New Report: Comparing Guidance for Tech in Conflict

We are delighted to announce the publication of a new joint report, “Comparing Guidance for Tech Companies in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations.” Researched and written in partnership with Toda Peace Institute, this report adds another critical resource to help technology companies understand and assess their role in conflicts.

The research report explores the strengths and weaknesses of four different frameworks tech companies, governments, and civil society can use to assess harms and benefits of new technologies. The four frameworks include human rights, conflict sensitivity, ethics, and human security. The research methodology involved interviews among diverse stakeholders in technology and civil society sectors. This research contributes policy recommendations for developing practical, operationalizable guidance that could have an immediate impact on tech companies’ work in countries or regions at risk of human rights abuses and violent conflict.

Each framework examined in this report had strengths and weaknesses for addressing how technology companies can design, develop and deploy new social media and communications platforms in ways that mitigate negative impacts on human rights and conflict.

Our research shows that together, these frameworks provide the necessary components for a comprehensive approach. It is necessary for all relevant stakeholders to come together and work toward the synthesis of a comprehensive approach that considers all relevant frameworks—human rights, conflict sensitivity, tech ethics, and human security—and can inform tech company policies and practices geared toward ensuring that their products and operations do not contribute to or foment violent conflict.

However, much progress is required to get there. There is an urgent need for action and work on this issue. We have highlighted the following recommendations for industry, civil society, academia, and donors:

  1. Define what types of indicators related to conflict would trigger enhanced responsibilities.
  2. Understand what “enhanced due diligence” is and would require.
  3. Distinguish between types of impact on conflict.
  4. Create a community of practice and expertise that does not just include but elevates stakeholders from local communities.
  5. Support community-based and co-created processes for anticipating and analyzing tech impacts and harms and developing appropriate remedy.
  6. Curate a set of case studies that identifies both failures to anticipate harm as well as cases that illustrate good practices.
  7. Offer incentives and a reward structure for technology staff and companies that illustrate best practices in ethics, human rights, conflict sensitivity and human security.
  8. Look to lessons learned from other sectors for best practices for implementation.