Opinion – There should be no technology for tyrants

Technology is a tool that is increasingly being used to criminalize the poor and marginalized. Mijente helps us fight back.

For many, the Internet provides a space for organisation, activism, communication and entertainment. It is a safe space where connections can be made on a local and global scale.

When in the wrong hands, however, the Internet can also prove to be oppressive and damaging to vulnerable populations. As demonstrated by Mijente, a Latinx community hub, tech companies routinely distribute personal data to state actors or organizations who then manipulate this information for their own interests.

In case you’re unaware, Mijente is an activist organisation that fights for human rights and radical change. Unsurprisingly, digital justice is at the forefront of its focus.

Its recent campaign #NoTechForICE, for example, sheds light on the everyday abuse of personal data, specifically focusing on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the United States for its mishandling of citizen information.

ICE has employed inhumane and life-endangering tactics to expel immigrants from the US, while also providing inadequate care to children who cross the border. Much of its activities can be linked to Palantir, a technology company that provides ICE with a target list and a database of individuals.

But the issue exists beyond just ICE. Other willing participants in the victimisation of immigrants include Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, both directly involved in police and military operations.

It’s worth noting that ICE is only successful because it’s given access to these extensive resources, and does so largely unchecked. Taking this database away or scrutinising the organisation’s behaviours more closely and publicly could be a substantial step in halting the targetisation of already vulnerable communities.

This has been much of the goal of #NoTechForICE. The movement is striving to expose the close cooperation between tech companies, criminal justice organizations, and immigration enforcement, encouraging more widespread mainstream conversation around their work.

Mijente aims to educate populations about what they can do to protect themselves and how they can fight against these corporate interests, even though this may seem like an impossible task.

To encourage involvement and raise awareness, Mijente has put together several toolkits, ranging from policy advice to campus activism.

By organising students on campuses, tech workers, and those affected by unlawful police practices, more leverage can be gained against Big Tech firms, whose voices often overshadow the victims that fall prey to their actions.

Mijente conducts thorough investigations into which companies are involved, who they profit, as well as how policies are funded and undertaken. All of these factors paint a picture of the who and how, making it more easy to target specific actors and demand that they cease their cooperation. Big Tech should not be able to profit off of human rights abuses.

There is a great need to fight against surveillance and the monopoly of large technology industries. Across the world, we are seeing an increase of the criminalization of online activity, which incentivises the use of disproportionate force and violent methods of punishment.

We all use technology, we all have data stored, we all need to make sure the digital world stays safe, protected and free.


This article was originally written by Julie Luebken, a student at the University of Cambridge interested in digital politics, climate justice, and international relations. View her LinkedIn.


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