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Long live digital independence!

Mashari Althaydi

Published: Updated:

It wasn't too long ago that the political, national and historical meaning of the word “independence” referred to the notion of liberating the land - in the geological and demographic sense, as in liberating the land and its inhabitants from the domination of a foreign power or its agents. For example, liberating France from the German Nazis and their French agent Vichy, liberating India from the British colonialists, liberating Algeria from the French occupation, and liberating China from the Japanese Red Army, etc.

The literal meaning of the word liberation refers to freeing the land and its inhabitants from foreign invasion, and in order to achieve full independence, this is followed by liberating the state’s economy as well as other key aspects. Economic liberalization in this regard does not refer to complete economic isolation, instead it means freeing the economy from geopolitical pressure and thus facilitating independent political decision-making. With this in mind, we must note that it would be impossible for any economy to survive in isolation from the global movement, and seeking this economic isolation is a form of ideological rigidity.

A woman holds a smartphone displaying the Signal messaging app logo, which is also seen near her, in this illustration taken January 13, 2021. (Reuters)
A woman holds a smartphone displaying the Signal messaging app logo, which is also seen near her, in this illustration taken January 13, 2021. (Reuters)

This used to be the meaning of independence and liberation in the recent past. However, during the past few years, we have started witnessing a new form of occupation and a new kind of elite occupiers. The word “national independence” has taken on a new meaning that went beyond what was previously agreed upon.

I am referring to the concept of “digital occupation.” For example, let us look at the implications of the latest unprecedented move taken by giant social media companies to ban someone as powerful and popular as Former US President Donald Trump by suspending his infamous Twitter account and eliminating his digital presence entirely. Under the pretext of democracy and freedom, these companies are also banning Trump supporters, or more explicitly, opponents of the American Obamaist left. Social media giants have no problems justifying and legalizing their actions, which is a serious issue with serious medium and long-term repercussions that will affect the US even beyond the current feud with Trump and Trumpism.

The bullying practiced by Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others against those who oppose their values and standards for morality, is forcing these opponents to build up their resistance. When and how this resistance will unfold still remains to be seen.

Upon observing the current scene, we can note that Trump's supporters are being harassed, demonized, and treated like mere hindrances that must be eliminated and cast aside. However, tens of millions of Trump supporters have not surrendered. Reports indicate that they are using other platforms to express their opinions, such as Gab instead of Twitter, and MeWe instead of Facebook, as well as Telegram and Discord. Yet, there are calls to ban these platforms, just like Google, Apple, and Amazon had previously blocked Parler, the alternative social media platform favored by conservatives.

In this photo illustration, the Twitter account of US President Donald Trump is displayed on a mobile phone on August 10, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. (AFP)
In this photo illustration, the Twitter account of US President Donald Trump is displayed on a mobile phone on August 10, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. (AFP)

Emerson Brooking, from the Atlantic Council, and who is clearly anti-Trump, said about

anti-Obamaists: “We have to think of the current movement like pollution.” He recommends sharing technologies between competing networks to “impose” moderation. Notice how he put together the words “impose” and “moderation.” John Farmer, from the Network Contagion Research Institute, called for government intervention to control the Internet. We do not know which government he meant and whether that applies to the former Trump government.

In more definitive terms, and to use the jargon of the old reds, they are asking for the nationalization of the Internet for the benefit of comrades from the Obamaist revolutionary front.

Some forces, like Russia, are trying to resist and want to create their own Internet network like China. These countries certainly have their political reasons. But is it really possible to achieve digital independence, or is it too late?

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.