Leaking black boxes: Whistleblowing and big tech invisibility
Keywords:Black boxes, journalism, whistleblowing, leaks
In a time when socially impactful technology plays a central part in a variety of political and societal dynamics and processes, new forms of secrecy have emerged. The “black box” metaphor is used to define socio-technical systems that operate in non-transparent and prone-to-abuse ways. Frequently, Big Tech companies, their platforms, services and practices have been described as such, especially for their secretive nature and lack of transparency. Whistleblowers and leaks have contributed extensively and at various levels to the understanding of these systems, providing otherwise unaccessible information for public debate. Based on the discussion of a series of recent instances and a review of the available literature, this paper discusses the peculiarities of whistleblowing from Big Tech companies, and how the practice is helping to shed light on various and new technological black boxes and secrecy, while also expanding the scope of whistleblowing itself.
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