WebRoots Democracy was a London-based think tank focused on progressive and inclusive technology policy. Founded in May 2014, we explored the intersection of technology, democracy, and human rights. Through our research, we shed light on technology policies which can reduce inequality and progress society to a more harmonious state of affairs. We did this by taking into account expert insights, personal testimony, and data analysis as well as organising public seminars and engaging directly with decision makers. After six and a half amazing years, we brought our work to a close in November 2020. Learn more about our story here.
Progressive and inclusive technology
New technologies can help create a better society, whether that is by widening access to democracy, by bringing people together, or by removing barriers to education. At the same time, novel threats are constantly arising which risk exacerbating inequality, undermining safety, and eroding trust. A failure to deploy technology in a way which progresses society towards greater inclusivity can result in citizens being unable to access vital public services, being subjected to abusive content online, or being targeted by unjust discriminatory practices.
One example which we explored in depth at WebRoots Democracy is the potential of remote online voting. The failure to adopt the technology has meant that many citizens with severe vision impairments and disabilities are unable to cast votes independently and in secret, as is their human right. Our work in this area concentrated on better understanding which groups may benefit the most from the adoption of this technology and on how the significant challenges on privacy and security can be addressed. Being able to successfully deploy online voting can help better include all citizens in the democratic process.
Another area we focused our attention on is the problem of abusive content on social media. In this situation, the rapid speed at which social media has penetrated society has left policymakers and regulators struggling to keep pace. Our work exploring online abuse demonstrated that the failure to address this issue has left victims feeling unable or unwilling to engage with political debate or the wider democratic process. Being able to foster a safer space online can help usher in a healthier and more productive environment for public debate.
Through a combination of research, events, and advocacy, we worked to push forward the public debate on technology towards policies which promote inclusivity and reduce inequality. Our reports, events, and advocacy were inspired by this central theme.
Working across the political divides
WebRoots Democracy’s focus was on policies, rather than politics. We regularly engaged with policymakers from across the ideological spectrum and welcomed MPs and Peers from a range of political parties to speak at our events and collaborate with our research.