Why we need a race for the Internet
It’s going downhill. The report “Freedom on the Net 2018” notes a decline in global freedom on the Internet. In 26 of 65 countries examined, the US research institute Freedom House has found a deterioration. This alone is alarming, even more alarming that this trend has been worsening for years.
In its early years, the innovation of the Internet was as much a hope as the invention of printing: exchange of information, data and opinions, individual and media, local and global. This quality has not changed, but the quality of use has changed. Massive abuse has infiltrated the supposedly “innocent” medium, from hatred of anyone with a different opinion to gross disinformation to the instrument of power of authoritarian regimes.
This is also the focus of the US study. Iran, Syria, especially the Chinese leadership use the technology for censorship, monitoring and control of their own people. And it doesn’t stop there: China is exporting the abuse on a growing scale, gratefully used by a growing number of governments worldwide, who want to secure their antidote to the democratic form of society.
The Internet always moves between good and evil, its quasi-neutrality as a technology invites people and those in power to make decisions: it can support or destabilise democracy, nothing else can do it for dictatorships.
The enemies of the net win country after country
The sentence is not too big that the free use of the Internet, private and general, is directly related to the weal and woe of a free, liberal society. Access to the Internet is a human right that does not start at your own backyard fence and does not stop at China’s borders. Which also means: the garbage on the net is as man-made as the gags with which egocentric regimes strangle “their” internet.
Freedom of the press and freedom of opinion are less secure than contested worldwide. But it is visible and audible on the global agenda. The indignation over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has underlined this. Freedom on the Internet has not yet achieved this. It is just as if slander, fake news, censorship, data abuse are successfully working against the medium.
The report “Freedom on the Net” proves that the enemies of the Net are winning country after country, and not only that: Under the pretext of protecting people, their freedom rights in the online sector are cheekily cashed in.
What initially looked so easy and smooth on the Internet is now hard work, demanding commitment and dedication. Technology companies, governments and civil society, one and all, must work together to find real solutions against the abuse of the Internet, against the manipulation of opinions, against the illegal collection of data and facts.