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Ethics and intent: What that really means for Hyperaudio.

We want to create technology that will always be kind and safe, that works as intended, and can't be abused. Like others we even have an ethical position, and we can sum it up as follows:

We are committed to creating safety first, non-profit driven, consentful technology that allows you to keep control of your data and content.

But ethics aren't enough we need strategies and processes.

Intent is not enough, an ethical position does not guarantee a safe or expected outcome. Many tech products work as designed and yet are weaponised against the most vulnerable or marginalised users. We need social, data and financial structures that create space for ethical design and implementation, but ones that allow us to minimise accidental harm and correct any design decisions that result in harm.

Principles to inform our strategies and processes

As we work out how to implement the various pieces of the Hyperaudio project, and consider the repercussions of these design and implementation decisions, we want to keep in mind the following principles.

  1. Tech is not neutral — we want to ensure that underrepresented and marginalised community members are safe and can communicate their specific safety and privacy concerns to us, so that these issues can be addressed.
  2. Seek out shared values — we seek out host communities and work with partners that share our values and will work with us to ensure community safety.
  3. Openness and transparency — we need to be open to criticism and feedback from our users and community members and our responses need to be open, clear and transparent where safety allows. Processes we develop to manage moderation, abuse, inappropriate or malicious content and remixes should also be created openly with community participation.
  4. Amplify safely — marginalised and underrepresented voices are typically targeted on social platforms by toxic people, exacerbated by tools that facilitate this behaviour. We want to ensure that marginalised and underrepresented voices are heard, loud and clear, without risk of online harassment. Slow growth, hosting content by trusted communities, respecting the privacy and security needs of each speaker and content owner, and the rejection of algorithmically pushed content — all contribute to a safer environment.
  5. Environmental impact — we seek to understand the environmental costs to our technology decisions, and take an environmentally conscious approach. Legitimate concerns are being raised around the environmental impact of streaming media on the web. We plan to offer options for the type and quality of media, to reduce bandwidth consumption. Where possible we'll seek to reduce repeated downloading of data by providing offline capabilities.

By focusing on the values and needs of those most at risk in our communities, we wish to reduce the systemic pressure to build at the expense of safety and privacy.

Limiting our financial pressures

Our aspiration is for the Hyperaudio Project to become a non-profit organisation. A key motivation is to protect ourselves from possible acquisition and outside pressures — to inspire trust and confidence in our partners and customers. Being a non-profit also helps ensure that our values are in alignment with our partners. We also feel strongly that an enabling technology, such as Hyperaudio, should be available to all, without the overriding motive of profit creation. To this end will pursue sustainability as a priority, with all profits being reinvested back into the Hyperaudio Project.

With a project of this type and scope we have some very real costs to consider. Currently services such as hosting, transcription, translation and transcoding are our greatest costs. Our other costs include compensation for the continued development and support of the Hyperaudio Project, so that we can evolve, adapt and grow — and as we emerge from beta we will need to make sure that we have the capacity to fully support and respond to our community members and user-base.

In line with our values, we will offer discounts to non-profit and public benefit organisations and hope to subsidise these costs with plans from organisations who are less in need of discounts. We also hope to obtain additional funding to fully support smaller communities with limited budgets.

Since the Hyperaudio platform will be sustained by event based plans, we will avoid the pressure to continually recommend or push "related" content.

In addition to supporting the Hyperaudio product with plans we will support the community labour with Web Monetization. With our Web Monetization implementation we will allow conference organisers to (with lower bound thresholds), transparently set what proportion of money goes to the organisers, the speakers, the remixers, and charitable support options for access to Hyperaudio. This will encourage compensation the of community labour.

Web Monetization a WICG (Web Incubator Community Group) proposed standard is powered by the open source interledger protocol (stewarded by the non-profit Interledger Foundation) – our understanding is that it uses technology that does not result in extreme amounts of energy consumption.

In short – by limiting our financial pressures we allow ourself to grow slowly with a focus on community and safety.

Data data data

We strongly believe that users of our platform should have a frictionless way of moving, archiving and repurposing their data. We provide data portability by allowing media, transcripts and captions to be exported in a number of standard formats. We go further by providing open source libraries (Hyperaudio Lite and the Hyperaudio Wordpress Plugin) which can be used to create self-hosted interactive transcripts of content and remixes.

Our platform infrastructure currently runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS). We have chosen this platform to minimise our initial costs by taking advantage of edge computing and their services offering transcoding, transcription and translation. Our mid to long-term aim is to migrate away from AWS. In the meantime we are careful not to grant permission for Amazon to use the data we submit for any other purpose, by adhering to their AI services opt-out policy. We also select AWS regions based in the EU so that our users private data is better safeguarded within GDPR — the EU's legislation on data privacy.

By partnering with US based non-profit Permanent.org we provide organisations signing up with Hyperaudio an alternative to YouTube and Vimeo as media CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) and archives. We're happy to say that Permanent's values closely match our own.

If an organiser using the Hyperaudio service opts not to renew their subscription, we will freeze their account and present them with the choice to delete all their data on our services, and offer to transfer any data stored on Permanent.org to them. We also plan to assess how to make content and remixes long lived while still respecting peoples data needs, offering opt in archival of generated content.

In the event that the Hyperaudio platform closes down – all data stored on Permanent.org will be transferred back to content owners of the Hyperaudio platform, and all data stored on hyper.audio deleted.

Use and misuse of content

With the rise of popularity driven media, misinformation is an advertising revenue source. As discussed above Hyperaudio avoids advertising based pressure by offering a number of paid plans. Hyperaudio bakes in source material references and brings context to media in a way we have not seen in other platforms. Our radical aim is to distribute source content with any component part of media, to facilitate reliable fact checkable content.

In order for Hyperaudio to meet our aspirations and be consistent with our values, we need to consider the following;

  • Safety — we carefully consider the content and content creators who use our platform.
  • Accessibility — we strongly believe that both our platform and media should be accessible to all, regardless of infrastructure, ability, and language.
  • Control of your own content — content owners and speakers can have their own content removed or made private at any time.
  • Remixing with consent — content owners and speakers can control who has access to remixing their content by selecting compatible Creative Common licenses, which the platform then respects.
  • Publicly searchable content — content owners and speakers have control over how transcripts and media are indexed by search engines
  • Evolving moderation tooling — anticipation of abuse and constant vigilance is required to keep our communities safe, our tools will have to constantly evolve with community feedback. Our initial MVP model process of flag, takedown, and review will begin our journey of creating moderation tooling.
  • Incentivised behaviours — we will assess carefully what behaviours our platform incentivises, and modify as needed, this includes implementation of web monetisation, to ensure that we are still in alignment with our core values
  • Processes — for every decision driven by our ethics and values we need to be able to see it, express it and codify it in our processes.

Many of our objectives such as intentionally slow growth, data portability or a focus on safety over profit, allow us to walk a different path in creating a sustainable organisation that puts people first. We want to be explicit about our intent and the adaptive processes required to create Hyperaudio in a kind and sustainable way, by speaking it out loud we hope that internally and externally we can keep ourselves accountable.

We will need to continue to check that our assumptions are valid and that our blindspots are mitigated as we develop and grow. We are at the very beginning of understanding the ramifications and labour required for a values and community first approach. We hope to succeed. We would love you hear what you think!

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