Digital Nationalism

What is Digital Nationalism?

Nationalism, according to Dictionary.com, is a strong belief that the interest of a country or a nation are of primary importance. When it comes to Digital Nationalism, and according to the “The Rising Threat of Digital Nationalism” article by WSJ, it can be defined as the set of rules and regulations a government or a country put in place to either control, monitor, or restrict the Internet in that country. 

The concept of Digital Nationalism can include, but not limited to, restricting or limiting the citizens of one nation from accessing certain websites, monitoring the online activities of their citizens, restrict cross-border data flows, and finally being able to temporarily shut down the Internet to the whole country if needed. For instance, and based on this report by Access Now, there were 196 Internet shutdowns in 25 countries around the world, mostly in Asia and Africa. 

Different countries have implemented different flavors of this concept to “guide” the Internet access within their borders, and probably the most well-known example of this is China. For instance, the Chinese people don’t have access to websites like Wikipedia, Facebook, and Google. When Google used to operate in China, they were forced to comply with the censorship requirements set by the Chinese government, which led to the termination of Google.cn website eventually (read more about this here: https://washex.am/2Cp7ZQN).  

China became an example to other nations in the world proving to them that the Internet can be managed and controlled. Many countries around the world, with or without authoritarian states, have implemented a version of Internet Nationalism following the Chinese model. Countries like Russia, Iran, and North Korea have setup their own networks to control and monitor access to the outside, and the real, Internet. Other first world countries, such as Canada, Australia, South Korea, have setup cross-borders data-flow restrictions. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is Europe’s digital privacy legislation, defines a set of rules designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data, and limit or restrict companies from moving citizen’s data across the EU borders.

Different countries have different justifications when it comes to implementing rules around Digital Nationalism. For countries like Canada, Australia, and Europe, their sole purpose of doing this is to protect their citizens’ data privacy and their own national security, which in this should be justified. On the other hand, in some countries with authoritarian regimes, such as China, Russia, Iran, and some in the middle east, Digital Nationalism rules are regulations are set to protect the regime itself, rather the citizens of that country, which in this case shouldn’t be justified at all. 

Censoring and monitoring the Internet is mostly done to restrict basic human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of opinion and expression. Internet censorship can include, but not limited to, the restriction and monitoring of what can be published, read, accessed, viewed, downloaded, listened, or watched by the citizens, which basically means that each and every activity done by an individual on the internet can be track down to them. 

For example, in some middle east countries, Voice Over IP (VoIP) services were blocked, which include services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype. This forces citizens to use cell services to make calls instead of VoIP services which are free (read more about this here: https://zd.net/2Q8pRHZ). In more recent news, Iraq shutdown the Internet for majority of the country and blocked social media in order to suppress the anti-corruption protests (red more about this here: https://bit.ly/36ISeSL). 

Those actions that aim to limit the freedom of speech shouldn’t be justified nor accepted by the citizens of any country, but unfortunately not all countries around the world grant those basic human rights to their citizens. That being said, some developing countries don’t have access to the Internet at all, and they might be happy if they were granted access to it, even if it was censored. 

The following article from Wikipedia lists the Internet censorship categorized by country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_and_surveillance_by_country

p.s. Wikipedia might not be a reliable source of information

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