There Can Be No Democracy Without Accountability

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Victims of internet crime need an organised route to redress

Everyone in the office understood the excitement when, in the early 90s, one of my colleagues ran out of his room sharing the news that he had just received his first ever email from a colleague from the UK, with a presentation as an attachment. This replaced expensive couriers with a turn-around time of at least 3 days. We had entered the digital age and we knew it was significant. Digitization was about to change the way individuals and organizations communicated, worked, acted and reacted to each other.

We are moving from a hierarchical structure to a connected and networked society – from ‘Command-and-Control’ to ‘Connect-and-Collaborate’. I believe that working and living in such a society will ultimately change our norms and values. Questions like ‘how we can complement each other?’ and ‘what do we have in common?” will become more important than ‘how can we compete?’.

These changes require that we look at the internet not as just another medium – like television or the telephone – but as a new kind of industrialisation, in which need to think afresh about questions including the protection of human rights, integrity and dignity against a backdrop of challenges ranging from fraud, identity theft, bullying and other forms of personal harassment or exploitation through to malign social engineering, phishing and hacking attacks which can threaten key networks and even entire nations. Fairness, transparency and accountability dictate that any victim – whether individual, organization, society, nation or even democracy itself – which suffers from these issues should be able to address those responsible and to secure meaningful, effective redress. We are in a position today where ongoing technological developments have outstripped our policy-making capacity, standards-setting and legal frameworks, and this gap is widening all the time.

At the heart of the success of the internet lies its essential democracy. But all democracies depend on the principles of scrutiny and accountability. Let us now get serious about the question of how to organize accountability in the digital age. The future of the internet depends on it.

Victims of internet crime need an organised route to redress

Privacy, Safety, Security, Governance
Frits Bussemaker Frits Bussemaker Chairman, The Institute for Accountability in the Digital Age (I4ADA)
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