On September 15th, CDT hosted its 25th anniversary Annual Dinner, this year held virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As in previous years, CDT’s “Tech Prom” brought together the tech policy community for an exciting evening of connection and conversation. While the Zoom format was new, the company was as great as ever, with current and former leaders from government, academia, foundations, civil society organizations, and the corporate sector. In these unprecedented times, we are especially grateful to our platinum sponsors at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Mayer Brown, and Microsoft for the support that made this event possible.
To begin the evening, we convened a full audience for welcome remarks. CDT President & CEO Alexandra Givens spoke about CDT’s priorities and activities in our 25th year, including tackling the injustice of the digital divide; hard questions in platform governance; pushing for free, fair, and secure elections; and fighting for protections to ensure that users’ data is not used to perpetuate existing societal inequities. We were glad to be joined by Darren Walker, President & CEO of the Ford Foundation, who highlighted the importance of CDT’s collaboration with Ford in the field of public interest technology. We are also grateful to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden for sharing remarks on the value to policymakers of well-informed technical expertise and CDT’s advocacy on issues like encryption, election security, and data privacy.
Next, the event invited guests to break into small, breakout-room conversations headlined by leading experts in the field. Our speakers and moderators included FTC Commissioners Noah Phillips and Rebecca Slaughter, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, U.S. EAC Commissioner Thomas Hicks, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Expression David Kaye, Facebook Oversight Board Member Julie Owono, and many others. Attendees discussed topics including the future agendas of the FCC and FTC; racial justice and technology policy; content moderation; algorithmic bias; election security; and the role of tech in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The discussions were rich, with takeaways too numerous to completely list here: That solutions are possible for the ways COVID-19 has magnified the digital divide. That access and affordability of broadband are one of the modern facets of the civil rights movement. That policymakers around the globe are reckoning with the geopolitics of tech, questioning how to preserve an open internet while dealing with often conflicting internet governance regimes. That machine learning has become democratized, creating the need for people across many professions to become familiar with the ethical and methodological quandaries posed by its use. That disinformation campaigns now occur instantly, hijacking real online grassroots movements. CDT’s commitment to civil liberties and human rights shaped the core of each conversation.
Our sincere thanks to all who joined us for this year’s Tech Prom and to all who have supported CDT’s work this year! To the broader tech policy community, we look forward to the day where we can safely convene in person again. For the last 25 years, CDT has fought to make sure that technology works for people, and to put the individual at the center of the digital revolution. As we work towards a better, fairer, and more resilient future, we hope that you will join us for the next 25.