Eva Paterson, George Polisner, Stephanie Lacambra, George Hofstetter

Tech and Belonging: Opportunities, Responsibilities, Possibilities

By: Josephine Okudoh

The “Tech and Belonging” breakout panel aimed to address questions around how the power of technology—and the technology industry itself—can be harnessed to create more possibilities for inclusion and belonging.  Moderator Eva Paterson kicked off the session by acknowledging that technology has had both positive and negative impacts on society. Using the recently concluded presidential elections as an example, she said that technology has allowed for the creation of communities, but has also allowed for the dissemination of lies. Peterson then invited the rest of the panel to share their experiences in tech and thoughts on the unique possibilities and responsibilities of the tech industry in securing an open, democratic society.

Student George Hofstetter, a self-taught software engineer who uses his skills to advocate for social justice, shared his application, “Cop Stop,” as one example of how tech can be used to increase inclusivity and security. Cop Stop protects an individual from police brutality as it notifies one’s pre-set contacts when they have interactions with the police.

Others on the panel similarly shared strategies that are currently being utilized, both from inside tech companies and from advocates, to expand safety and inclusion in the online and offline spheres. George Polisner discussed his project civ.works, an online platform similar to Facebook that is privacy protected and whose major aim is to bring people together in a trans-partisan way.

The last speaker, Stephanie Lacambra of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, discussed how tech can be harnessed to actively resist the rise of global authoritarianism and increasing polarization in our society, as well as how the power of technology and the technology industry itself can create more possibilities for inclusion and belonging. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a nonprofit committed to defending civil liberties in the digital world and champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. Fundamentally, the foundation works to ensure rights and freedoms remain protected as the use of technology expands—a critical goal in today’s online world.

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