In the past week two events of fundamental importance for the history of the United States and the world occurred.
First, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook as a company was directly involved, and the response as a cybernetic social movement called “#DeleteFacebook”, which proclaimed the indignation of the users and the demand for the protection of personal data.
In the second place, the massive marches in different parts of the US and the world summoned as a result of the massacre in the Parkland school, and promoted by its students, whose objective was to opening of the debate of gun control and the power of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Although isolated, both movements have a common pattern: citizens’ fatigue towards institutions, both cybernetic and traditional, in the United States, which has reopened the debate on limits and control.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it is speculated that it also affected the privacy of citizens in other parts of the world to influence, for example, Brexit, has opened the Pandora’s box for the protection of user data on large platforms of the internet and especially on social networks.
For the moment, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckenberg is called to testify before US and British authorities, who demand an explanation, and his company suffered its worst stock market crash since 2013.
As a counterproposal of the 50 million affected users, the #DeleteFacebook movement became a trending topic on Twitter and encouraged a good number of users and companies to delete their accounts from the popular social network. However, experts say that deleting Facebook is only a small step towards anonymity on the Internet and data privacy. Another giant of user information is Google, which handles, from banal searches on the Internet, to emails and links to online payments, among other things. The access to these data by third parties could have serious consequences.
In short, to ensure data protection it would be necessary to renounce all social networks and search platforms, which would have practical consequences such as working limitations, and psychological, derived from the “vanishing” effect of a virtual world that has stop being simply just for fun and seems more real and necessary.
Simultaneous to this, the movement #MarchForOurLives sensitized the globe. With testimonies from the survivors of the massacre in which 17 people died, the march added a very special touch to the debate: the involvement of the youngest ones. An estimated 500 thousand people, among whom were celebrities, politicians and survivors of other massacres, attended the streets of different cities to demand the end of gun violence in schools and public spaces. All this while Trump remained, rarely, silent on his Twitter.
Both events undoubtedly mark a new stage in the United States, a country that historically brags about the freedoms of its inhabitants. American politicians should analyze the discourse of “freedom” and remember that the aim of the State, especially from the Liberal Theory, is to protect its citizens, in this case of the violation of their personal data and of shootings wit no reason. The red lights are there, but unfortunately the president is very busy with “more important” issues such as a trade war and a border wall.
It is through movements like these that the opening to the resignification of institutions can take a big step. What’s missing now is the political will to face, on the one hand, the giants of Silicon Valley, and on the other, the powerful NRA.
- Alfonso Figueroa Saldaña studies International Relations at the BUAP. He’s done studies of Political Science at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität Munich and his areas of interest are international politics and German-Mexican relations.