Networks: regulation or censorship?

By: Gabriel Guerra Castellanos.
February 10, 2021.

Last week I told you a little about the dilemma, false in my opinion, that has arisen around social networks, dear readers. They have been placed, in the absolute terms that the Manichaeans like so much, as allies and promoters of dictatorial populism or as indispensable tools for the promotion or defense of democracy and freedoms.

A glance at the existing use and regulation is enough to realize that neither of the two extremes applies, for the simple reason that networks are only tools for transmitting information and everything that it contains: they can be broadcast channels of ideas and knowledge as vehicles for banality; tools of the post-pandemic trade or cave of speculators and scalpers; lifeline or guillotine of traditional media. And also, of course, forums for discussion and exchange of thought or closed and exclusive channels that promote "unique thinking", as if such an oxymoron were possible.

So networks are what we make of them or what we are allowed to make of them: there will always be the temptation to control instead of regulate, to close instead of open, to prohibit instead of allow. It is a very slippery path, because we have already seen what the abuse of this tool can lead to, although the same could have been said at the time of others that at the time were great technological advances that widened the lanes through which information travels , but they did not replace the issuers (or the contents) of it.

In Mexico, the debate quickly became politicized, as was to be expected. Many of those who applauded the cancellation of Donald Trump's Twitter and Facebook accounts, in part because they saw there an omen of something that could be applied to the president of Mexico, suddenly changed their minds when they learned of an initiative to "regulate" the networks. presented by Senator Ricardo Monreal, an ally of the president. And it is that, like so many other serious and substantive things in our country, everything seems to revolve around the presidential figure.

The issue is too important to be lost in the morass of the obsessively single-issue discussion that national politics has become.

Many experts have already ruled on whether or not the aforementioned proposal contravenes international treaties signed by the Mexican State. Others have expressed concern about the possibility that the government tries to "control" what is said and thought on the networks. And there are those who think that the companies that own the networks and platforms already have excessive power, dominant as experts on economic competition would call it, and that they should be regulated or “put in their place”.

The truth is that those who control technological tools today are owners of a large part of the modern world: from online shopping platforms to entertainment services, through applications for buying and delivering food or for daily coexistence, today they have a monopoly and monopsony power that puts individuals, communities, societies and nation states against the wall.

That is the reality: attempting to regulate or control something that has already happened is doubly difficult, and even more so when technology advances at quantum leaps while regulatory capacities do so at a snail's pace.

Those who aspire today to confine global information flows must promote a broad and inclusive dialogue with the many actors involved, including, of course, those of society.

Otherwise, their attempts may do little good, but much harm.

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