Freedom of the press is in a bad way in many countries and the internet has played a big part in this. Chess legend Garry Kasparov und hacker Claudio Guarnieri discussed how states use the internet for their own purposes.
For Guarnieri, deliberate manipulation of the population is nothing new. The internet is, after all, simply a mirror of society with all its failings and shortcomings. Social media, especially, allows for a quick and effective spread of disinformation.
Garry Kasparov sees this as an understatement. He fundamentally mistrusts modern technologies that are in the hands of governments – especially if these are undemocratic governments. Dictators use the opportunity to operate in secret online. “Chess is a transparent game”, says the former Grandmaster, “you know the tools being used to fight. But dictators are poker players – they try to hide everything.”
“The goal of state propaganda isn’t to conceal information, but to completely exhaust the population’s ability to think critically”, Kasparov stated. His distrust is aimed at Russia. The activist reminded the audience of the crash of the MH17 passenger plane in Eastern Ukraine: “It was completely clear who was responsible for it.” The Russian government didn’t just deny it, they made up a completely new story. “A huge block of disinformation was generated so that people ended up not knowing what was actually true. For one true statement, there are a million lies.”
Despite all this, Kasparov is still sure: sooner or later it will become obvious that Putin‘s government is masquerading as a giant. A democratic opposition is forming behind Alexei Nawalny, an opposition that doesn’t shy away from demonstrations like the one in Moscow on 26 March, even though they know they will come up against a hostile police force. “The system is sick”, Kasparov observed. “How will that impact the Russian elections? There are no elections in Russia”, was Kasparov’s bitter answer.
Governments in more democratic countries should avoid rash internet regulations and should instead empower their citizens to understand the technology, Guarnieri concluded at the end of the discussion. Citizens, on the other hand, should become more skeptical and begin to question tech companies: “How does the Google search algorithm work? Who decides what shows up on Facebook? It depends on us - do not fuck it up”.
by Shea Westhoff and Birte Mensing (EJS)
Photo credit: Birte Mensing