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Jorge Silva

Digital awakening: an issue beyond borders

- The digital space is gaining more and more influence on the social and political phenomena of the 21st century. In this network society, is a great digital awakening approaching?

Digital awakening: an issue beyond borders

From Washington D.C. to Hong Kong, two sides of a situation that only manifested itself in the first year of this decade. The first permanent suspension of the President of the United States of America and the persecution and closure of dissident sites by the government of the People's Republic of China.

Two events that, despite being hundreds of kilometers apart, come together in cyberspace just one click away. What is it that two situations that at first glance seem to belong to totally different contexts have in common?

The conquest of digital space

The digital age has continuously intruded on human activities in such a way that it has become a determining factor. While at the beginning of the century we were still experiencing the transition and improvement of digital services; in the first decade we began with an accelerated replacement of increasingly complex and close analogous processes.

“The appearance of the Internet has modified the forms of social relationship, facilitating the constitution of new subjectivities and forms of social organization where the border between the public and the private is blurred”[1]

By the beginning of 2020, we are already in a hyper-globalized international society immersed in digital structures and spaces within much more vital areas. We are talking about identities, profiles, databases, perceptions, privacy and a collective social dynamic that transcends the physical limitations of the non-virtual environment.

The digital space begins to conquer the medium on which political, social, economic and cultural activities are carried out. The confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this progress, since digitalization has become one of the main measures in the face of the paralysis that has lasted for months at a global level.

Source: 2020 KPMG CEO Outlook; Covid-19 Special Edition; KPMG INTERNATIONAL.

The current trend is making a range of service platforms or software essential, such as: electronic banking, storage clouds, institutional applications, online procedures, etc. Furthermore, the need to have accounts and profiles within a reduced offer of social networks and messaging so as not to be excluded from social interactions.

According to the 2020 Global CEO Outlook[2] study, 80% of CEOs around the world accelerated their digital transformation during the lockdown period. In addition, three more than three quarters indicate their desire to continue deepening this strategy in a post-pandemic stage, a situation that would considerably increase the need of the contemporary individual to belong to this space.

Source: Statista. Ranking of the main social networks worldwide according to the number of monthly active users in January 2020 (in millions).

The increase in the user base and the substitution of vital processes in society mean that both the scope and the conditions that govern this space become an important issue to address for the social sciences. Above all, if the base for any democratic regime is constituted by that same user base that, being the target audience, has become a key player in the game of perceptions and support necessary to win or lose elections, or even promote movements and social protests.

Today, both potentialities and vulnerabilities have begun to be used by various actors to promote specific interests. Perceptions are everything for a politician and in a network society the discrimination of information that allows them to be shaped is in the hands of whoever manages the main platforms where the debate on public issues takes place.

Digital property, to whom do we belong?

The questioning of the ownership of these social platforms will most likely increase as their capacity to influence political and social phenomena is strengthened. Trends in networks have installed and removed leaders, have allowed political careers to be born, have determined electoral results and even launched social uprisings in multiple regions of the planet.

The key to this lies in the criteria with which the terms, sanctions and conditions that govern them are elaborated and applied. Who determines the limits of those who restrict social interactions? Should it be a board of directors or the governments that regulate an increasingly decisive flow of interactions in the sociopolitical dynamics?

Source: La Razón, Amnesty International, El Universal.

State ownership of social platforms establishes the national interest as a criterion for discrimination of interactions. The State, as in the case of the People's Republic of China and Russia, uses this tool to project a favorable image to foreign audiences or make internal dissent invisible, as is the case with liberal sites in Hong Kong.

For its part, private property establishes it based on the financial gains of its services, trends favorable to the future development of its company or particular criteria that do not always agree with the collective. The greatest danger with this extreme is the monopolization, in the case of Facebook, of the platforms that host these interactions and the entire information base of its users.

"This fundamental right can be intervened, but in accordance with the law and within the framework defined by the legislators, not in accordance with a decision of the administration of the social media platforms"[3]

Although it was due to the incitement of an internal protest, the censorship of an acting president of the United States marks an important precedent in the weight that the arbitrary criteria of the private owners of social platforms, such as Twitter, can have . The actions and criteria shown in this political situation have not been applied equally to a whole series of Eurasian leaders, European far-right or Latin American politicians who have shown similar messages on their social networks.

Source: Change 22.

The truth is that the ownership of these platforms allows through binding agreements, under pain of exclusion, conditions to be determined that may put aside social rights that have already been guaranteed on a material level. This goes hand in hand with the partiality that there may be in their application or the inequity of coverage, access or priority in the positions issued.

Digital awakening, an imminent reality

With the digitalization of daily life and the fundamental processes of international society, the questioning of the rules and dynamics that govern the digital space is imminent. The current dichotomy between a purely public or private property will have to be reinvented by the sui generis qualities that identities, profiles, interactions and effects on the social organization of the real world are beginning to have.

The current concern is that the recognition of the importance of this space on the real world is uneven. This makes some actors take advantage of the vulnerability that being able to manipulate perceptions implies for many political systems.

On the other hand, the lack of interest of decision makers in recognizing cyber-rights and limiting the arbitrariness or partiality with which the owners of social networks impose their terms and conditions. The questioning of how influential a board of directors can be or how authoritarian a government's legislation is, is increasing more and more around the world.


The digital awakening will come to be a recognition of the digital space as a new dimension of the social task of the human being and the appropriation of the users on the conditions and criteria that govern their development in this artificial environment. Dynamics that today continue in mere academic debates: privacy, censorship, surveillance or commercialization of data; They will begin to press for the construction of hybrid regimes that guarantee cyber-rights above the traditional conception of public/private property and jurisdictions.


    BBC Mundo. «La app con la que los manifestantes de Hong Kong burlan la censura china». BBC News. 2014.

    Euronews y AP. «Donald Trump’s Twitter ban is ‘problematic,’ says Angela Merkel». Euronews. 2021.

    Europa Press. El Senado de EEUU cita al jefe de Twitter por bloquear un artículo que acusa de corrupción al hijo de Biden. La Razón. 2020.

    KPMG. “2020 Global CEO Outlook. Resumen Ejecutivo”. KPMG Cárdenas Dosal. 2020.

    Vásquez Ana, Sánchez Laura, Bolívar Wilson. “Los espacios digitales en permanente definición y construcción. Un análisis desde los elementos formativos”. Pedagogía y Saberes. No.48. 2018. P.71-82.

    Villa y Caña Pedro. «AMLO no descarta crear red social en México ante “censura” en Facebook y Twitter». El Universal. 2021.

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