Session Summary: Democracy in the Digital Space: An Alliance for a Healthy Infosphere?

Renate Nikolay, Head of the Cabinet to the Vice President for Values and Transparency, European Commission, Brussels

David Carroll, Associate Professor of Media, New School, New York City

Markus Reinisch, Vice President, Public Policy Europe, Middle East and Africa, Facebook, London

Led by: Steven Clemons, Editor-at-large, The Hill, Washington, D.C.


The issue of healthy digital space has been discussed at GLOBSEC for a long time. Today’s debate discussed the need for a transatlantic relationship between the US and EU in this sphere, and the visit of the US president is a great signal for a strong relationship. This may contribute to a larger worldwide convergence on privacy rights. A healthy infosphere is becoming increasingly more imperative. Media is becoming more fragmented than ever, blurring the lines between objectivity, truth, and public accountability.

Since the Cambridge Analytica case, David Carroll argues for the need for a global standard for data rights. He discusses how the case helped realize the importance of personal responsibility for one’s own data. But data is a collective issue and privacy is a networked problem. We must look at the way privacy invasions affect entire communities, even populations.

The panellists discussed the importance of not taking democracy for granted, especially in the digital space. Therefore, there is a need for regulation, but it is also necessary for the internet to remain considered a free space. This means that there is a need for a balance between regulation and censorship. Who should strike this balance and be responsible for maintaining it? According to Markus Reinisch, the role should fall to democratically elected governments and multilateral organizations. However, the issue of striking a balance persists. We need limitations and censorship without hindering free speech and other core democratic values.

Additionally, the panellists also urged the need for digital platforms to also take responsibility and tackle the issues connected to digital space. The transparency of what is behind the scenes is what we need to focus on the most.