Nowadays, it seems clear that the question of security is inseparable from the problem of information sovereignty. We asked experts from the V4 countries what it means to them.

Małgorzata Fraser

Małgorzata Fraser – digital privacy analyst and educator, technology journalist

 

In the context of media, the modern understanding of information sovereignty encompasses discussions on many topics such as government oversight and control (often exercised economically) as well as foreign influence and citizens’ constitutional rights to information. Nowadays, this discourse means often being bold enough to pry into the established order of things.

Information sovereignty depends on our ability to ensure that media we rely on are both independent and trustworthy.

The weaponisation of information seen in recent years and its impact on political developments across the globe should be a warning against the lack of accountability along with excessive oversight (real or stimulated) leading to distrust and uncertainty inciting social disintegration.

Botond Felady

Botond Felady –  lawyer, foreign policy expert and commentator

“Informational sovereignty” is part of cyber sovereignty just as much as information warfare is part of national security strategies and military doctrines.

Hence it is vital to assure a healthy and resilient ecosystem in the national cyberspace. Of course, it is without a doubt that offline alliances must be quickly transferred into cyberspace as well since cooperation between national actors must be raised to regional levels.

Information sovereignty cannot be restricted to the content itself. It is inevitable that it involves all layers of cyberspace and this is where the task is getting complicated, as those layers range from the physical (hardware) layer through the data and programming to the social layer where information finally gets consumed.

For example, it is clear that the filtering of information can be done by hardware tools, AI and human agency as well.

Even the definition of information has enlarged; today it is evident to understand all biometric data as precious information, especially when it is aggregated. Illegitimately collected data and illegal data warehouses are a new threat to citizens that we are just learning to mitigate – through regulation, through technical obstruction, software-based blockers and all sorts of creative solutions – to no much avail so far.

Maria Staszkiewicz

Maria Staszkiewicz – digital economy expert, CEO of the Czech Fintech Association

Introducing any legal constraints on what information is available to citizens, other than for public or national security reasons, is playing with fire. Already, the terms of public and national security leave a margin of discretion for politicians and decision-makers about what information can be withheld on grounds of protecting a country’s interests. Good intentions of those advocates who call for more restrictive regulations in the wake of fake news can backfire and lead to censorship. And thus information sovereignty to me sounds more like information firewalls that exist e.g. in China, by means of which it regulates what their citizens are free to know.

The prerequisite for a strong democracy is a resilient society, one that is based on accepted principles, not enforced rules. Such principles have to be negotiated in public debate and then internalised by the society.

Unfortunately, it does take time and may have negative outcomes in the short term. But it is for the sake of open societies not to open Pandora’s box by giving a democratic state legal tools for defining what information can and cannot be published. The line is very thin, and we already have legal safeguards against libel, public approval of terrorism or hate speech. Let us first try to put them in practice in regard to activities that take place in the digital realm.

Dávid Tvrdoň – product manager for online news & technology correspondent at SME.sk

Dávid Tvrdoň

When speaking about “informational sovereignty”, especially a broken one, the examples of China, Russia or North Korea come to mind first. In this regard, we can easily identify what it means even for people not familiar with the term.

In the real (offline) world – take North Korea which has isolated itself from the world – we have several statements telling people who have a very different world view, that history is being twisted and the news is basically a celebration of the ruling dynasty. On the other hand, there is China with its Great Firewall that blocks internet users from easily accessing any information they would like and the information they can access is censored. If party leaders are being ridiculed online an army of moderators sets out to delete any such references.

In my understanding, informational sovereignty is my personal right to access any public information and a true democracy makes this available and vows to keep it so.

Obviously, to have access to any public information means that citizens know how to differentiate between true and false information. Media and information literacy is therefore expected to be taught in democracies as a basic subject.

Although it would be short-sighted to take the term only by its raw meaning. We should be speaking of privacy and personal data collection as well. Therefore, if on one hand we have unrestricted access to information, and on the other hand we have rules that guarantee the privacy and restrict or manage data collection, then we can truly speak of informational sovereignty.

The article was compiled and edited by Gabriela Rogowska.

This questionnaire is part of the #DemocraCE project organised by Visegrad/Insight. 


Central European Futures

Over the past several years, it has become ever more apparent that the post-Cold War era of democratic reform, socio-economic development and Western integration in Central Europe is coming to an end.

Visegrad Insight is published by the Res Publica Foundation. This special edition has been prepared in cooperation with the German-Marshall Fund of the U.S..

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