Scenario 1999: On the Flow of Information

Do we need gatekeepers in the digital realm? This is not so much an issue of censorship insofar as it is almost next to impossible to enforce such a policy on the International Internet, let alone on any of the National Intranets. If some Self among the Totalities of the world order in Scenario 1999 wants to speak their mind online, they will eventually do so in one form or another. They may not express themselves in the most straightforward, direct way, but somebody somewhere will know what they are talking about. The Freedom of Conscience is going to be upheld anyway, especially once Council Democracy becomes digitalized by the Social Forums. The issue that deserves mention pertains to information that would be obscene, offensive, and morally irreprehensible.

There is no doubt that, at some point in the 21st century, various National Intranets around the world will be demonstrating the ability to regulate the flow of information. It is one thing to access the National Intranets or the International Internet to communicate with others and exchange information. It is another to traffic in illicit contraband like salacious libel, documents stolen from government computer networks, depictions of child sex abuse, and fraudulent information. The precise development in which this will occur is going to be different from how it would have been implemented on the World Wide Web (WWW).

What can be said about the flow of information is the Intranet Service Providers (ISPs) should know that not everything in the digital realm is going to be acceptable to the values and beliefs of the Totality. This is hardly an issue of a difference in Weltanschauung or Ideology but the question of whether certain kinds of information, like instructions on how to create narcotics or explosions, should even be allowed. Regulating the flow of information should be one of the ISPs’ goals. If there are any objections to some literature or media on a controversial topic being uploaded to the National Intranet, it is vital that the Social Forums decide whether it should exist on the National Intranet. Should they refuse, the Judiciary of the Council State will serve as the final authority. No matter what happens, the Constitution and the Legal Code will continue to apply on the National Intranet as they normally would offline. This is just one of the ways in which the National Intranet as a concept must serve as an extension of the offline Real World.  

Conversely, the WWW has long had issues with all kinds of information intended to deceive and manipulate whoever receives it. One notable trend is the concept of “Information Warfare,” where the goal is to influence the decision-making of entire nations by means of the information that they can access online. Nations seek to access the most reliable information whilst denying that same information to others in order to gain some military advantage elsewhere. Cyberwarfare is merely an extension of Information Warfare where the goal continues to be the theft or denial of sensitive information and the destruction or hijacking of digital infrastructure through an ever-growing arsenal of malware. While both topics are beyond the focus of this Entry, one can be said here is that both will be more and more prevalent as the digital realm continues to become an increasingly part of Life in the 21st century.

Another trend concerns the ongoing proliferation of old Conspiracy Theories from before the digital realm was entertainable. Their continued existences have led to gatekeepers in the form of “Fact Checkers,” whose sole purpose is to verify the veracity of any and all information in the digital realm. But given that trivial information in the WWW far exceeds anyone’s ability to keep track of anything, it is inevitable that the Fact Checkers would only dedicate themselves to whatever happens to be the most popular or the most viral.

Compared to the first trend, this other trend predated the State of Total Mobilization. As literacy rates improved prior to the 20th century, more people began to rely on newspapers to get information on what is happening outside their immediate purview. To attract a larger audience, some publications began disseminating sensationalist stories that, if they were not blatantly false, were designed to provoke an emotional response from the audience. Tabloids and Gossip Magazines became ubiquitous with the proliferation of information that was either unsubstantiated that they could not be verified or could be proven to be falsehoods. Fact-Checking as a practice in itself was implemented at the height of this sort of journalism in the latter half of the 19th century.

One would be sorely mistaken to assume that the rise of the national educational system in the 20th century led to the demise of such salacious literature. While regulations have been implemented on the broadcasting of radio and television programming, the same cannot be said about Tabloids and Gossip Magazines, as they have gone digital in order to stay relevant. With the digital realm itself allowing anyone from anywhere in the world to read them, their influence travels farther than the international borders of their own nation. Longstanding misconceptions also continue to persist alongside the proliferation of trivial information.

The digital realm only promises more of the same. This should serve as a reminder that what applies offline in the Real World must also be applicable to what applies online in the National Intranet. Anyone who accesses the National Intranet of any nation must obey their Legal Code and Constitution, even if they are visiting that National Intranet from an Internet Café within the jurisdiction of their own nation.

Whatever alternative the National Intranets and the International Internet will have to replace the Fact-Checkers, one thing is certain: the flow of information between nations should always be covered under the terms of a Real Trade Agreement (RTA). If nations can trade goods and services, Arbeit and Geld across international borders, similar arrangements will need to be made regarding the flow of information. Let us not forget that State Media, Social Media, and Student Media are all capable of contributing Arbeit and Geld to the Life-Energy Reserve. The refusal to enforce the terms of an RTA regarding the flow of information should signal the opening phases of a breakdown in diplomatic relations long before any declaration of war could be made.

Categories: Digital Realm

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