Is technology in the era of Covid-19 a threat to democracy?

By EBRD multimedia team

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Jonathan Charles and Kerrie Law, presenters of the Pocket Dilemmas EBRD podcast

Jonathan Charles and Kerrie Law, presenters of the Pocket Dilemmas podcast

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The coronavirus pandemic has locked populations inside their houses and put millions under the spotlight of a new state-controlled panopticon, watching us and our movements in the name of public safety.

Our Pocket Dilemma podcast presenters, Jonathan Charles and Kerrie Law, were joined on Zoom by:

  • Peter Pomerantsev-  Senior Fellow, LSE. Author: This is Not Propaganda, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
  • Samuel Woolley- Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Founding Director, Digital Intelligence Lab and the author of “The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth”

They discussed the ethical aspects of technology, including transparency, use of data and trust. Is fact-checking effective? What regulations are necessary to control private sector tech companies?

Peter Pomerantsev stressed that importance lies in trust:

“There is something bigger at stake here that relates to trust and transparency. We still live in the internet that is essentially we don’t really see how materials produced and created. I compare it old school restaurants where you couldn’t see into the kitchen.”

Samuel Woolley voiced a word of warning on the use of AI:

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning get used for scale. They can be used to massively amplify a particular point of view or to suppress another point of view and that’s kind of frightening.”

As Peter Pomerantsev observed:

“We live in this weird paradox where there is more information than ever before but actually much less information about what stands behind this information.”

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