Network and Accessibility
Twitter Acquisitions chaos
On April 25th, Elon Musk acquired Twitter for approximately 5.6 trillion yen. The reconstruction of the social media platform, which has 200 million users, is about to begin.
Regarding the acquisition, Musk strongly emphasizes “freedom of speech.” He describes Twitter as a digital version of a town square and believes that even if there are offensive tweets, they should not be deleted if they are legal. To support this, he proposes adding an editing feature, making algorithms public, and eliminating bot accounts.
On the other hand, there are concerns that the relaxation of regulations could lead to an increase in abusive language and harassment and enable the destruction of evidence. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center on the relationship between Americans and Twitter, 57% of those who use it as a news source say it deepens their understanding of current issues, but at the same time, 31% feel that their “stress levels have increased.” The easing of posting restrictions may change these numbers.
The direction Twitter takes in improving accessibility to its infrastructure is a topic that deserves attention. This week, we will focus on the accessibility of IT infrastructure and its risks.
Verifying Truth with a Swipe?
In times of emergency, how do people gather information?
In addition to TV and radio news, Twitter has become a vital information infrastructure. It allows people to quickly grasp how others think and act, verifying the correctness of their own actions. With a global reach, a single hashtag search allows access to information from various perspectives.
As social media becomes increasingly indispensable in daily life, Russia’s state communication regulatory authority restricted the use of Twitter during the Ukrainian War. While it is shocking that an information infrastructure can be taken away by the government, it is essential to step back and examine the background that led to this decision. The first question is whether “freedom of information gathering” is guaranteed. Here, the danger of personal information gathering being manipulated by companies or governments is raised. Algorithms, including recommendations and advertisements, can be subtly redesigned to have a significant impact on information access. The second question is how much “freedom of speech” should be ensured. In the sea of information, there will inevitably be fake news and extreme opinions. This is a risk inherent in the ease with which anyone’s remarks can instantly spread worldwide. Twitter has indeed restricted content from over 300 Russian government official accounts, including President Putin, due to the spread of misinformation.
When considering accessibility to information, it is essential to bear in mind the premise that significant powers may not necessarily distribute reliable information impartially and to keep an eye on the background in which standards are established for “reliable and safe information.”
Toward Closing the Digital Divide in Africa
With the advancement of 5G, IoT, and optical fiber networks, how many people in Africa can enjoy internet services?
According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 2.9 billion people worldwide (about 37% of the global population) do not have access to the internet. In Africa, an estimated 871 million people (about 67% of the population) are offline. For these people, access to and provision of services via the internet is impossible, making communication and access to information difficult.
Nevertheless, the penetration of networks in Africa is steadily advancing. Through partnerships with various stakeholders, the gap between urban and rural areas has decreased from 51% in 2014 to 19% in 2020.
A more significant problem is the high cost of digital devices and data usage. Sub-Saharan Africa has become the most expensive region in the world (compared to wages) in terms of device prices. Consequently, the gap in users’ accessibility, even while residing within the Internet coverage area, has been widening since 2014.
For myself, I remember that my iPhone XS, which I have been using since university, cost over 100,000 yen at the time and was a considerable expense. However, there were options to choose from, such as inexpensive smartphones or cheaper devices from other manufacturers. To close the gap among users in Africa, it will be crucial to build a more diverse range of choices.
Building the Foundation of Social Infrastructure
Upon arriving in Denmark, the first thing I did was obtain a CPR number, which is similar to Japan’s My Number system. It is used for personal identification in various situations, including medical and administrative services, as well as opening bank accounts and signing rental contracts. Without a CPR number, life can become quite inconvenient. For this reason, even foreign residents staying in Denmark for more than three months are required to apply for a CPR number.
In my case, although the uses are limited, I have benefited greatly from the CPR number system, and I was surprised by its extensive integration as a social infrastructure. From making reservations on dedicated websites for PCR tests to receiving result notifications and automatic integration with vaccine passes, the smooth process is supported by the CPR number.
Another example of the effective use of a similar identification system is Taiwan’s COVID-19 measures. Amid mask shortages and panic buying in Japan, Taiwan’s attempt to utilize national data and mask sales data for real-name sales is still fresh in my memory.
However, privacy protection is an important consideration when implementing such initiatives. For instance, Taiwan also operates a system that uses smartphone location information to confirm quarantine status. This was established after the SARS outbreak, as part of measures to enforce compulsory actions on citizens during emergencies.
In Denmark, access to CPR numbers and associated personal information is partially allowed for both public institutions and private companies, but the scope of access and conditions are clearly defined.
To establish systems like the My Number as social infrastructure, clear legislation is necessary to determine how personal information will be protected and utilized.