25+ human rights organizations demand Congress center the needs of marginalized people when regulating decentralized tech

Posted January 11, 2022, 10:40 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 12, 2022

Recognizing the need to regulate emerging technologies in order to protect people, a diverse coalition of human rights organizations has released six guiding principles alongside a warning not to entrench Big Tech and kill off alternatives to Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

A diverse coalition of 27 human rights organizations representing broad constituencies across the spectrum of marginalized peoples, from racial justice organizations, immigrant and indigenous rights groups, to sex worker advocates, have issued six guiding principals for lawmakers as they consider regulations for emerging technologies.

Informed by a wealth of experience battling the harms of Big Tech and misguided regulations, the letter reads: “We cannot overstate the transformational power of building more online spaces free from the surveillance, manipulation, and exclusion that are undermining basic human rights today.”

Read the full letter at https://www.fightforthefuture.org/news/2022-01-11-web3-letter

“We are concerned that lawmakers’ ire for Big Tech and Silicon Valley might accidentally result in their killing off alternatives that benefit marginalized people,” said Lia Holland (she/they) Campaigns and Communications Director at Fight for the Future, the digital rights group that organized the letter. “Despite the scams and obnoxious hype, emerging technologies like blockchain, digital tokens, and community-governed projects hold incredible potential to provide tools for a more diverse and robust online world with better systems of accountability and justice across the spectrum of social concern—from privacy and harassment to climate and equity. But only if activists fight for tools and principles that will ensure their liberatory potential is realized, and guard against well-intentioned laws undermining our work. While the space must be regulated in order to protect people, lawmakers should begin this process by centering the needs of those who have been most failed by Big Tech and the banking industry.”

In particular, the letter’s six demands urge lawmakers to ensure that any potential legislation:

  1. Does not stifle the creation of Web 3 systems that benefit marginalized people. 
  2. Does not undermine the privacy benefits of decentralized Web 3 projects, thereby centering the needs of marginalized people.
  3. Does not benefit Big Tech at the expense of alternatives and public interest. 
  4. Distinguishes between regulating major decentralized payment brokers and big tech monopolies versus other projects using Web 3 technology.
  5. Does not criminalize or overburden the creation or exchange of digital tokens.
  6. Does not have a chilling effect on justice, free expression, and civil liberties.

Signatories of the letter include Access Now, Adalah Justice Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Indigenous Friends Association, Justice for Muslims Collective, MediaJustice, Presente, SWOP Behind Bars, The Pacific NW Rural Broadband Alliance, The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, and Yale Privacy Lab.

View the letter and full list of signatories here.