A journalist from The Hindu poses a question to the DISEC body.
GARIMA KARIA, THE HINDU (Opinion)
BOSTON: As Day 3 comes to a close, DISEC delegates are eager to present (and hopefully pass) their draft resolutions on the topic of social media weaponisation.
Unfortunately for them, this would not be the case without a grilling session on the content of their working papers by The Hindu and the rest of the press corps.
A big topic was big data, particularly its dynamism and ability to flow seamlessly through borders and limits normally enforced by states themselves. In response to questions and follow-ups concerning how this committee’s proposed solutions would address the issue of sovereignty, Burkina Faso (from the SPARCS block) specified that their draft resolution focuses on the domestic level in order to address the issue of data. “Social media is an issue no matter what state you’re from,” the delegate responded. “We really want to respect state sovereignty.” In making this statement, Burkina Faso propelled its bloc’s regional and sovereignty-based approach, but the ways in which it addresses dynamic data was unclear. Hopefully, this bloc will adopt a mechanism to navigate big data and its legal parameters, but, for the time being, it seems as though the draft does not address this crucial characteristic of big data.
Signatories seemed to lack responses to questions surrounding the pervasiveness and protection of big data.
An important consideration is that of liberty of expression, especially in terms of social media and its main functions. In response to a passionate speech made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in favour of draft resolution “DISEC FRIEND,” The Hindu asked this bloc if and how they can guarantee that freedom of speech be respected when members of their bloc do not currently adhere to this principle.
In response, the Chinese delegation indicated “a high level of social change” currently taking place in their long-established, socially oppressive regimes. “When there’s a high level of social change, there is a high risk of radicalisation which is dangerous… we are working to create the most free speech possible while also prioritizing our citizen’s protection.”
To that end, the Chinese delegation confirmed that is supports the removal of basic human rights as a way to keep citizens safe. China also admitted that “what they are doing can be perceived as hampering free speech,” accompanied by a weak justification that citizens are only “free to express themselves when they are safe,” inherently disclosing that citizens are therefore unsafe in China. “We have to ensure that [our citizens] are safe before we can provide them with the freedoms that wealthy western democracies can.”
I’m not sure how the Chinese state is going to achieve this “safety” for their people if it in itself is the cause for their lack of safety and oppression, but the fact that freedom of speech is a human right now associated solely with “wealthy western democracies” is a concerning reality in itself
On the topic of monitoring systems, Ireland completely dodged The Hindu’s question regarding database security and safety in the face of cyberterrorism and terrorist access. “We aren’t giving away data to terrorists,” she said, while failing to explain how this data is going to be protected.
One final problematic clause in the DISEC FRIEND proposal allowed for states’ prior “international arrangements” to take precedence over any new policy implemented by the aforementioned proposal. If this is the case, this agreement is both shallow and non-enforceable on international political terms.
To clarify, The Hindu questioned whether or not this parameter would exempt states that censor media and engage in human rights violations domestically from abiding by the terms of the proposal in the future.
Vanuatu confirmed my hypothesis with a guise of state sovereignty prioritization. “We can give states the framework that they need and allow them to navigate and interpret,” Vanuatu said. “It’s a push in the right direction.”
I’m not sure a “push” is what aggressive and oppressive states need, particularly in terms of social media rights and liberties, but rather a firm guiding hand in the direction of free speech and human rights.
However, the realities of this occurring are bleak. “We have to toe a line… there’s some grey area there in terms of sovereignty.” It is clear that this bloc prioritizes the classical definition of sovereignty over enacting tangible change and promoting human rights, such as freedom of speech, which may stimulate cohesion within the committee, but will definitely hinder any real progress on this issue.