Stephanie Hare joined us on the evening of 27 February 2023 to present the main topics of her book “Technology is not neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics”. In her book, Stephanie Hare addresses some key questions surrounding modern digital technologies: One focus is how developers of technology but also society at large can seek to maximize the benefits of technologies and applications while minimizing their harms. Read our key takeaways from our discussion here.
Some key take-aways from the discussion
Using a philosophical framework, she utilizes several different fields and approaches to ethics and philosophy to call attention to these issues. For instance, metaphysics points out what the problem needs to be solved, while epistemology helps us to ask about the relevant sources of knowledge to address these questions and problems. Political Philosophy, on the other hand, highlights the question of who holds the power to pursue these solutions, while aesthetics highlights how technologies should be designed and displayed. Ethics, finally, gives us answers to the question of what the inherent values are baked into technology.
Throughout the discussion with Alexander v. Janowski and the audience, we addressed crucial observations on the design of technologies which we can make in our everyday world. Examples included how the size of many smartphones is fitted to larger, typically male hands, similarly to how airbags in vehicles have only been tested on mannequins that resemble the average male body. These observations lent credence to the ethical considerations of who and what entities do and should have control over the design and application of technologies.
Overall, Stephanie Hare hopes that her book “hacks humans and human culture.” by contributing to the effort to inspiring people to see the biases and intentional or unintentional inequalities that technologies will take on from their developers if left unscrutinized.
To learn more about Stephanie Hare, the book, and her other works, visit her website at https://www.harebrain.co.
With the aim of tackling the issue of harmful discourse online, we joined forces with the Bavarian State Ministry of Justice in order to build a community of practice. In a series of events of the Reboot Social Media Hub, we brought together academics and practitioners working on hate speech and other forms of hateful content online to discuss current problems and potential solutions.
Opening up the dialogue, our panel discussion with Teresa Ott (Hate Speech Officer at the Attorney General’s Office), Anna Wegscheider (lawyer at HateAid), and Svea Windwehr (policy analyst at Google), moderated by Georg Eisenreich, MDL (Bavarian State Minister of Justice) and Urs Gasser (TU Munich), gave around 100 guests that participated in the event deeper insights about the current state of the EU’s Digital Services Act and its impact on prosecutors, platforms, and users.
Key insights from the discussion
While EU-wide harmonization through the DSA was identified as having great potential, it still faces setbacks when compared to the NetzDG, such as the lack of inclusion of deletion periods or concrete details on enforcement for hate speech violations. It was hence seen critical to explore ways to guarantee that the stronger and more actionable aspects of the NetzDG will still be available even if the DSA and its more ambiguous propositions are put in place.
In general, the panelists noticed that the internal processes of major platforms regarding content moderation practices are still a "black box" for both law enforcement and victims of online hate. There was a wide consensus that this could and should be improved through expanded cooperation and communication between stakeholders from civil society, agencies, and platform operators.
A final point was raised regarding public awareness of hate speech. Only 2 out of 10 online offenses are currently reported. To increasingly report and prosecute online hate, awareness of digital violence must be further increased - not only among the population but also in the judiciary and law enforcement. But as the number of reported cases increases, additional resources will then also become necessary for the responsible authorities to prosecute these instances.
Session 1 focused on the latest insights on hate speech, incivility, and misogyny in online discourse. Based on inputs from Yannis Theocharis, Janina Steinert, and Jürgen Pfeffer (all TU Munich), participants discussed trade-offs between the need for different forms of content moderation vis-à-vis freedom of speech as a fundamental norm. While there was a consensus that a better understanding of the “grey zones” of hate speech, and how to deal with it, is needed, it was clear that some types of online behavior should not be normalized. It was also stressed that online hate is spread by a comparatively few, which are extremely loud and hence gain a lot of traction. This, in turn, has implications regarding whom policies to regulate harmful online content should be directed towards: the few haters or the large masses.
Session 2 dealt with questions related to the implementation of the Digital Services Act concerning online hate. Following inputs from Till Guttenberger (Bavarian State Ministry of Justice) and Teresa Ott (Hate Speech Officer at the Attorney’s General Office), it was debated how to keep effective measures of the NetzDG alive once the Digital Services Act is enacted. A core topic focused on how future institutions and mechanisms should be designed. Participants were also wondering how to best increase awareness among victims and the public on ways to report hate speech.
Session 3 looked beyond the law to address uncivil discourse online. Christian Djeffal (TU Munich) spoke about content moderation together with users, while Sandra Cortesi (University of Zurich & Harvard University) gave an overview on how to educate children with the skills to navigate online discourses on social media. The big questions focused on finding sweet spots between education and regulation– which is probably not an “either/or” – as well as who is in the best position to create educational content highlighting that all relevant actors need to be on board.
Partners & organization
The events were jointly organized by the TUM Think Tank, the Professorship for Public Policy, Governance and Innovative Technology, and the Bavarian State Ministry of Justice. Our special thanks go to our panelists Teresa Ott, Svea Windwehr, and Anna Wegscheider for sharing their expertise. We thank all participants for their input and engaged discussions as we are looking forward to continuing this conversation that we started.
Exploring the future trajectories of the Metaverse as tomorrow’s digital frontier at a moment in time where technology, business models, and regulatory systems are still malleable, our interactive multi-stakeholder workshop was centered around four cases that affect and involve different user groups.
Key insights from the discussion
XR Spaces and extended reality infrastructures by the XR Hub Bavaria.
Our partner from the XR Hub Bavaria presented a variety of different projects aiming at the creation of a digital infrastructure which can serve as common good technologies. Being a state-funded initiative, the focus of the XR Spaces as a use case for Government-to-Citizen project is on value-driven activities while commercial aspects take the backseat.
Metaverse pilot by the EU Global Gateway Initiative.
The EU communication campaign provides another example for a Government-to-Citizen project. When public actors use Metaverse-applications to engage with citizens, it is a challenge to find the right balance between providing content as information and allowing visitors of the Metaverse to create, interact and change the environment. This leads to two suggestions: How can we educate across societal groups about the capability to interact in virtual spaces? And how far can the state be involved in the provision of Metaverse infrastructure as well as content creation?
Digital twins in manufacturing for Small-Medium Entreprises by Umlaut @Accenture.
An example for Business-to-Business case was provided by the startup Umlaut which was recently acquired by Accenture. There is still a lack of knowledge concerning the high potential of digital twins for the training and education sector, demonstrated in the manufacturing use case. In addition to this, there is still a high inequality to access across the globe as some areas might not have access to the necessary data or still might not have access to the technology.
Virtual Reality speech trainer through Artificial Intelligence by Straightlabs.
The last use case was presented by Straightlabs as an example for a Business-to-Consumer application. The tool shows the immense potential for different areas, especially capacity building and training, of application of immersive technology, but also the complexity caused by the degree of involvement of personal data and the human itself in a hard to explain and complex technology.
The Metaverse workshop brought together stakeholders from academia, startups, business, government, administration, and media to jointly explore and experience the promises and pitfalls based on selected Metaverse applications from different areas.