Digital Action’s Impact in 2023: building a movement to tackle Big Tech’s global impacts

By Alexandra Pardal, Interim Co-Executive Director, Digital Action

Read our new Impact Report for 2023

2023 saw Big Tech companies enact a lot of changes – few were for the better. Most significantly, Meta, X/Twitter, Google and TikTok slashed staff numbers in safe platform design and content moderation. This drastically reduced their ability to keep online platforms safe from disinformation, hate speech or manipulation, at a time when their influence on information ecosystems has never been deeper across the world. The integrity of elections and democracy are increasingly impacted by ad tech, while our ability to protect the most vulnerable and address global challenges (public health, climate change, conflict, societal polarisation and civil strife…) is compromised.

Our mission at Digital Action is to protect democratic and human rights from digital threats, demanding better standards from the governments and corporations responsible for our digital environments. Over the past year, while tech companies have dismantled their trust, safety, and ethics teams, we’ve stepped up and into our role as a field catalyst, building a global and powerful movement. In 2023, we built the Global Coalition for Tech Justice, with over 200 organisations and experts across 55 countries, to challenge absent corporate accountability and ensure the future of online platform governance is global, equitable and inclusive. We’re connecting partners with support networks, funders, journalists and decision-makers; and building the infrastructure needed to catalyse new research, collaborations, and strategies.

We’ve launched our first global campaign together – Protect People and Elections, not Big Tech – for 2024, when the inequity of tech underinvestments in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia will be keenly felt in the biggest global megacycle of elections in our lifetimes. We know elections are flashpoints for online harms leading to some of the gravest real-world harms. Lies spread online leading to the storming of the Capitol in the USA in 2021, internecine violence in Ethiopia and Kenya in 2022, or the assault on Brazilian government buildings in 2023. We’ve also seen more powerful uses of AI and deepfakes for antidemocratic purposes. Far-right and autocratic leaders are now seeking to strengthen their grip on power in 2024. Dissidents and minorities will be targeted. Violence stoked. Communities divided. All this is boosted by algorithms and content moderation systems within the control of companies, whose platforms we use, invest in, advertise on, and are able to regulate.

Our campaign is already influencing media and policy narratives on democracy and tech accountability. And it’s solidifying the civic infrastructure that globally holds these tech and social media behemoths to account. It is strengthening the ability of groups and communities living in the centres of harm to reach centres of corporate and political power.

As an organisation, Digital Action evolved in 2023, with our visionary founder, Liz Carolan, passing the baton to the next generation. We have become more diverse and more global as a team, with deep expertise in global movement-building and change-making, extensive networks within regions, and an organisational development strategy that walks our own talk.

We’re grateful for our 200+ partners globally who are powering the most inclusive, equitable and diverse coalition in tech accountability today. We’ve entered 2024 supercharging our partnerships, reach and impact at the service of global tech justice. Many thanks to you all!

Please read our 2023 Impact Report here. We’re grateful for our partners’ many testimonials as to the impact of our work: 

“It has been a pleasure to follow and participate in Digital Action’s work to promote and strengthen international networks that defend digital rights and fight disinformation. The connections established through the Global Coalition for Tech Justice have helped us both to increase our level of information and participation in events taking place in other parts of the world and to strengthen our voices on the international stage. This is essential work in a moment where digital communication is dominated by multinational giants and national contexts are not always (or rarely) taken into account.”  Nina Santos, General Coordinator of desinformante and Director of Aláfia Lab

“When the Legal Resources Centre decided to focus on tech accountability and the influence of information ecosystems on our democracy, we knew that this would be a herculean fight of David vs Goliath proportions. We had to accept that we could not do this alone or in isolation because information integrity is a global problem that affects global democracies and demands a global call for action. Digital Action’s mobilization of civil society actors within the tech accountability space to co-create the Global Coalition for Tech Justice within a short space of time is truly remarkable. The blueprint that sets this coalition apart from others is that it is participatory in nature. There is an equality of voices with no hierarchy of global agendas and there is a platform for mutual sharing of ideas and expertise. This would not have been possible without the convening role that Digital Action has played. The LRC is truly grateful to be part of this Coalition and we have already seen the impact of being part of this global movement on our domestic and regional advocacy efforts in South Africa and Africa. We feel more confident in our fight against major social media corporations by our involvement in this global solidarity campaign ably coordinated by Digital Action.”  Sherylle Dass, Regional Director, Legal Resources Centre

“India Civil Watch deeply values the work Digital Action has done to bring such a diverse and strong coalition of organizations from across global majority countries. In particular, we drew a lot of learnings and connections from the workshops organized by the various workstreams. We also found a terrific community of practice through these convenings, and particularly appreciate being connected with colleagues from Brazil, South Africa, the Philippines, and those with experience working in Myanmar.

2024 is a deeply challenging year for all who are concerned with democracy and the rise of hate speech and disinformation in the context of elections. We look forward to building on the foundations laid by Digital Action, and make 2024 the year we turn the tide.” Partha P. Chakrabartty, India Civil Watch International

“Thank you for all the amazing, tenacious and excellent work you all and Digital Action in general have done this past year. There are always partners where work feels particularly easy, no-drama and plain enjoyable, and you are very much in that delightful group — thank you, also for what you do in the world and for keeping the heat on the big guys at the big platforms. It is much needed work.” Antonia Staats, Senior Campaigns Director, Avaaz

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