WebRoots Democracy is a London-based think tank focused on progressive and inclusive technology policy. Founded in May 2014, we explore the intersection of technology, democracy, and human rights. Through our research, we aim to shed light on technology policies which can reduce inequality and progress society to a more harmonious state of affairs. We do this by taking into account expert insights, personal testimony, and data analysis as well as organising public seminars and engaging directly with decision makers.
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 have 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 has 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 have 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 has 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 are working to push forward the public debate on technology towards policies which promote inclusivity and reduce inequality. Our reports, events, and advocacy are inspired by this central theme.
Working across the political divides
WebRoots Democracy’s focus is on policies, rather than politics. We regularly engage with policymakers from across the ideological spectrum and have MPs and Peers from a range of political parties speaking at our events and collaborating with our research.