With Nine Working Papers on the Floor, Delegates Scramble to Reach Streamlined Solutions.
GARIMA KARIA, THE HINDU (Expository)
BOSTON: “It starts with villages, schools, and education. Our online problem needs an offline solution.”
These were the words of the delegate of Luxembourg and he stressed that education is “our strongest weapon in combatting social media weaponisation.”
As we embark on Day 3 of the conference, the disarmament and security committee (DISEC) at HNMUN has been directing their efforts towards the deliberation and negotiation phases of diplomacy.
As a speech by the Electronic International Federation Frontier NGO sent the delegates off to merge their nine working papers, his prompts to consider cybersecurity as a “cross-border issue” and to remember that social media is weaponised not only by non-state actors, but also by governments all along the spectrum. These critical considerations came into play as blocs moved to merge their working papers while bearing in mind the macro-level implications of both security and human rights.
In-room, speeches made by delegates focused on advocating for the positions they took in their respective documents. While Burkina Faso and others discussed the ways in which education “can make the internet safer for everyone,” the Bahamas took a more prominent stance. “Censorship is a myth… as long as ideas are in the minds of people, they can spread.”
China, a state known to exercise censorship and hindrance of free speech domestically, claimed that states should be evaluated and advised on a “case-by-case basis” in order to respect “different cultural values.” This was met with vast delegate contestation, particularly due to the fact that this is “a matter of balancing security and the human right to speak freely.”
Out-room, two major blocs have formed in preparation for working paper presentations. DC&P Steps to Stop, spearheaded by France and the Netherlands, defines social media and seeks to craft a convention with the legal committee for legitimacy and implementation purposes. As per the delegate of Australia, this bloc “empowers citizen, raises awareness, and is founded upon monitoring, not censoring.” This motto, however, is put into effect primarily through this paper’s reliance on corporate responsibility and the initiative of private enterprises to advise users of their data tracking and logging.
The SPARCS block is keen to “protect individuals’ privacy” by refusing to “oblige companies to share information with governments,” said the delegate from the UK. This parameter serves as a means for guaranteeing citizen privacy rights, while also respecting private enterprises and their databases.
Both blocs have resorted to heavy reliance on private enterprises and their data collection abilities so as to remove the assumption that states seek to monitor and “spy” on citizens.
This approach has been criticized in-room by opposing delegates, whose main argument states that transferring surveillance to private enterprises, in any capacity, does not improve individual privacy rights, but merely relocates them to a different yet equally capable host. Issues of corruption, side payments, and public-private collusion were also brought up as refutations for this “new privacy framework.”
Overwhelmingly, blocs are actively pursuing education and the safeguarding of free speech, but are met with opposition by states such as China, who push for “regional” or “case-by-case” approaches due to censorship-based domestic policies and tendencies.
Going forward, blocs will have to persuade these nations to modify their policies to include freedom of speech, as well as individual privacy rights, if DISEC hopes to enact meaningful change on the topic of social media weaponisation.