After reflecting on the timeline of tech worker organizing and the insights provided by current tech workers, you’ve probably been able to identify key takeaways for the steps you can take as a tech worker to positively shape the future of the tech industry. Here are just a few suggestions to help you on your path:
Workers can proactively address ethical issues before they ever come to fruition. First, develop a strong ethical framework. Incorporate multiple perspectives and develop accountability systems so that folks are given continuous opportunities to reflect on and discuss their work and flag potential issues. Additionally, consider all the ways in which a new tool could be abused. Are there safety measures that can be put in place? By thinking through the worst possible outcomes, tech workers can make the decisions necessary to protect the public from the negative impacts of misguided or abused technological tools.
Building strong relationships is an essential organizing ingredient, especially when tackling ethical challenges. If you feel something is not right, other people in your company probably feel similarly. But, without strong relationships, folks may not trust that it is safe to speak out. Additionally, when planning actions, sending around petitions, or meeting with management, workers must trust that they have each other’s backs in these often intimidating situations.
The tech industry often perpetuates the mythology of the lone individual who has a breakthrough idea that changes the world. Yet the reality is that within tech, folks work in teams where each member is deeply reliant on each other. While this can be a fun, collaborative opportunity, it can be complicated to step forward with an ethical concern.
No one wants to disrupt the team or be seen as the black sheep. So, talking across teams can help workers discuss their concerns before bringing them up with the people they work with most closely. “Ethics lunches” can be a low-stakes way for folks to come together across teams and discuss the possible ethical ramifications for their individual projects. This dialogue is necessary to identify if a project is producing unethical outcomes, and if other workers feel emboldened to mobilize and demand change.
Involving diverse communities in user testing can help companies proactively understand how their tool would impact the community. When attempting to draw attention to ethical concerns, it is important to identify and center the communities negatively impacted by the unethical practice. Tech spends a lot of time wowing us with what works. Not enough time is spent discovering who tech doesn’t work for. Frontline communities who experience the negative impacts of unethical tech practices are already organizing against those technologies. By supporting those movements and providing technical insights, tech workers can support and build power for the movement work already being led by those most impacted.
There are so many organizing tools available to tech workers. From petitions, protests, media pieces, coalition building, there are a multitude of tools that organizers can use to draw attention to unethical practices and encourage their company to be accountable to the impact of their policies. By learning what tools are available and how they can be employed for change, future tech workers can be better prepared to demand positive change and ensure safer tech for all.