Events of the past two years - featuring online extremism, misinformation campaigns, the election of populists and demagogues - have unfortunately proven that we have much work to do if we want to ensure that the global information ecosystem can support democracy and not destroy it. Just as our physical economy's dependence on fossil fuels threatens the planet's survival, it is now becoming clear that our global information ecosystem's heavy dependence on advertising - and especially targeted advertising technology - poses a threat to the future of democracy. Everybody responsible for building, shaping, and governing global flows of information must commit to build alternative means of supporting a healthy and sustainable public sphere so that future generations can stand a chance of enjoying human rights and and accountable governance.
In her 2012 book Consent of the Networked Rebecca MacKinnon argued that the internet would not automatically make the world more free and democratic. We must actively work to ensure that the products and services and communities that we use to communicate, organize, and share information are designed, managed, and governed in a way that actually enables human rights and strengthens democracy.
At re:publica 18 MacKinnon will challenge everybody who plays a role in shaping our information ecosystem - internet platforms, media companies, online communities, regulators, and individual users and citizens - to take responsibility for how we have contributed to or enabled the state of the world today. We need to take a hard and critical look not only at how we may be affecting other people’s online rights, but how we are helping or hurting the prospects for democracy’s survival.