AI governance for the majority world
Breaking out of colonial exploitation, prioritizing the right problems, and centering power in design and analysis
Last Friday, CITAP postdoctoral researcher Nanditha Narayanamoorthy moderated a panel conversation on AI and digital governance for the
Global South Majority World, featuring Dr. Sareeta Amrute of the University of Washington and Chinmayi Arun of the Yale Information Society Project.
The panelists began by defining who they’re talking about, and what label best describes this hugely varied group. Arun discussed why she’s stopped using the term Global South—a name that mirrors the iniquities displayed on world maps, where colonizer countries are displayed as larger and more important. Instead, Amrute discussed her appreciation for how the Majority World label centers the many, many people are deeply affected yet silenced by powerful institutions.
Access isn’t the problem; agency is the problem.
The group also pushed back on the popular understanding of the “digital divide” being primarily a question of access. Narayanamoorthy proposed thinking of it in terms of who controls design processes and data and who gets to create knowledge. Amrute noted how the tech economy mirrors older colonial exploitation and biases, and the group discussed ChatGPT’s reliance on Kenyan outsourcing workers to remove hate speech and violence from its training data.
Arun noted that the legal approach to regulating technology is oriented in a viewpoint that prioritizes free speech and innovation, while a Majority World view might prioritize preventing violence and protecting minority communities. She discussed how major technology companies often frame their complicity in real-world violence in autocratic countries by suggesting there’s no alternative to complying with these government’s demands and challenged them to consider the “exit option” more seriously. Amrute noted that the minority rights groups she studies have “a complicated relationship” with social media platforms where they know government surveillance takes place, using them to monitor hate speech, tracking what is and is not taken down after being reported, and broadcasting their own events while knowing that these are precarious spaces.
In proposing solutions, Amrute called for moving discussions of cybersecurity from a national or state framework toward holistic, feminist ideas of cybersecurity that aim to protect not only devices but “what it means to be able to operate as a full person in public.” She also recommended redesigning how ML and AI systems are used in content moderation, with a focus not on helping human moderators work more quickly, but to give them greater agency and oversight. Arun suggested that AI tools could best be used in a content moderation setting to flag what speech is going viral and help moderators prioritize viral content in their search for triggering speech. She also recommended accounting for power—which groups hold it, which can’t access it—in AI risk assessments and governance.
Publications and appearances
“Kaye, Zeng, and Wikström have completed an impressive feat, providing a careful and wide-ranging but compact examination of TikTok as a technical artifact, a digital community engaged in social and creative practices, a moneymaking venture, and an object of regulatory contestation, all while providing space to address issues of inequity and appropriation on the platform.” Affiliate Parker Bach reviewed TikTok: Creativity and Culture in Short Video for IJOC.
March 2, 1pm: Francesca Tripodi talks about The Propagandists’ Playbook at Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute. Details and registration.
March 9 & 10: The virtual QAnon Research Conference. Event information and registration.
NOTE: Corrected date! March 31, 11am: The CITAP spring speaker series presents Hakeem Jefferson, “From Margin to Center”: Reorienting our Approach to the Study of Race and Inequality in the Social Sciences. Details and registration to come shortly.
April 10, 9am: CITAP affiliate Bridget Barrett will give a public dissertation defense of her work on political merchandizing by campaigns and unofficial sellers. Details and registration (both in-person and virtual) to follow.
May 30, 2023: Release date for Alice Marwick’s The Private Is Political: Networked Privacy and Social Media.