If you are worried about “hacked” democracy, quit Facebook

During a recent panel discussion, The Exponential View’s Azeem Azhar and a couple of invited expert guests talked about democracy’s vulnerability in the age of information technology and social media (you can listen to the recording here). As probably surprises no one, Facebook’s role in the weakening of democracy and its institutions came up several times. And, as also should surprise no one, there was little optimism among the participants about that dubious characters will suddenly stop leveraging Facebook through bots, micro-targeting, fake news and the creation of alternate realities to undermine democratic values and essential shared minimum consensus.

But there is something everyone who is worried about the damage of social-media-enabled manipulation to the public discourse, can do: quitting Facebook. Continue Reading

Internet freedom is under pressure, but a loophole exists

Migration

With its growth in users and reach, the Internet is getting less free and more censored. This is a sad fact that can be witnessed in new legislations popping up around the globe meant to regulate and control the digital sphere. A recently published report illustrates the concerning state of Internet freedom in many countries, as reported by The Guardian. After 20 years of what in hindsight can be described as the “Wild West” of the digital world, leaders and governments have realized the threat that the Internet can pose to their power. Now they are trying hard to recreate the old order where citizens were predictable and easier to control.

For those who advocate democracy, equality, human rights and freedom, the Internet was a major achievement. Losing the Internet’s capabilities of collaboration, sharing information and organizing joint actions would be an equally major loss. Especially during a time when we see a comeback of the authoritarian and totalitarian leadership and a weakening of the principles of democracy.

But even though the prospects for Internet freedom are becoming less positive by the day, I think there is hope that we will not go back to the “dark ages”. One specific, constantly growing group of people could play a very important role in defending the Internet’s achievements as well as civil rights in general: people living outside their country of origin. Continue Reading