Since we started building our Western Europe portfolio in 2017, Luminate has had the chance to partner with some extraordinary people and organisations in the UK, Germany, and France. We are winding down our domestic work in Europe by the end of 2023, but before we do, we want to give space to the partners we’ve worked with to share their own perspectives on their work, what they have learnt, and what’s needed in the future.
By Martha Dark, Founder and Director at Foxglove
1. What does Foxglove do?
Foxglove is a non-profit based in London that works to make technology fair for everyone. We have two main areas of work:
1. Algorithmic justice: Ensure public bodies use data openly, fairly, and legally
From predictive policing to housing allocations, despite legal challenges and protests in the streets, government appetite for algorithmic decision-making remains unabated. We work to challenge their introduction without consent, ensure proper transparency about, and governance of, their use and reduce their biases.
2. Platform power: Bring the rule of law to global tech companies who have upended our public square, our workplaces and our social life
Big Tech’s power is a threat to us all. Deregulation of the internet has concentrated resources and control into the hands of a few who now set the terms of access and debate for almost a third of the planet. We work to rebalance that power – and tip it back in the direction of citizens.
We create change through investigation, public interest litigation and high-profile campaigning. We always work in partnership with other organisations and our previous successes include:
- With JCWI we won the UK’s first case challenging a public sector algorithm -- stopping the use of a discriminatory Home Office visa streaming algorithm.
- Orchestrating the world’s first parliamentary hearing into working conditions of Facebook content moderators in Ireland.
- Together with openDemocracy we forced the UK government to publish secret Covid-related contracts between tech firms and the NHS—and to consult the public before extending those ‘data deals’ beyond the pandemic.
- Together with A-Level student Curtis Parfitt-Ford we put a stop to the unfair A-Level grading algorithm used to assign students’ grades in summer 2020.
- We built a coalition of non-profits and an MP to force a pause of the NHS Data Grab.
- We are supporting former Facebook content moderator Daniel Motaung to bring a legal challenge in Kenya challenging unfair working conditions for Facebook moderators.
Deregulation of the internet has concentrated resources and control into the hands of a few who now set the terms of access and debate for almost a third of the planet. We work to rebalance that power – and tip it back in the direction of citizens.
2. What are the greatest lessons you've learned over the past two years?
We have been successful in challenging public algorithms in the last 24 months, we have yet to lose a case against the government over a discriminatory algorithm.
The battle to rein in Big Tech is more challenging. This can only be accomplished by a large movement. The law has a role to play in that – but so does political action designed to change the mood of our public square into one that supports breaking up the tech giants. It also requires a popular mass movement, rejecting Big Tech’s overreach into our personal lives and raising public awareness of their dodgy business practices and appalling treatment of their workers, especially at Amazon and Facebook.
3. What opportunities do you see on the horizon and what are your plans for the future?
We are ramping up our work in both of our core workstreams. In the UK we are supporting the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People to challenge a British government algorithm which targets disabled people for benefit fraud investigations in a disproportionate and discriminatory way, terrorising people caught in its web and forcing the entire disabled community to live in “fear of the brown envelope”, signalling months or even years of hunger, pain and fear.
Alongside our first case targeting Facebook, as already mentioned, we have several others in the pipeline, both supporting other moderators like Daniel, but also challenging the incredibly dangerous role Facebook plays in spreading and amplifying hateful content.