The global battle to control the narrative of the pandemic, which was presented as a clash of geopolitical models, benefitted from the acceleration of connectivity and technological development to enter a new phase of sophistication and expansion. The internet has become an ever-more fragmented territory, and not only because of the clashes between narratives and the compartmentalisation of online debate into silos of conflicting visions and purported truths. The digital world is branching in two directions: digital authoritarianism (or techno-authoritarianism), as Chinese technology firms increase their presence in Europe; and a network of private US corporations deploying a business model that is also based on total surveillance (the “surveillance capitalism” denounced by Shoshana Zuboff). The two models share a single goal: to control data. In this context, the pandemic-induced acceleration also reinforced the European Union’s regulatory response. With the European promise to develop systemic rules for global digital governance, Brussels is seeking to emerge from its position of vulnerability to offer a third way in the technological transformation.
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