Statement about the publication by Science of the article on "Digital Discrimination"
In response to the many requests by the press to provide statements about the publication by "Science" of the article Digital discrimination: Political bias in Internet service provision across ethnic groups
I wanted to share the following information:
- The attribution to me of statements by the press will be valid only when the final text was sent to me for approval. In any case, such statements would represent only my own personal perspective, and it does not necessarily represent those of my co-authors or the involved institutions or groups.
- The paper on Digital Discrimination published by Science has been written in collaboration with other authors. The correspondent author is Nils B. Weidmann, who is the right person to ask about the research design. The full list of contributors can be found in the authorship attribution, right below the title of the paper.
- My main contribution to the article was the estimation of the Internet penetration statistics used in the analysis. That represents the main technical innovation of the article, as those statistics are used for the first time. I have computed those statistics using the Transparent Estimation of Internet Penetration from Network Observations, a method presented in the Passive and Active Measurement Conference at New York University, in February 2015. I am the correspondent author of the method, also developed in collaboration with the listed authors.
- My contribution to both the development of the method and the estimation of the statistics took place in the context of my doctoral dissertation "Political Technology: An Empirical Approach on the Causality of Digitalisation", under the direction of Prof. Dr. Ramón Máiz, University of Santiago de Compostela (USC, Galicia), and my participation in the "Internet Penetration and Political Protest" project at the Communications, Networks and Contention (CNC) research project, lead by Prof. Dr. Nils Weidmann at the University of Konstanz (UKN, Germany). The estimation method was developed jointly with the Communication Systems Group of the Department of Electronic Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).
- On chronology, I started my inquiry on the causality of technology in 2012 with an experimental device for real time gathering and analysis of Internet data about political protest. Following the advice of Prof. Máiz, I joined a Masters Degree at the University of Konstanz to develop the skills on research methods to enable my empirical inquiry. I joined the CNC group in 2013, and started to work on the Internet penetration method with the ETH by the end of that year. In 2014 my doctoral dissertation project was selected for discussion at the University of Harvard (US). The method was presented in New York University in 2015. I computed the subnational estimates in 2016, when the article was accepted by Science.
- On the meaning of the article and its implications, I would suggest to first contact the correspondent author. From my perspective, the article raises concerns about the role of political bias in the allocation of the Internet because that could contribute to the worsening of the already existing economic, political and social inequalities. The results are consistent with the findings of my dissertation, on the causality of technology. Similarly as any other technology, the Internet can be used as a tool or as a weapon, therefore any positive or negative potential for social change is based not in technology itself, but on the political conditions that shape technology. Stating that technology can liberate humankind, is like stating that water can liberate the fish. On ways to improve digital discrimination, I subscribe to those suggested in the article (go directly to the end of the text). On means to avoid the Internet harming liberties, I suggest to use end to end encription communications, easily implemented in smart phones by tools like Telegram for bilateral conversations (not for groups!), or Signal; fostering the development and use of privacy-enabling technologies; and taking part in the policy-making process linked to digitalisation. Joining organizations like European Digital Rights (EDRi), the Electronic Privacy Center (EPIC) or Privacy International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the many consumer associations are only some examples of the many ways to collaborate in those efforts. In my case, I drive my efforts in that sense through the Civil Society Advisory Committee to work of the OECD on the Digital Economy (CSISAC).
- For the personal side questions: the difference in love to my mother and my father is not statistically significant; I do not have any preferred color; if I needed to choose one thing only for an isolated island, I would choose a solar powered Star Trek teletransporter. I have born in Germany, and I feel comfortable in Konstanz, but I am Galician. On future projects, I will be looking for opportunities to continue exploring the causality of technology, and also to improve the reliability of the Internet Penetration estimation method to make the statistics available to the scientific community; and I will continue supporting the work of the CSISAC at the OECD.