When I founded Accountable Tech I wasn’t sure what Big Tech companies would throw at us, but I knew we needed an organized movement to fight back. Two years later, Accountable Tech is a thriving community of folks who know that tech and social platforms can be safer and healthier, built with privacy at the forefront, and be a part of a thriving democracy, but it will take our collective action to get there.
This year was full of surprises. From the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and revealing the depths and dangers of Big Tech’s role in digital surveillance and data collection to Elon Musk acquiring Twitter and running it into the ground in record time, this year has only further cemented in my mind the need to secure long-term structural reform to tackle the existential threat these companies pose to our information ecosystem and democracy.
As I take a look back on some of our key accomplishments from this past year, I can’t help but feel proud of our team, coalition partners, and grassroots supporters. This year included key wins that will help us move our work forward in 2023 and beyond.
Passing the California Age Appropriate Design Code
Accountable Tech collaborated with partners and youth organizations to pass a first-of-its-kind law in California that will require online platforms to prioritize young people’s safety and privacy by design and default. This bipartisan legislation offers a roadmap for other states to follow suit with greater protections for kids, teens, and young people online.
Fighting Back Against Elon Musk’s Twitter
Although our campaign to stop Elon Musk from buying Twitter didn’t work, we immediately pivoted to an advertiser focused campaign, urging them to stop buying ads on the platform and fueling Elon’s decisions to roll back Twitter’s safeguards. Since we co-launched the #StopToxicTwitter campaign more than half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have stopped running ads on the platform in a major blow to the company’s revenue.
Calling on Google to Protect the Privacy of Abortion Seekers
After the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision that would eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, we called on Google to stop collecting and retaining location data for the threat it poses to those seeking reproductive care. When Google announced a vague update to the location data retention policy for users who might visit an abortion clinic, we had questions. So our team set out to find answers and our resulting research shows that Google is still failing to meet its committed changes about location data deletion. We followed up by delivering over 160,000 petition signatures directly to Google HQ in DC and calling on them to finally stop collecting and retaining users’ location data.
Elevating and Empowering Young People
We are supporting youth activists and organizations like the LOG OFF Movement by sharing the stories and the lived experiences of young people facing the challenges of Big Tech’s harms. We hosted a youth roundtable with Sen. Richard Blumenthal and partnered with young diverse digital creators to amplify their demands to rein in Big Tech.
Taking on Big Tech’s Monopoly Power from Every Angle
As the European Union finalized the most significant global legislative package to rein in Big Tech’s societal harms and monopoly power, we worked with American leaders to rally support for this historic legislation that has already resulted in significant changes from companies like Apple. We’ve advocated for similar legislation in the U.S. In 2021 we filed a rulemaking petition urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban surveillance advertising as an unfair method of competition controlled by too few Big Tech companies. One year later, in August of 2022, the FTC “announced it is exploring rules to crack down on harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security” and cited our rulemaking petition in their announcement.
We’re at a pivotal point in tech accountability, and I know that together we’ll only continue to build on our wins. I hope you’ll join us in 2023 to keep holding Big Tech companies accountable for fueling the spread of hate and extremism on and offline to the detriment of our democracy.