Citizens Internet – public opinion, freedom of expression and pluralism online

Netopia’s new report Citizens Internet is out. Netopia contributor Ralf Grötker takes a broad view on the issues of freedom of expression, pluralism of opinions and non-discrimination in what he calls the “networked public sphere”. In the internet age, freedom of expression is often regarded as the same as no restriction to data traffic,  but of course that is far too simple: not all data can be understood as speech (a lot or most of it is machine-generated), there are numerous limitations for things like spam, harmful code, illegal content etc, Also, there is no democratic country where freedom of expression is without limits – hate speech, defamation, threats etc is restricted either through law or self-regulation such as press ethics systems. So that negative definition of free expression is not very helpful online. But what should we have instead? This is what Ralf Grötker discusses in his report, taking examples from other media as well as completely different fields such as gardening. Before you click to download the report, one final take-away: information is not the same as data, Grötker finds. Information can travel as data, but real information has other traits. It can be true or false for example. Relevant or irrelevant. New or well-known. If the Citizens Internet can help us think about data and information as two different things, that would be a great accomplishment.

If you prefer the report in German, click here.