Can Mobile Apps Make a Real Contribution to Social Justice?

July 11, 2016 - 2 minutes read


While Facebook’s stance on censorship remains murky, the unicorn tech giant has issued multiple statements insinuating that the platform — and Facebook live in particular — can have a positive impact by bringing transparency to everyday life. Last week’s controversial police shooting video, which was quickly removed from the platform before being reinstated after public outcry, has mobile app developers and the American public eager to understand the future of mobile tech’s role in social justice.

In a statement regarding the shooting, Zuckerberg commented that “While I hope we never have to see another video like Diamond’s, it reminds us why coming together to build a more open and connected world is so important — and how far we still have to go.”

While tech has often sought to alleviate societal problems in the past (TraffickCam, which crowdsources hotel room photos to identify human trafficking victims, comes to mind), the general public is increasingly expecting bigger, bolder, and more humanitarian initiatives. San Francisco mobile app developers, who for the most part have been concentrated on convenience and business, are starting to ask: “how can this technology help?”

Initiatives like Facebook Live that promote transparency and sharing can also act as a double-edged sword, bringing a host of privacy concerns along with the benefits they provide. Before drones and government surveillance even come into the mix, consumers frequently find themselves trading privacy for convenience with private for-profit companies. Even with those they trust, it can be a slippery slope towards a loss of control over personal data.

Where mobile app developers draw the line remains to be seen, but the public debate is clearly underway. In a landscape where private companies wield the most power, it’s critical that mobile app developers pursue their solutions with the public good in mind — and always be looking for how startups can solve real problems.

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