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En Route Decentralization of Internet Governance to Preserving Democracy

Privacy-consciousness and system decentralization can be put in place to stop the rapid spread of misinformation and malicious content to influence the judgment of people.

The Relationship Between Democracy and Decentralization

The early 1980s witnessed the commencement of profound socio-economic upheaval in the developing nations including those of the former Soviet Block. In the 1980s, however, the state regimes were gravely authoritarian characterized by a closed economy and a high degree of state intervention. By the late 1990s, though, the states of the Communist block, Latin America, and parts of Africa and Asia had transformed into a formal liberal democracy and functioned as a market economy. This transition introduced a trend that was ubiquitous even though less noticed: decentralization – a process that involved the distribution of power and responsibilities from the center to the lower levels of authority in an effort to bring the Government ‘closer to people’.

Now that the original enthusiasm attached to these significant changes made way for sober appraisals of sustainability of such democracies, questions were raised about the responsiveness and the accountability of these democracies, challenging the quality of the regime. It is interesting to note that in the context of economic liberalization and growing democratization, decentralization was welcomed into the folds of governance among players of the political realm.

Also Read: Blocking Cryptocurrency Would Spell Regression For Indian Economy

The Internet Age – Decentralization to Streaming

In the early days of the internet, the web was decentralized in its own way. Each website managed its own webspace. The result was a vast array of nodes chained together by hyperlinks. With the growth of the network and its users, there was an urgent need to organize the whole network to increase efficiency. Search engines capitalized on this by building an algorithm that returned results by way of matching the combination of search words. This set off a new trend of an internet ran by algorithms that returned content based on previous search results. Suddenly one found themselves on a web that recommended articles, music, video clips, and movies.

In one whirlwind the internet is owned by a few powerful tech houses that controlled the distribution of the content, approving those that suited their own business needs and achieved their own goals.

The loudest of voices topped the debates, often brazenly favoring the tech houses in clearly biased narratives. False narratives, misinformation, and malicious content penetrated the social circles to wrongly influence the judgment of the masses. Thus contributing to an implicit control of democracy.

Revert to Decentralization

While many reminisce about the days of the old internet when opinions and arguments were not imposed on people nor their choices disrespected, it is highly improbable that the whole web is restored to its erstwhile version given the enormous economic stake riding on its centralized digital content and accessibility.

The wash of blockchain technology has opened a viewport into the possibilities and benefits of decentralization in various industries including finance and government. The application of the decentralized approach leads to putting the control back with the users as opposed to the business houses.

The designers of privacy-conscious applications will find it more difficult to curate content, as they collect little to no information. Second, a P2P design makes it more difficult for users to widely circulate content. In a similar stance, a privacy-conscious decentralized technology will prevent the agenda-oriented content from being spread beyond a point. This, however, does not restrict people from sending or forwarding messages to each other but does impose a constraint on the group sizes and reach of circulating content.

Also Read: Know Which Emails Secretly Track You

Boils Down To

Having stated the advantages and incentives of a new decentralized network, it is not practical or feasible to completely replace the centralized system. Also, a decentralized system cannot put a stop to the spread of misinformation of false narratives. The risk to democracy can only be mildly checked by allowing less scope for mass-sharing of vitriolic content through P2P and decentralized systems.

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