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Promoting access to communications services that expand equal opportunity and participation in our democracy
The Leadership Conference coalition works to ensure that new technologies further, not hinder, civil rights protections, and to expand media diversity and access to broadband.聽
Just like electricity and telephone service before it, access to communications and technology in the 21st century has moved from being a luxury to a necessity.聽The availability of these services are determined by our nation鈥檚 media, telecommunications, and technology policies聽鈥斅?span style="font-weight: 400">policies that must promote equity in a free, plural, and democratic society. When these policies fail, equal opportunity and democratic participation are compromised.聽
Voice and broadband services are essential for full participation in today鈥檚 economy. Unfortunately, our nation鈥檚 most marginalized communities are often on the wrong side of the digital divide. The Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program closes the affordability gap that keeps communities disconnected from 21st century communications services. Millions of Americans rely on the Lifeline program for access to affordable voice and broadband services 鈥?and that is why we work to ensure the program remains strong.
The transition from copper circuit-switched wireline networks to fiber, co-axial cable, and wireless all-Internet Protocol (IP) networks is an important evolution of our communications infrastructure that impacts all people in America. Upgrading technologies can offer great benefits for economic growth and competitiveness, flexibility, job creation, consumer service, and cost. But challenges may arise as providers upgrade the nation鈥檚 infrastructure.
Civil rights protections rely in great measure on an accurate, independent, and diverse media. The Federal Communications Commission must find creative and practical ways to address inequities in media ownership and enhance representation and inclusion within these industries. We advocate for the FCC to consider the impact of media concentration on minority and women鈥檚 ownership, improve its data collection on the demographics of media ownership, and meet the informational and communications needs of all people.
Prison Phone Rates
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Facebook 鈥楤ias鈥?Audit Misses the Mark
WASHINGTON 鈥?Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement on Facebook鈥檚 audit regarding so-called anti-conservative bias:
Civil Rights and Public Interest Groups Urge Tech Companies to Enact Meaningful Changes
WASHINGTON - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and 49 civil rights, public interest, labor, faith, and technology organizations issued the below statement ahead of today鈥檚 White House summit with technology companies on violent online extremism:
Technological progress should bring greater safety, economic opportunity, and convenience to everyone.聽While data is essential for documenting persistent inequality and discrimination, no one 鈥?no matter their color, ethnicity, or gender 鈥?should be unfairly targeted by businesses or the government for dragnet surveillance, discriminatory decisions, or any other unwarranted intrusions.
In 2014, we partnered with 13 other civil and human rights and technology organizations to release Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data, urging companies and the government to develop and use these new technologies in ways that will promote equal opportunity and equal justice.
To ensure that big data serves the best interests of each of us, civil rights must be a key part of any public policy framework.
Body Worn Cameras
As body worn cameras come into greater use by law enforcement across the country, police departments should follow certain principles to ensure that the cameras are a tool of public accountability and transparency 鈥?not instruments of injustice. In May 2015, a broad coalition of civil rights, privacy, and media rights organizations released shared civil rights principles for the use of body worn cameras by law enforcement.
In collaboration with聽Upturn, we’ve also聽released a scorecard聽that evaluates the civil rights safeguards of police body-worn camera programs in 75 U.S. cities聽鈥?and a聽report,聽The Illusion of Accuracy: How Body-Worn Camera Footage Can Distort Evidence, which explains why police departments must carefully limit law enforcement officers鈥?review of body-worn camera footage.
Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments
In July 2018, a broad coalition of more than 100 civil rights, digital justice, and community-based organizations released a聽shared statement of civil rights concerns聽highlighting concerns with the adoption of algorithmic-based decisionmaking tools (also known as risk assessment instruments) as a substitution for ending money bail.
These tools use data to forecast an individual鈥檚 likelihood of appearance at future court dates and/or risk of re-arrest. While many jurisdictions claim that these tools are a necessary part of an effort to end money bail and create a fairer pretrial system, the signers, representing millions of people impacted by mass incarceration, urge jurisdictions to reconsider their use of these tools, and to center transparency and accountability to the communities judged by the tools.
Holding Facebook Accountable
In October 2017, we joined with civil rights organizations to express our deep concern regarding ads, pages, and hateful content on Facebook’s platform used to divide our country, and in particular, to promote anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ animus. In May 2018, Facebook committed to a long-overdue civil rights audit.
Along with Color of Change, we wrote to Facebook again in November 2018聽urging them to take immediate steps to build public faith in the platform 鈥撀?/span>faith that is further eroded as we learn more about how the company has undermined our democracy and civil society. We also聽called for an update on the status of their audit, and a commitment to addressing the problems and implementing recommendations.