The world will be connected, by 2025. But a totalising net of surveillance has annexed the planet, rapidly enfolding society and sociality. The unfreedoms of the internet are not just about exclusion, but the despotism of a tireless net that enslaves us as subjects of a datafied world. There was a time when those who could manipulate media manipulated elections; now algorithms are taking over electoral processes and the media. Welcome to post-truth on the post-human planet. The primary problem before us is that of greed: in digital capitalism, the Internet is becoming a rapacious instrument of capture. We have forfeited the opportunity that the digital revolution brought us to build a technology of memory that can radically change the power structures of society.
The digital phenomenon is invariably cast as post-political; as an autonomous force that is best left alone, untarnished by human intent. But inclusion presupposes the rule of law. As the Internet redefines institutions globally and locally, it dislocates the boundaries of existing jurisprudence. So, who should develop the standards for the global public policy issues raised by the Internet? The absence of a democratic international platform to address public interest in times of algorithmic tyranny reflects a monumental crisis of governance. A private platform floated by the top six digital corporations is all set to formulate best practices on AI technologies. Industry standards do indeed have a role to play.
But an internet that can be individually empowering, collectively enriching and ecologically restorative is possible only through a democratic rule of law that can guarantee the mechanisms of accountability, in global governance. It is time we move in this direction, of forging a global digital compact. We need a robust political process to develop global norms and policies for the Internet, as required by the Tunis agenda.