The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has learned the harsh reality that lies and wrongdoings cannot be hidden with the release of over 20,000 hacked emails by Wikileaks, which demonstrates the Party’s efforts to suppress the revival(s) of Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. The fact that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking demonstrates how information can be used to influence strategic elections. Where the DNC’s wrongs were uncovered by the efforts of hackers to the benefit of voters, the strategic, one-sided release of the emails allows hackers to bolster the standing of Russian-preferred candidates.
Clearly, Russia’s alleged manipulation of hacked documents serves as an example of how the strategic release of key information can be used to manipulate public sentiment. The goal of Russia is to paint American democracy as a lie and showcase America’s shortcomings with this one-sided use of leaked information. At the same time, Russia suppresses the flow of information to suppress criticism of Russia’s problems and wrongdoings. Although the strategic release and suppression of information is nothing new, the massive amount of information available on the internet leaves a false impression that all the facts are known, even if it cannot be found.
Cyberspace is a lawless land where criminals, corporations, and governments find themselves on equal footing as they vie for control of the modern world’s most valuable commodity: information. On the worldwide web, power depends on technical knowledge and skill. The United States might be the most powerful nation in the real world based on economic and military might, but the US is equal to Turkey, Israel, Iran, Russia, and China in the digital realm. The internet is a great equalizer when it comes to the powerful; however, the anarchy of the internet leaves the world vulnerable to the wrongs of those who have mastered cyberspace.
China’s crackdown on internet journalism serves as another example where an abusive government is seeking to suppress information in order to craft an official record of current events. By seizing control of all media outlets, governments like that of Turkey also seek to legitimize their propaganda by engineering “professional,” implicitly “unbiased” coverage of events. In countries like the US, this is done when the owners of liberal and conservative media outlets hire journalists and analysts who share their beliefs. With the economics of the information age favoring already established media outlets and websites that cater to national/international populations, the internet is too often used to reinforce, instead of dispel, misinformation.
With that in mind, government needs the People to trust government and the People need to be able to trust government. Unfortunately, the need to trust government is too often misaligned with the reality that government cannot be trusted. The role of modern government is to properly address and balance the interests of all the People(s) of a nation. This requires the People have effective representation of their views and interests in government. It also requires a culture of transparency where public officials understand even the deepest of government secrets will eventually be revealed to the public.
People speak freely and honestly when they feel safe enough to express their true beliefs and thoughts without reprisal. The internet is one place where most people can express their true interests, which is necessary for democracy and society to thrive. There is, however, a need to balance transparency and privacy on the internet in such a way that the weak are protected from intrusion and the affluent are revealed when they plot against the Peoples of the world. In other words, there is a need to preserve cyberspace from the intrusion and secrecy of abusive powers in order to empower the weak and voiceless.
Proper structure is needed to promote security, stability, and growth, yet the internet lacks structure where it needs it. Every country/community lacking a strong “constitutional” structure, where freedoms and rights are broadly defined alongside limits for authorities and the structure of governance, i.e. Law, has been corrupted, has ended in the abuse of residents, i.e. users, and ultimately failed, whether that nation was an authoritarian regime or a democratic republic. Regrettably, there is no balance on the internet when it comes to regulation and freedom, which means the internet is unpoliced and lacks a “constitutional” structure to provide for the rights of individuals, businesses, governments, and other organizations.
Not only must governments be restricted on what they can do with the internet and user data, they must also be given a well defined structure for addressing national interests when it comes to information technology. Consequently, the internet must have some form of regulation and protection offered by a consensus of world governments, if the internet is to remain free for all the Peoples of the world. Because the internet is the World Web Wide and relies on the policies of all governments, the International Community as a whole has a major role in determining how the internet is governed. In short, cyber security and cyber liberty can only be properly addressed through international cooperation.
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