One of the most frequent reactions I get when I mention to people that I co-founded a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the technology issues of LGBT communities is bewilderment and surprise that LGBT communities would have specific concerns related to technology that differ from those of other communities. It is not an altogether unfair reaction, as, at first blush, it doesn’t seem like LGBT people would interact with technology any differently than their heterosexual counterparts would. However, it is precisely as a result of this reaction that I decided to launch the LGBT Technology Partnership. As a matter of fact, LGBT communities do indeed have very specific concerns and issues that wholly differ from those of other communities, and it is our goal to educate the general public as well as relevant policy makers and industry leaders on these issues to ensure that those concerns are included and addressed in any policy conversations about technology.
To that end, this month the LGBT Technology Partnership is extremely proud to launch a series of daily blog posts meant to spur discussion about these issues, written by experts in their fields and culminating in the first-ever LGBT public policy forum addressing key technology areas affecting LGBT communities, with a keynote address by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai. This year’s forum will revolve around two major areas: the impact of the national broadband plan on LGBT communities, and online security, confidentiality and privacy issues for LGBT communities. In early 2009 Congress directed the FCC to develop a national broadband plan to ensure that every American has “access to broadband capability.” Congress also required that this plan include a detailed strategy for achieving affordability and maximizing use of broadband to advance “consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, employee training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.” Our guest posts and the subsequent panel will explore and address the impact of this national broadband plan on LGBT communities. LGBT communities have relied on broadband technology in several unique ways since its earliest inception. (Research shows that LGBT communities are among the earliest adopters of new technologies.) In many instances the Internet served to decrease isolation and spark empowerment and greater civic engagement by eliminating geographic barriers that long separated LGBT individuals and their communities. From online dating to running businesses, public safety to electronic health care, we’ve assembled a team of experts from the Aspen Institute, Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers, CUNY College and Freedom to Marry to explore the implications of the future of broadband and its impact on LGBT communities across the United States. Also, this week and next, we will hear from experts on how to keep LGBT communities safe online. From cyberbullying to unintentional outing, privacy, confidentiality and security are significant concerns for LGBT communities when going online. How can LGBT communities take actions to better ensure that they own their online profiles? How can companies ensure that they are considering the needs of LGBT communities when developing or adopting new policies? Also explored will be hate speech and censorship. What is the best approach to striking a balance between these two? Representatives from The Trevor Project, TechFreedom, Facebook, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the national law firm Hogan Lovells, LLP, as well as the former executive director of OutServe/SLDN, will lead discussion on these and other online and privacy aspects specific to LGBT communities.
Our goal is simple: to spur a national discussion on technology issues specific to LGBT communities. As more of our lives move to digital platforms, this conversation is long overdue! If you haven’t done so already, please register for this free forum by clicking here. Also make sure to check in daily for our guest blog posts and join the conversation. The policies and issues being discussed have an impact on the lives of each and every LGBT person across the U.S. and beyond. We look forward to having you be a part of the discussion.