In the late 1990s, Colin Powell used the term “digital apartheid” when he worked with AOL to donate 50,000 computers to help bridge the “digital divide.” Historically, redlining is the practice of excluding certain economically challenged groups from equitable opportunities, be it housing, insurance, or other services, particularly African American communities. Digital redlining has meant virtually the same thing over the past 20 years or so. This exclusion includes poorer school districts’ access to technology, broadband capabilities, and overall access to the internet or reasonable cell phone coverage. This restriction of services even goes so far as to limit opportunities for those in the inner-city who would like to play Pokéman Go.
According to Chris Gilliam, “Digital redlining is the modern equivalent of this historical form of societal division; it is the creation and maintenance of technological policies, practices, pedagogy, and investment decisions that enforce class boundaries and discriminate against specific groups” (Educause). One of the ways one can find evidence of digital redlining is by examining censorship technologies. Journalist Melissa Anderson from The Atlantic claims that these technological practices and policies, “deprive children from becoming knowledgeable digital consumers.” High schools use digital censorship to protect students from offensive material. Colleges and universities use it to protect students from themselves. In his article, “Down with Freedom,” Matt Reed suggests that students need institutions to tell them what to do. While it makes sense that student attrition could be caused by an overwhelming sense of too much information, controlling the flow hardly seems like the right answer to the question. More about this subject can be found on the Common Sense Education privacy blog, “Digital Redlining, Access, and Privacy.”
Other ways one can see evidence of censorship technology is within social media. Albert Cahn from NY University School of Law suggests that this censorship needs to be more even-handed. It is his observation that algorithms in Facebook target Muslim groups much more consistently than white supremacists. Unlike the other cited authors, it appears that he is much more willing to embrace censorship if it is fairly enforced.
I feel considerably more informed now than how I felt just a few hours ago. My husband told me there is even redlining in the electrician’s world. He says this is what it is called when electricians do the work to correct the plans that the engineers drew up. It is my conclusion that like the electrical application, the term digital redlining indicates corrections that need to be made on a comprehensive scale.