The Design 4 Democracy Coalition is a growing group of democracy and human rights organizations around the world that is committed to ensuring that the technology industry embraces democracy as a core design principle. Coming from a diverse collection of regions, political ideologies and backgrounds, the Coalition is united in a shared commitment that technology platforms and products should help build a more just and democratic world. The public square is increasingly digital. More than ever, political views and identities are formed online. By developing a forum for coordination and support within the democracy community on technology issues, and by creating an institutional channel for communication between the democracy community and the tech industry, the Design 4 Democracy Coalition is working to strengthen democracy in the digital age.

News and Events

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Facebook Accused of Lobbying Politicians to Repeal Data-Privacy Laws

Leaked internal documents from Facebook show that the social media company has engaged in a high-level lobbying campaign with some of Europe’s most powerful politicians. The exposed memos describe a strategy through which company COO Sheryl Sandberg, a popularly known motivational speaker, used her influence and prestige to convince the political elite in European Union countries to repeal their extant information-privacy laws. Targeted politicians included former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

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Mozilla's Open Letter to Facebook and the Responsibility of the Tech Community to "Do No Democratic Harm"

In an open letter issued on February 11, 2019, organizations from across civil society urged Facebook to take meaningful action to improve the transparency of political advertising on the platform. Led by the Mozilla Foundation, a broad array of democracy and human rights groups, including members of the Design 4 Democracy (D4D) Coalition, co-signed the open letter, and supported its call for specific, time-bound action in order to improve transparency of political advertisements on social media platforms in the context of the European Union elections.

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UPDATE: Arrest of Advisory Board Member Maria Ressa

On December 7, 2018, the D4D Coalition Advisory Board issued a statement of solidarity condemning the indictment of fellow Advisory Board member and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. In light of Maria Ressa’s arrest on February 13, 2019, on charges of cyber libel, the Coalition reaffirms the solidarity expressed in that statement, and reiterates its condemnation of efforts by Philippine government to silence Rappler. The charges stem from a seven-year-old story that predates the enactment of the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act. The arrest follows a string of charges leveled against Ressa by the Philippine government, which are part of a broader attempt to silence independent and critical voices in the country. For her work as a guardian in the war against truth, Ressa was named one of Time Magazine’s 2018 Persons of the Year and was the 2018 recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalism’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. Today the D4D Coalition echoes Ressa’s remarks upon accepting the award, “The time to fight for journalism . . . is now.”

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Facebook Takes Approach to Upcoming Election Content Management- And Invites Backlash by Blocking Ad Transparency Tools

Facebook announced the extension of content policies and tools regarding upcoming elections in Nigeria, the European Union, India and Ukraine. The company is planning an ad hoc approach of restrictions on those who can advertise electoral ads before elections in Nigeria and Ukraine, as well as the creation of an online library of electoral ads in India. Later in January, the social media platform blocked tools developed by ProPublica and other media watchdogs, leading to criticism of Facebook from these groups, as well as lawmakers concerned with internet privacy. For over a year and a half, ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news agency, had been compiling information on hundreds of thousands of advertisements appearing on Facebook, detailing the identity of the ads’ sponsors, as well as who the ad might be targeting, with a software tool. In response to Facebook’s blockage, Mozilla Foundation then penned an open letter to Facebook condemning the action, which was signed by several e-media freedom groups. After garnering significant negative press from this open letter, facebook VP Rob Leathrern announced via Twitter that it would do more to disclose the sourcing of political ads for upcoming polls in the critical upcoming elections.

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D4D Coalition Focuses on the Need for Global Responses to Political Ad Transparency

After Facebook blocked access to transparency tools allowing users to see how they are targeted by advertisers, Mozilla Foundation and co-signatories, including D4D-affiliated groups, released an open letter to Facebook calling for specific, time-bound action to improve political ad transparency on the social media platform ahead of the European parliamentary elections. In response, Facebook committed to opening its Ad Archive API in March, and reaffirmed its intention to roll out additional ad transparency tools globally by June. The D4D Coalition’s post regarding the events noted that the challenges relating to ad transparency are global in nature. Too often, tools and policies to address transparency concerns have been rolled out primarily in countries where tech companies have a large market, or face the largest political risk. The D4D post references the notion that tech companies have an obligation to “do no democratic harm” and that protecting the abuse of social media platforms in the context of elections should not be driven by market size or political risk to the company. Indeed, new or restored democracies may be the least resilient to disinformation and have the greatest need for protection. The post appreciated Facebook’s commitment to roll out a global response to the issue of political ad transparency by the end of June.