Fragmented reality. New horizons of digital distrust

29 Nov 2022 06:00h - 07:00h

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The internet is global in its technical infrastructure, but local in its consequences for economies, cultures, and societies, which should be reflected in its governance. While the private sector is playing an increasingly active role in digital governance, raising the need to enhance transparency and ensure accountability, consensus should be reached as to the scope of the internet’s public core and the mechanisms with which to oversee the implementation of global technical standards. 

However, the internet and digital technologies have changed since the days of ARPANET. Today coordinated, fake online content attracts vast viewership, and may be used to spread panic among local communities. Moreover, personal data collection and sharing in a digitally connected world create digital identities that encompass users’ digital activities, biometrics, and other personal information. This in turn opens up personal data to wide scale attack and misuse. 

Currently, technology is a vital part of national sovereignty. Every country seeks to protect its information channels and safeguard its local industry. Nonetheless, a global internet requires international regulatory collaboration and consensus regarding basic frameworks. Common international standards should be developed around hate speech, disinformation, child pornography, and other objectionable online content, and these minimal principles should take into consideration cultural sensitivities and local contexts. The UN Global Digital Compact may serve as a document to guide a safe digital future. Respecting the principles under the UN Charter may also help prevent internet fragmentation. 

Given the internet’s local effects, considerable effort should be invested into digital literacy and capacity building within local communities. Instead of focusing on connecting the next billion, focus should be on connecting the bottom billion, providing access to the internet to all communities.

As the participants at the IGF basically started negotiating a new digital social contract, stakeholders should acknowledge the opportunities that technologies present to connect beyond borders, and consider their vision for a digital future that benefits all. 

By Meri Baghdasaryan


The session in keywords
IGF 2022 WS335 Fragmented reality