Who has the right to bring the public bad news?

Who has the right to bring the public bad news?

Every day now, we hear complaints about the growing control of digital media, often from people who apparently believe the concept was originally an unregulated free-for-all.

However, let’s remember the origin of internet. Back in the 1960s, the US Army was thinking about how to maintain communications among surviving units in the event that a global nuclear war destroyed central command. Eventually, the idea emerged of laterally connecting these dispersed units, bypassing the (destroyed) center.

Thus, from the very beginning, the internet contained a democratic potential since it allowed multiple direct exchanges between individual units, bypassing central control and coordination – and this inherent feature presented a threat for those in power. As a result, their principle reaction was to control the digital “clouds” that mediate communication between individuals.

“Clouds” in all their forms are, of course, presented to us as facilitators of our freedom. After all, they make it possible for me to sit in front of my PC and freely surf with everything out there at our disposal – or so it seems on the surface. Nevertheless, those who control the clouds also control the limits of our freedom.

Hiding the remote

The most direct form of this control is, of course, direct exclusion: individuals and also entire news organizations (TeleSUR, RT, Al Jazeera etc.) can disappear from social media (or their accessibility is limited – try to get Al Jazeera on the TV screen in a US hotel!) without any reasonable explanation being given – usually pure technicalities are cited.

While in some cases (for instance, direct racist excesses) censorship is justified, it’s dangerous when it just happens in a non-transparent way. Because the minimal democratic demand that should apply here is that such censorship be done in a transparent way, with public justification. These justifications can also be ambiguous, of course, concealing the true reasons.

[Extract. Appeared in RT on August 23rd 2018.]