Congressman Ro Khanna of California’s 17th district made a visit to Georgetown a couple Thursdays ago and spoke about something near and dear to many Hoya’s hearts: internet privacy. The idea of one’s “FBI agent” watching them through their laptop or phone camera has become a popular joke within communities on the internet and becomes more and more real with ads popping up on Facebook or Instagram for items you only remember speaking about. Congressman Khanna’s Internet Bill of Rights grapples with this issue by creating protections for the modern era that the Founding Fathers never needed to consider. Listing protections like knowing where your data is going and being notified when your data is compromised, Congressman Khanna made a strong case for a more transparent approach to internet usage and data collection. (Read in more detail about his Internet Bill of Rights in this New York Times Op Ed).
Congressman Khanna then pivoted his discussion towards the fact that it has become clear that the future of American democracy lies in technology and the use of social media to start movements, share platforms and motivate voters. Congressman Khanna, representing Silicon Valley, made it clear that technology isn’t going away and can and should become an integral part of democratic participation, making the protection of our online privacy vital. When asked about how Millennials and Gen Z can best participate in democracy outside of voting (register to vote here), Congressman Khanna emphasized the power of social media and how we shouldn’t underestimate its effect. Especially in the past year, social movements against gun violence, police brutality and sexual assault have swelled through the use of social media as a platform to create a base of supporters. Congressman Khanna’s encouragement of the use of social platforms as an avenue for promoting democracy as well as insistence on protection of privacy on the internet makes him a representative looking towards the future of American democracy, not focusing on replicating the past.