What if ... we use the Internet to drive transparency and strengthen democracy?
Follow the Money: How Open Everything Uses Radical Transparency to Keep Journalism Clean and Solvent
“Journalism was eating itself”, Jan Almeida tells me. “We needed to find a way to trust what we were reading and take responsibility as citizens for supporting real journalism. So we trained our own AIs to take apart the stories they push at us, and see what they’re made of. Sources, places, agendas, ownership. Everything”.
We’re sitting on wonky chairs in a shared workspace downtown. Like their collaborators around the world, the loose collective that calls itself Open Everything works crazy hours in a scruffy-looking space full of soda cans, pizza boxes and white-boards covered in diagrammes and bad handwriting. Unlike many collaborative spaces, this one is completely fifty-fifty on gender lines, and the faces I see come in all the colours you see on the streets of this city.
“Sure”, Jan says, when I ask him if it’s intentional. “Equality isn’t something you sprinkle on the cake once it’s made. It needs to be baked in...”
Luisa Gomez, an older woman listening in as she writes code for a tool that tracks media ownership and political donations, interjects.
“We noticed some years ago that there was huge overlap between political extremism, online misogyny and dirty money”, she says, and grins. “It was almost as if the bad guys all knew each other”.
Jan winks conspiratorially then turns to me with a serious expression.
“Propaganda, financial secrecy, inequality and political polarisation – they’re all linked. It seems too big to fix, so you pick it off piece by piece. We build tools so anyone can understand what the agenda is behind what they’re reading...”
“But that’s not enough”, Luisa cuts in. “We also build up trust by helping people to support independent journalism. We make it easier to listen to the other side”.
“To all sides”, Jan agrees. “That’s the important thing”.
This story shows us how the Internet might evolve. But the path we take is up to us.