The Digital Age and its Digital Realities: Problems and Solutions to be Explored

Computers, smartphones, tablets and other portable technologies that make our access to information faster and easier have become dire necessities for billions of people in the world. In order to operate these gadgets, special software are used which function through digital platforms, such as data protection software to keep your emails secure. Digital technology is one of the fastest growing fields in the general pool of modern day technologies, as it seeks to enhance such experiences for billions of people, creating high demand for progress.

Thanks to the previously mentioned expansion of portable gadgets, worldwide internet access and development of global information networks, digital technology, both in the form of media and otherwise, is breaking ground in today’s world. As more such technologies become popularized and trendy, the media takes notice of digital trends, realities and sometimes issues to ensure that users of such technologies become aware of what is going on and can make the most out of their experiences in the digital world. Such responsibility provides excellent material for investigation which leads one to consider concealed aspects of the digitalization process the world is going through currently, with a primary emphasis on security and safety.

With early digital technologies came the earliest forms of digital media that completely changed the way people accessed information along with the origins of such information. Today, most information is published online before it hits the shelves and most media outlets are paying significant attention to their online publications to make sure that their audience is kept up to date with everything. However, there are also occasional glitches in such online operations and the recent Russian interference into the 2016 general elections in America is a great example where several things went wrong for both the American media and democracy. Paul Blumenthal for The Huffington Post reports on the issue to state that prior to the scandal, several online media outlets such as Mic “tapped into the Facebook gold” and created armies of online followers to exert a more serious pressure on the public’s perception of actuality. According to the author, such fast and baseless growth encouraged the ill-minded internet freaks to realize the true potential of digital media to strategize for possible future attacks on instiutions and individuals. The author then refers to the 2016 elections and the much-debated Russian involvement to infer that “the employees of Russia’s Internet Research Agency were trolls, too, tapping into strong feelings and sentiments they didn’t necessarily share, and reverse-engineering an occasionally successful political [manipulation] operation out of the algorithmic preferences of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.” As social media platforms continued to supply such trolls with valuable information, they would fine-tune their strategies and content to target specific communities and individuals to influence their ideas and possibly their choice of voting. As the traffic for such fake accounts and websites increased in large amounts, the trolls reached their goal of manipulating the masses by portraying Donald Trump as the ultimate savior against America’s supposed miseries, while constantly attacking the other candidates. Considering how even Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook, was taken to court regarding his company’s possibly intentional involvement in the given scandal, the role of digital and social media was largely acknowledged and debated in the shocked and baffled American society. Today, as Trump administration does its best to distance itself from the aftermath of the crisis and the associated governmental agencies are doing their best to find a scapegoat for such a gigantic breach of security, the public surely takes social and digital media more seriously, pushing the American government to take precautions against possible similar violations in the future.

And then, there are other countries which are seeking to utilize digital technologies to enhance their governmental structure along with the security and welfare of their citizens: countries such as Slovenia. Bryan Lufkin for BBC News reports on this tiny Eastern European country of 1.3 million residents and its post-1997 plans to completely digitalize its government under the ‘e-Estonia’ national system. The system enables its users to “file taxes online, obtain medical prescriptions and test results, sign documents, even vote and allow foreigners to become e-residents,” creating an entire information database of crucial information and preferences. The system keeps such information within Estonia but seeks to integrate Estonian embassies around the world into its structure to allow Estonians in foreign countries carry out the same operations with ease. Other countries such as Finland, Japan and Cyprus also have adopted similar measures to develop similar systems to integrate identity information with financial, political and social online applications. Estonia’s dark and troubled days seem to be over with respect to its governance because efficiency in transactions have already increased significantly, along with participation in the offered governmental services and regulatory measures. In addition, the system keeps on creating new digital jobs, leading the authorities to express their gratitude by saying that every passing day, they need and hire “more engineers, more designers, more testers, more programmers, and architects … more copywriters, more social media experts and more web developers.” As the digital network expands and the observed problems are fixed quickly, even academia has begun to show interest in the system, namely the prestigious University of Oxford in London, UK. Helen Margetts, a professor of society and the internet at the institution states that “after the Soviet era, [Estonia] ditched legacy systems and started from scratch,” going for “a neat solution which comes nearer than any other government.” The professor points out that this is a great achievement but security risks are ever-present and therefore she also draws attention to the necessity to keep up with technological developments to ensure safe operations taking place through the platform.

The United Kingdom is one of the forefront players in the war against digital lawlessness and crime and the countr’s political system has been very pro-active with respect to passing new laws and initiating new discussions. Juliette Garside for The Guardian reports that “Labour [Party]’s industrial spokesperson [Chi Onwurah] has called for the algorithms used by technology firms to be made transparent and subject to regulation” in the name of obtaining “greater scrutiny of the mathematical formulas that now control everything from the tailored news served to Facebook members to the speed at which workers are required to move around an Amazon warehouse.”  The political organization is now preparing an industrial paper to be published right after the Christmas break to raise attention to tech firms and their algorithm based control over the British society. In order to understand the true effects of such control and how it is created in the first place, the party is demanding that companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google release their codes to respective governmental agencies so that possible breaches of privacy and law can be detected. The created digital economy is huge in size for the UK and other related countries such as the US and there exist a gigantic volume of possible legal complications which should soon be handled before significant harm is done to these societies. Algorithms need to be regulated to ensure that they are not promoting unlawful activities while the business models of tech companies involved in this new economy also remain under close observation. The European Commission is currently investigating Google’s advertisement services, while the London Tribunal will be reviewing a landmark case involving Uber drivers in the city in the upcoming months of Fall. The tech companies themselves are stating that they will not be sharing trade secrets due to obvious reaons and therefore will not cooperate with governmental agencies regarding the mentioned algorithms. As a result, numerous governments, including the American government, will be imposing significant legal and economic sanctions on technology hubs such as the Silicon Valley in the near future to deter such self-centered company administrations from continuing to implement their destructive policies on the respective societies. The debates and partial warfare will surely continue in the years to come between the two camps but the users of such services are already expected to brighten up and pay more attention to the amount and type of information they search for and share on these platforms, because currently the legal systems cannot help the unsuspecting victims in the case of a major violation of their privacy or security.