In DISEC, Definitions Drive Debate



One of the committee’s main aims has been to define the parameters of social media and its weaponisation.

BOSTON:  As of this morning, the attempt to “define” the parameters and implications of social media weaponisation became a crucial topic of discussion and deliberation both in-room and out-room in the disarmament and security committee (DISEC). From the minute committee began through to the end of the afternoon session, delegates’ speeches and negotiations have been cemented around defining what exactly they are combatting with regards to social media.

“We have to know what it is before we fight it,” said the delegate of Switzerland, in one of the first speeches of the day. Alongside defining key terms such as “social media” and “abuse,” blocs outside the room have been crafting mechanisms for identifying and defining the threats embedded within social media. Yemen echoed this sentiment, stating, “legitimate threats to violence can only be identified if they are first defined.”

The Hindu spoke to two blocs, ARC (accountability, regulation, collaboration) and DCP (definition, citizen empowerment, public-private partnerships) about their visions for defining the issue at hand. The Indian delegate, a member of this bloc, spoke to The Hindu about citizen cooperation and the prioritization of “strong ethics,” but did not comment on the issue of defining social media weaponisation. DCP claim to prioritize defining the issue, having included it in their bloc acronym as a key pillar to their proposal, which ARC seeks to define the threat by category. The German delegation explained its method as a scale, arranged by colour, which can be used to rate a threat and therefore implement the proper response to the identified threat.

Certain delegates propose alternative solutions, ranging from more specific to more general in terms of scope. The Thai delegation directed the committee’s attention towards regionalism in proposing a “strictly domestic response.” “Central monitoring agencies do not protect sovereignty,” said the Thai delegate in a speech. “DISEC member states need to be vigilant about their own realities.”

On the topic of definitions, New Zealand reminded the body that “different countries will have different definitions of “abuse,”” and other social-media weaponisation related terms, and the legal framework developed by the body “should not infringe on citizen rights and privacy freedoms.” Mexico addressed the question of universal definitions with a similar perspective.  “We must recognize groups in Latin America as well,” she said. “We must look at all aspects of the spectrum.” She pointed out that drug cartels threaten her country and the Latin American region with the same vigor as terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS. Presently, over 30,000 young people have been radicalized as a result of terrorist activity and propaganda on social media. (statistic provided by the Libyan delegation.)

In a final call for “cooperation, operation, prevention, and security,” the delegate of Denmark reminded the committee of its ultimate goal as he provided a more general, widespread solution proposal. “Multi-regional alliances facilitate cooperation, and that’s why this committee exists,” he said in an address to the body.



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