Crowdsourcing Anticorruption–New Essay in The Guardian

Regular GAB contributor Christopher Crawford–who has written a number of insightful posts on the potential and limitations of social media and information technology in combating corruption (see here and here)–has a new essay on The Guardian‘s website entitled, “Crowdsourcing anti-corruption: Like Yelp, but for bad governments.” Chris is too modest to promote this himself, so I’ll do it for him. Anyone interested in this topic should check out the essay by clicking on the prior link.

2 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing Anticorruption–New Essay in The Guardian

  1. Thanks for sharing Christopher’s article again Mathew! It captures important projects and raises important issues and questions to my eye that I’d like to present in summary form for further discussion and debate:

    1. Do we have good evidence that petty corruption is “equally as injurious” as grand corruption? If so I’d sure like the resource reference as this issue has been under debate for as long as I can remember.
    2. Likewise, do we have good evidence that petty corruption is “harder to eradicate?” Resource references?
    3. I’m thinking the primary or at least equal responsibility to make these social platforms work lies with civil society groups and businesses – not governments (especially in countries and sectors where corruption is endemic). Think about the incentives and disincentives issues. If a government would do it great but from my experience they are one in a hundred!
    4. I think we have to keep in mind the real financial and rights risks people take that use these platforms. We also need to make sure if we are promoting anything beyond anonymous reporting that we aren’t leading some to jail, bankruptcy or unemployment in many countries. All kinds of laws exist to punish those who openly report and they are used in many countries (again especially in the most corrupt or autocratic countries). We must also always keep in mind that web-monitoring is the real world of the 21st century.

  2. Professor Henderson,

    Thanks for your comments! Agreed that those statements about petty corruption are rather sweeping — the process of converting my earlier post to this piece involved considerable dramatization — and I’ll be the first to admit that grand corruption is a massive problem. Your latter comments are right on, and those sorts of concerns are naturally where my mind wanders to as well. When one of these social entrepreneurs came to the law school, he told us that they were using strong encryption and other safeguards. We were pretty skeptical, but I suppose that if the corrupt officials are small enough “fish” that they cannot make use of their country’s most sophisticated surveillance services… then, perhaps. On the other hand, simpler workarounds exist than having to break encrypted systems — the more detailed the evidence gathered, the more exposed the gatherer. As to your comment about where responsibility lies to incorporate these technologies into anticorruption regimes: I think it’s an all of the above, but the civil society groups and businesses you mention are already thinking about how to use these tools — as you note, their incentives are already well aligned. I wanted to highlight in my article the less common phenomenon of governments using these tools successfully.

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