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Risk a Radical Shift?
Sustainability in Decentralized Communication Infrastuctures
In our search for privacy more and more people switch to “secure messaging apps” and various privacy-enhancing technologies. Surprisingly enough, encryption has become a new marketing argument for tech companies to keep users tied up to their products. We are living in what we could call the “mess of messengers”, having to use a handful of incompatible messaging apps every day to talk to our different networks. However, we don’t always even think that our favourite encrypted apps are actually... centralized. A single server, a single point of failure, a single team that takes decisions – centralization is not only a threat to security, it is yet another tool of alienation that takes away control over our own data and contacts. What if we risked a radical shift to bring communication infrastructures back to the users?
This panel brings together technical experts and Internet freedom activists and invites to rethink political and technical meanings of decentralization. While many of us share a certain romanticism related to decentralized communities and infrastructures, the notion itself, as well as its real-life applications, raise a number of controversial questions. How can we keep decentralized architectures – both in politics and in technology - scalable and sustainable? How can decentralization be helpful to communities at risk, and what risks does decentralization involve? Finally, if we talk “decentralized”, what is this “centre” we’re referring to? Does “decentralization” also involve questioning geopolitical power distributions and the digital divide it creates in the world?
We will learn from our courageous activist guests Fernanda Shirakawa from Brazil, involved in helping feminist activists in high-risk contexts to coordinate and use encryption, and Renata Avila from Guatemala, human rights lawyer and digital rights advocate fighting against digital disparities between Global North and South. The guests will share stories of their radical decentralized technological projects, that try to turn the classical centralized ecosystems upside down. Amandine Le Pape from Matrix.org, a new decentralized framework that goes beyond a simple “app” and can potentially help us build a new, user-owned and user-centered Web and, Holger Krekel from Autocrypt and Delta.Chat projects, making email encryption easier for everyone, and decentralizing the secure messaging ecosystem.
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