your data is theirs, your chat and conversations and data – theirs.

A social media connected world without human content moderation.

Gaslighting everyday, from every direction, ignoring the digital video and audio archive and preparing to call it all “deep fakes.”

Deep fakes.

Friends telling stories over video chat to their neighbors’ children to give the parents a wee break.

Churches using sms to deliver sermons; while volunteers stand in the street to feed the hungry.

We all live in digital civil society now. We have been for years, but it’s taken many people a long time to catch on. In January, the Digital Civil Society Lab released a report about how this is true, why it matters and what to do about it. why public policy on the digital environment – from rights to automated decision making, AI to biometrics, broadband access to zero rating – were the policy domains that matter to civil society now. Those rules shape, bound, govern, and disenfranchise us as people when we try to come together to do things for the public good. Those rules shape how philanthropy works, where nonprofit data lives, who can protest and who cannot. There is no civil society without digital rights.

Digital policy and practice shapes civic space.

Get involved. Your relationships, your neighbors, your community, and, yes, your democracy (if you have one) depend on it.

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