The internet is broken—but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re concerned about how surveillance, online advertising, and automated content moderation are hurting us online and offline, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s How to Fix the Internet podcast offers a better way forward. EFF has been defending your rights online for over thirty years and is behind many of the biggest digital rights protections since the invention of the internet. Through curious conversations with some of the leading minds in law and technology, this podcast explores creative solutions to some of today’s biggest tech challenges. Hosted by EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn and EFF Associate Director of Digital Strategy Jason Kelley, How to Fix the Internet will help you become deeply informed on vital technology issues as we work to build a better technological future together.
Rerelease: Securing the Vote
This episode was first published on May 24, 2022.
Pam Smith has been working to secure US elections for years, and now as the CEO of Verified Voting, she has some important ideas about the role the internet plays in American democracy. Pam joins Cindy and Danny to explain how elections can be more transparent and more engaging for all.
Who Inserted the Creepy?
Writers sit watching a stranger’s search engine terms being typed in real time, a voyeuristic peek into that person’s most private thoughts. A woman lands a dream job at a powerful tech company but uncovers an agenda affecting the lives of all of humanity. An app developer keeps pitching the craziest, most harmful ideas she can imagine but the tech mega-monopoly she works for keeps adopting them, to worldwide delight.
The first instance of deep online creepiness actually happened to Dave Eggers almost 30 years ago. The latter two are plots of two of Eggers’ many bestselling novels—“The Circle” and “The Every,” respectively—inspired by the author’s continuing rumination on how much is too much on the internet. He believes we should live intentionally, using technology when it makes sense but otherwise logging off and living an analog, grounded life.
Eggers — whose newest novel, “The Eyes and the Impossible,” was published this month — speaks with EFF’s Cindy Cohn and Jason Kelley about why he hates Zoom so much, how and why we get sucked into digital worlds despite our own best interests, and painting the darkest version of our future so that we can steer away from it.
People with Disabilities are the Original Hackers
People with disabilities were the original hackers. The world can feel closed to them, so they often have had to be self-reliant in how they interact with society. And that creativity and ingenuity is an unappreciated resource.
Henry Claypool has been an observer and champion of that resource for decades, both in government and in the nonprofit sector. He’s a national policy expert and consultant specializing in both disability policy and technology policy, particularly where they intersect. He knows real harm can result from misuse of technology, intentionally or not, and people with disabilities frequently end up at the bottom of the list on inclusion.
Claypool joins EFF’s Cindy Cohn and Jason Kelley to talk about motivating tech developers to involve disabled people in creating a world where people who function differently have a smooth transition into any forum and can engage with a wide variety of audiences, a seamless inclusion in the full human experience.
Dr. Seuss Warned Us
Dr. Seuss wrote a story about a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher whose job it is to watch his town’s one lazy bee, because “a bee that is watched will work harder, you see.” But that doesn’t seem to work, so another Hawtch-Hawtcher is assigned to watch the first, and then another to watch the second... until the whole town is watching each other watch a bee.
To Federal Trade Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, the story—which long predates the internet—is a great metaphor for why we must be wary of workplace surveillance, and why we need to strengthen our privacy laws. Bedoya has made a career of studying privacy, trust, and competition, and wishes for a world in which we can do, see, and read what we want, living our lives without being held back by our identity, income, faith, or any other attribute. In that world, all our interactions with technology —from social media to job or mortgage applications—are on a level playing field.
Bedoya speaks with EFF’s Cindy Cohn and Jason Kelley about how fixing the internet should allow all people to live their lives with dignity, pride, and purpose.
Safer Sex Work Makes a Safer Internet
An internet that is safe for sex workers is an internet that is safer for everyone. Though the effects of stigmatization and criminalization run deep, the sex worker community exemplifies how technology can help people reduce harm, share support, and offer experienced analysis to protect each other. But a 2018 federal law purportedly aimed at stopping sex trafficking, FOSTA-SESTA, led to shutdowns of online spaces where sex workers could talk, putting at increased risk some of the very people it was supposed to protect.
Public interest technology lawyer Kendra Albert and sex worker, activist, and researcher Danielle Blunt have been fighting for sex workers’ online rights for years. They say that this marginalized group’s experience can be a valuable model for protecting all of our free speech rights, and that holding online platforms legally responsible for user speech can lead to censorship that hurts us all.
Albert and Blunt join EFF’s Cindy Cohn and Jason Kelley to talk about the failures of FOSTA-SESTA, the need for encryption to create a safe internet, and how to create cross-movement relationships with other activists for bodily autonomy so that all internet users can continue to build online communities that keep them safe and free.
Losing Until We Win: Realistic Revolution in Science Fiction
When a science-fiction villain is defeated, we often see the heroes take their victory lap and then everyone lives happily ever after. But that’s not how real struggles work: In real life, victories are followed by repairs, rebuilding, and reparations, by analysis and introspection, and often, by new battles.
Science-fiction author and science journalist Annalee Newitz knows social change is a neverending process, and revolutions are long and sometimes kind of boring. Their novels and nonfiction books, however, are anything but boring—they write dynamically about the future we actually want and can attain, not an idealized and unattainable daydream. They’re involved in a project called “We Will Rise Again,” an anthology pairing science fiction writers with activists to envision realistically how we can do things better as a neighborhood, a community, or a civilization.
Newitz speaks with EFF’s Cindy Cohn and Jason Kelley about depicting true progress as a long-haul endeavor, understanding that failure is part of the process, and creating good law as a form of world-building and improving our future.
Refreshingly Nuanced Discourse on Neglected Topics
I just happened on this podcast and wanted to say thank you all for posting quality content about subjects of consequence and depth.
Let’s Fix It! 🛠
This podcast is so insightful and I’ve enjoyed every episode I’ve listened to so far! Cindy and Jason are very skilled interviewers - I love how they lead meaningful conversations with leaders who bring so much experience and actionable insight to the table. Highly recommend checking this show out - you won’t be disappointed!
If you care at all about the internet this is great!
This explains a lot of complicated concepts in plain English anyone can understand. It really shows us what is going on, how we can get involved, and provides different avenues to strengthen our digital rights. If you care at all about your rights, privacy, or the internet you need to hear this.