Within the framework of the 7th World Meeting of UNESCO Chairs in Communication “Communication, City and Public Space” which was held in Lima, Peru, on May 2018, the Director of the UNESCO Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development Guy Berger, gave a conference about the concept of the digital city and the access to information. Afterwards, and accepting Guy Berger’s invitation, Ghislaine Azemard, holder of the UNESCO ITEN Chair (Innovation, Transmission and Digital Publishing) of the Foundation Maison Sciences de l’Homme in
Paris, participated in this panel with the intervention that we reproduce below: the sustainable cities and Goal 16.10
Thank you Mr Guy Berger for your outstanding presentation and your invitation for debate.
Your report strongly reaffirms that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right in itself, but also a condition favorable to the exercise of all other rights.
We think that your report depicts a twofold situation of openness opposed to legal restrictions on access to data. At first sight, this may look contradictory but in fact, it perfectly illustrates the complexity of regulation and the national or international willingness to provide adapted answers to the ambivalence of ICT use.
Concerning media pluralism, your report also highlights two opposing logics between, on the one hand, the significant increase of information sources and contents, in particular those produced by social networks, and of individuals having access to Internet, and on the other hand, the information inflation managed today by algorithmic logics which select and filter information to provide to the end-user, according to commercial reasons or user profiling.
Redundancy and predictability in the research results and in the news provided to the user, especially in social networks, are extremely harmful to open-mindedness, dialogue, diversity, and emergence of critical thinking.
We are faced with a diffusion model that combines, and this is a new paradox, personalization of information and a massive proliferation of viral information, which can be false.
In this new media configuration, the notion of freedom of expression can be re-examined. It seems nevertheless to reflect a number of local or national situations phenomena.
You recalled in your report that 520 journalists were killed because they were doing their job by opposing totalitarian power, terrorism … I have a thought to the cartoonist journalists of the weekly Charlie Hebdo, and we clearly perceive that in these tragic circumstances, the notion of freedom of expression takes-on its full meaning. It displays its unavoidable necessity when it is flouted, gagged, murdered. It resonates in every one of us, it spreads worldwide, it brings out multiple solidarities, it touches human integrity, it makes visible our proximities to a point that everyone can display the slogan “Je suis Charlie”
Freedom of expression therefore seems to depend primarily on its exercise conditions and socio-political stance in the face of manifestations of individual, group and state violence.
It is deeply ethnocentric, it also depends organically on cultural and religious national or regional contexts. It is also of categorical origin. The claim of its universality will not be sufficient to provide the conditions for its implementation.
One wonders whether this notion of freedom of expression can account for new situations that threaten the values attached to it: the willingness not to live unworthy situations, to claim one’s right to build one’s proper point of view, to access knowledge allowing its development.
We learned yesterday that the Orbicom Chairs network will be working on the notion of freedom of expression in the digital age, and from this perspective, with some colleagues, we have listed the following seven points that could be discussed in a multidisciplinary and multi-actor approach to clarify the ins and outs, values and vulnerabilities of this topic.
- First, questioning the universality of the notion of freedom of expression, its emergence, its variants, its faux semblants.
- Second: analyzing the role of the major private digital stakeholders in the modeling of data access and knowledge production. Discussing and predicting the uses of artificial intelligence from a philosophical and societal point of view.
- As a third point: Evaluating the effective place of public actors and citizens in the construction and governance of these models of development, in platforms design and the implementation of their functionality, especially those that are interpretative and deliberative.
- Next: Defining a digital Ethics around sources diversity, accuracy and preservation, and reinforcing logics of harvesting and crossing open data of different types such as private, public, economic, territorial, academic.
- It would then be necessary to develop a civic conscience on algorithmic manipulations, and to support an appropriation of tools and skills to co-construct humanistic alternatives.
- As a sixth point: subscribing into a universal standardizing approach (including interoperability, transparency, inclusion) through international bodies to strengthen access to open data and protection of private data, and respect of its diversity.
- And finally, as a structuring framework of the preceding points: working for a broadening of the digital humanistic vision and its implementation.
Thank you dear colleagues for your attention.
For more information follow the UNESCO’s official web site: https://en.unesco.org/news/world-trendsreport-launched-peru