Limitations to Democracy and Liberty

Jan 16 2018

Another widespread concern, raised in Hub4NGI D2.1, is the abuse of Internet technologies causing threats or limitations to democracy and liberty.

In an online article titled "Will we still have a single global internet in 2025?", the Ditchley Foundation also mentioned that the authoritarian governments wish to use the capabilities of the Internet to exert controls over citizens and keep their data at home in order to ensure access.

Governments are aiming to regularise the Internet and ensuring prosperity. As depicted in a report of the CSaP Policy Workshop on NGI, States are working to enforce the data localization laws, which require companies to store their customers' and employees' data locally.

According to a recent study and analysis by Lipparini & Romeo (2017), the democracy is seen to be under threat in such a way that electorate can be manipulated via the power of the Internet as a source of big data and as a broadcast medium. The study points out that the governments and tech-companies may collide with each other to spy on citizens and implement social control.

On the other hand there is a trade-off between regulations towards social control and privacy protection. Applying the "hard regulations" against fake news, may imply the risk of censorship and social control which may violate some of the human values such as social liberty and privacy. This trade-off is highlighted in the Overton's report, and a multidisciplinary approach is highly recommended to balance between the human rights and legislation.

The Hub4NGI D2.1 also raised some of the issues and challenges in this context along with some recommendations. It is advocated to enforce regulations on search engines so that they produce more balanced results. However, on the other hand, users may not want this. They may prefer to get results that agree with their opinions and preferences. If more "objective" results are returned, the user's perspective may be that their search experience is worse than before. Citizens’ social groups should not be interfered with, unless there are genuine reasons (such as illegal activity). Many citizens want to interact with like-minded people, and clearly in a liberal society, this should not be prevented.

Promoting inclusiveness (e.g. broadband for all) and diversity (e.g. heterogeneity and multidisciplinary discourse) is a possible partial solution, but citizens cannot be forced into diversity. All citizens must have equal rights in the digital society. As the companies and individuals all are increasingly demand for fast broadband therefore there should be the right infrastructure in place in order to ensure that the citizens and organizations are not discriminated [Lipparini & Romeo 2017]. Multidisciplinary research is needed in order to answer questions relating to the state control and liberty.

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