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Feminist Tech Policies

June 21, 2023 | by: point

The penultimate panel of the POINT 1011 dealt with feminist tech policies. The moderator Tajana Broz talked with Corinna Vetter from SUPERRR Lab, a laboratory for feminist digital futures.

SUPERRR Lab is a non-profit organization that works at the interface between technology and society. 

When asked about her feminist approach, Corinna said that it is very important to state that their work is not about women being represented or pushing more women into STEM, instead, it’s about multitudes of discrimination, discrimination patterns that lots of people experience.

She mentioned the positive impact of tech in social justice movements like “Me Too” and “Black Lives Matter”. The Arab Spring in 2011 was the first social media-led social uprising. Those were examples of how tech can connect people worldwide and make them empowered by having their stories shared and seen. But there are also negative effects.

When talking about those negative effects, she mentioned abortion rights and limitations in Poland and the USA. She mentioned that lots of states in the US persecute women for trying to access their reproductive rights. And that is often done via tech. 

Corinna gave an example of these negative effects. 

“One woman I think in Texas has been sued by the state because the state accessed her Facebook messages that she exchanged with her mother trying to figure out how to get an abortion pill that is illegal in Texas”.

Given the fact that a lot of women track their reproductive health on apps, companies having so much data can represent a big danger for women.

Corinna also talked about AI and algorithms that can not only perpetuate existing discrimination but further increase it. 

“Amazon tried to deploy an AI-based tool to pre-select the CVs of candidates for some of the higher ranking positions. That was based on the CVs of people already employed in those types of positions. So, the AI tool is trained with those CVs. The problem though is that the majority of people in those positions are white men. When they checked the tool, which was fortunately never deployed, most of the CVs that were then forwarded to actual people in HR were also of white men. Once again, already existing discrimination patterns are perpetuated by AI”.

In essence, feminist tech policies at their core have feminist perspectives on tech and tech policies. The core of the feminist approach to tech is pushing power structures and questioning who has access, who’s creating the system and who is governing it.  

When talking about their future plans with the advocacy, Corinna said that their big goal is to become inescapable. “So, next time I’m here at this conference, I won’t be alone but there will be like ten more people talking about feminist perspectives. So, we want this topic to be mainstream”. 

Author: Biljana Livančić-Milić