Ist die Inter­net­zen­sur eine Gefahr für die Demokratie?

Did you know that during the last year the Inter­net was shot down in a sum for 121 days in India? The shut­downs were the mea­su­res of cen­sor­ship to coun­ter mass-pro­tests and ban the opi­ni­on of the oppo­si­ti­on leaders.

The reason why the shut­downs mat­ter to us in Euro­pe is that they touch on the right of Free­dom of Expres­si­on in a space that we com­mon­ly share. We use the Inter­net on all con­ti­nents and its cables lie under the seas and lite­ral­ly bind the world tog­e­ther. Howe­ver, the strengths of the Inter­net are also its weak­ne­s­ses. The lia­bi­li­ty of the infor­ma­ti­on we recei­ve still mat­ters a lot. We often hear about the fake news and how quick­ly they get viral within hours, or the anony­mi­ty the inter­net pro­vi­des can be used to faci­li­ta­te crime, such as buy­ing illi­cit pro­ducts on the dark­net. This leads to the ques­ti­on of how we can use cen­sor­ship, while still lea­ving the space for free expression.

Censorship’s more relevant than ever

Refer­ring to Dr. Sören Soi­ka, the con­sul­tant for public rela­ti­ons and media of the Kon­rad-Ade­nau­er-Stif­tung, whom I met at the annu­al Ber­lin Model United Nati­ons con­fe­rence (BERMUN2), cen­sor­ship is curr­ent­ly on the steep rise. It gui­des us to the sta­te whe­re bad infor­ma­ti­on leads to bad decis­i­ons. The best exam­p­le is the situa­ti­on with Covid-19. The Chi­ne­se govern­ment tried to cover up the first cases of the virus and put pres­su­re on tho­se who tried to warn of the dise­a­se, which obvious­ly led us to the point epi­de­mic spre­a­ding around the glo­be and kil­ling thou­sands of peo­p­le. Bad infor­ma­ti­on not only harms human rights but also demo­cra­cy per se.

How to react

Accor­ding to Dr. Soi­ka, the­re are few solu­ti­ons that we can imple­ment right now. First­ly, ade­qua­te trai­ning of the watch­dogs, who will look for cases of govern­ments or cor­po­ra­ti­ons silen­cing cru­cial infor­ma­ti­on. In the best cases, the­se should work under an inter­na­tio­nal orga­niza­ti­on like the United Nati­ons and be as objec­ti­ve as possible.

And second­ly, pro­mo­ting the crea­ti­on of the demo­cra­tic envi­ron­ment whe­re peo­p­le are alre­a­dy infor­med and can express them­sel­ves free­ly. Unfort­u­na­te­ly, I can say that right now the­se solu­ti­ons can be imple­men­ted only in wes­tern count­ries, and it is going to take many years for the­se trends to spread to an opi­ni­on-unfree area. But what I can agree on, is, that during hard times we need to streng­then what we alre­a­dy have: Jour­na­lists should be high­ly qua­li­fied. We need to make sure that our free­dom of expres­si­on will remain secu­re befo­re urging other count­ries, like India to improve. 

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