Last week, Accountable Tech hosted our first-ever Accountable Tech Summit, bringing together policymakers, experts, and activists for an afternoon in D.C. to build cross-cutting strategies to rein in Big Tech’s threats to democracy, protect kids online, and ensure AI works for the public good.
It was an incredible convening that surfaced many thought-provoking questions and conversations. We’re so grateful for our speakers including Secretary Hillary Clinton, Senator Cory Booker, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra, Design It For Us coalition members, and Frances Haugen.
For those who did not have the chance to attend, we wanted to share some of our key takeaways. Here’s what our staff had to say after the #ATSummit:
- I was particularly energized by the panel on the urgency of regulation requiring Big Tech to make privacy the default, and implement strong safety by design for kids and teens. As adults, the timeline for tech accountability legislation has felt too slow, but for kids and teens it’s felt like an eternity. As Frances Haugen put it “If you are a 14-year-old and your younger sibling is about to come online and you’re living with the costs of these systems, when you hear it’s going to take five years for us to pass a law, you hear ‘I’m giving up on your sibling.’”
- The issues we work on affect everyone’s lives, yet they can often feel inaccessible or seem obscure as a result of technical language. As advocates in tech advocacy, it’s up to us to make these issues tangible, so those most affected feel empowered to mobilize in service of their communities. CFPB Director Rohit Chopra brought this point home as he discussed AI and asked for us to be “communicating about [AI] in ways that are much more accessible.” I appreciated all of our speakers connecting these big, complicated issues to real world harms that all of us have seen or experienced in some way: the direct impact that social media has on young people, fraud, and more. With a great convening of our amazing partners and leaders in this space, the Summit was a great moment to crystalize these harms – and use these shared understanding as a foundation for real change.
- I was so inspired by Thanasi Dilos, who is a Design it For Us core team member and a founder of Civics Unplugged. He aptly noted that the problems young people face on social media are because those at the top fail to make design choices that can reduce these harms. For example, recent disclosures from a Massachusetts lawsuit show that Mark Zuckerberg personally rejected internal recommendations at Meta to improve Instagram for young people’s well-being. As we’ve seen with the Age Appropriate Design Code passed in California and the UK, it’s possible to make social media platforms work in support of the best interests of their youngest users.
- It was gratifying to hear consistently from youth attendees about how beneficial it was to be in spaces where their leadership was taken seriously and even highlighted, on par with adult leaders. In addition to hearing from Thanasi Dilos and Maddie Freeman – both Design It For Us leaders and leaders in their own right – youth attendees from Design It For Us, Encode Justice, Young People’s Alliance and Log Off Movement got to form connections with other movement leaders, and further strengthen their unique roles as organizers, storytellers and policymakers.
- Navigating the challenges of taking on Big Tech can be overwhelming, yet the inaugural Accountable Tech Summit proved to be an invigorating experience heading into 2024. The gathering brought together a diverse community of individuals deeply committed to enhancing the safety of our digital world. Amidst the insightful discussions, a moment emerged during the youth panel when Thanasi Dilos of Design It For Us expressed uncertainty about the current and future use of his personal data by Big Tech. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen intervened, urging him not to succumb to despair in the ongoing struggle for privacy. This interaction served as a powerful reminder that both online and offline, we must have hope in our pursuit of a better digital future for all.
We’re feeling energized and inspired after the Accountable Tech Summit. And above all else, we’re feeling grateful for all the support of our partners and supporters in our collective fight for the digital future we deserve. As Secretary Hillary Clinton concluded her video at the summit, “Let’s get to work.”