CAN THERE BE A SAFE INTERNET? – YOUR CALL AGAINST FAKE NEWS

By Joy Akhigbe

The Internet Society ISOC, plays a vital role in developing human capacity all over the world. Of course, the Society has chapters in different countries of the world and has very interesting forum designated for youths, and then General forums. They are actively involved in capacity-building and assisting developing countries to build basic Internet infrastructures However, unlike previous years 2020 is different, it is the exceptional year of Covid 19 where the days run into months while the world stays at a standstill. The Internet Governance forums which take youths around the countries on the ticket of the Internet Society could not hold. Anyway, to drive home the point that it is not all about networking and travelling, the capacity development drive took over. Members all over the world were gathered for some weeks to improve their knowledge of the internet governance space. There were participants from Italy, India, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, South Africa, Netherlands, Ghana, Nigeria, and so many other countries. The training was shared into different areas of specialization with Zoom meetings, Videos, learning materials and personal projects. It was indeed an experience. The thematic focuses this year were on Community Networks; Securing Global Routing; Shaping the Internet; Open Standards Everywhere; and Encryption. 

Yours sincerely participated in the training and my specialized training was on shaping the internet. One of the objectives of our training was the promotion of Internet core values, such as openness. The relevance of understanding the internet, how it works and how we can all use it for common good cannot be overemphasized as all of our lives today revolve around the use of the internet. Our academic, medical and social data are all stored online. Educational institutions, government services, entertainment and industries now rely on internet infrastructures to deliver goods and services.  

In sharing my knowledge with you, let me start by letting you into the secret of ownership of the internet. But first, the internet is a network of interconnected networks. In a lay man’s language, it means your phone network connected to your provider and other networks from other providers make up the internet. According to the Internet Society, ‘the global internet consists of tens of thousands of interconnected networks run by service providers, individual companies, universities, governments, and others.’

It means that as individuals we also participate in the internet through providing content, selling products, offering services and carrying out other activities without obtaining permission from any central authority. This implies that the internet is decentralized and that we are all stakeholders. So who controls the internet? Simple answer, we all own the internet and no one owns the internet. However, in governing the internet space, we all play different roles. The people who play these roles (including those of us on different social media platforms – known as users) form part of what we refer to as the internet ecosystem or stakeholders. The following persons make up the internet ecosystem.

  1. Technologists, Engineers, Architects, Creatives, Organisations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) who help to develop and implement open standards. Some of us here belong to this Technology group as Engineers or Architects.
  2. Global and local organisations;
  3.  Those are responsible for managing addressing capabilities. These include Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers (ICANN). The functions include the operation of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA); Regional Internet Registries (RIR), and Domain Name Registries and Registrars.
  4. Operators, Engineers and Vendors.  They provide network infrastructure service and include Domain Name Service (DNS) providers, network operators and internet exchange points.
  5. Internet users. Those who use the internet to communicate.
  6. Educators. Organizations, universities, schools, government agencies.
  7. Policy and decision-makers. 

There is a peculiar internet ecosystem, it is the Nigerian internet ecosystem made up of Nigerian Internet Governance Forum; Nigeria ICT Forum for partnership Institutions; Nigeria Network Operators Group; the Internet Society, Nigeria Chapter (ISOC Nigeria); Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA); Nigeria Internet Group (NIG); Association of Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ATCON); Internet Services Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN); the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS); Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP); and the Federal Ministry of Communications (Commtech).

In all of these, we need a safe internet. We need the internet to be open to everyone, everywhere. While the government will have to enforce latency, price and access through implementing regulations governing telecommunication industries, we need to keep the internet safe by minding the quality of our posts. 

However, the challenges of openness and secure internet is our mandate and it begins with me and you. Avoid fake news. Fake news and fake headlines on our social media have made the internet a source of pain to governments, and the society at large. Sometimes, we promote fake news by passing them on and this makes us guilty. A starting point is to identify what fake news is so that we can break the chain of distribution.

To verify fake news, it is important to:

  1. Consider the source against the topic. Medical or scientific advice should come from an expert.
  2. Investigate the source by going online, consulting books or asking other experts.
  3. See if it has an author
  4. If the news is about an event that is linked to time, check to see if it is dated so that you don’t create panic by passing two years old news as if it were happening now. For instance ‘just happening: bandits kill 20 on Ore road’.   
  5. Read beyond headlines, don’t just pass on.
  6. Check out some sites yourself before forwarding the links, eg. ‘Click this link to access Federal Government Loans’
  7. Do not share the information that you do not believe in.

Finally, it is time to allow you move on to other activities. Thank you for reading my post. I took you through what the internet is, ownership of the internet, the stakeholders/ those in the ecosystem, the internet economy, role of government to make the internet available and our own role to make it safe.  Please let us make the internet safe, credible and open.

 

Joy Akhigbe (Member ISOC Ng) writes from Nigeria

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