The ‘Diablo’ atrocity and the rise of the digital state


As of this writing, there is a petition from the Blue House titled “Report Blizzard Atrocities”. Blizzard is the creator of the popular game “Diablo”. More than 15,000 Korean citizens signed the petition. Basically, the petition complains that millions of members paid almost $ 50 each to play the latest version of the game released on September 21, but were severely hampered in their enjoyment due to frequent server outages. and random problems. their progress in the game being forcibly reduced to a previous status. The real outrage comes from the lack of an official position from the games company on this issue. In short, the players feel ignored and discriminated against.

Thus, a South Korean player sent a petition to the Korean president complaining about the actions of an American game company because he felt ignored by the customer service of said American company. It seems strange at first glance, but perfectly normal in this globally digitized world in which our boundaries of daily life are increasingly defined by the digital space in which we live and not just by the actual physical boundaries that make up our nation. , our state, our city. and local borders.

It’s not strange, but there is one notable thing about this petition: It appeals to the power of a nation-state to exert influence over the actions of a “digital state”. Ian Bremmer recently wrote a Foreign Affairs article titled “The Technopolar Moment: How Digital Powers Will Reshape the Global Order,” which provides a useful framework for dealing with this incident.

Bremmer says the big social media and internet tech companies represent a new generation of cohesive geopolitical influence blocs that rival the modern nation states that have defined our lives and international relations since the Treaty of Westphalia. “States have been the main players in world affairs for almost 400 years. That is starting to change, as a handful of big tech companies compete with them for geopolitical influence.

The aftermath of the January 6 riot is the latest proof that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter are no longer just big companies; they have taken control of aspects of society, economy and national security which have long been the exclusive prerogative of the state. The same goes for Chinese tech companies, such as Alibaba, ByteDance, and Tencent. Non-state actors are increasingly shaping geopolitics, with tech companies leading the way. “

Bremmer’s claims are not hyperbolic. As of January, Facebook has led the way in building a digital nation with 2.7 billion users, followed by YouTube and WhatsApp, with 2 billion users each. To take Facebook for example, this situation means that a business can shape what you see, how you interact, what you can post and share, and who you can contact. Your digital moves are being tracked by the business to further shape your future behavior with the rest of this digital nation.

Deforming Facebook literally means social death for those who use Facebook as their primary vehicle for social engagement. With the lockdowns and social distancing taking place during COVID-19, the digital world has gained primacy in how we engage with each other, empowering these social media and technology platforms in all aspects. of our life.

As alarm bells have sounded about the consequences of such uncontrolled and irresponsible power, Bremmer points out that traditional nation states are struggling to develop an effective regulatory oversight system for these emerging digital state powers.

But it’s not for lack of trying. According to the Guardian, Australia is pushing for a law that will create an online privacy code for social media services, data brokers and other large online platforms operating in Australia. Other laws will require social media companies to be held liable if they do not remove allegedly defamatory material within 48 hours of receiving a notice from the Electronic Security Commissioner, in addition to verifying the age of users. , obtain parental consent for the children and cease disclosure. of personal information, if requested.

Similar attempts are occurring in the EU. According to Reuters, “EU countries aim to agree on a common negotiating position on two sets of draft rules aimed at restricting the powers of US tech giants on November 25. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) make a list of dos and don’ts. ts for online gatekeepers – companies that control data and access to their platforms like Amazon, Apple, Google Alphabet Unit and Facebook. The Digital Services Act (DSA) requires tech companies to do more to tackle illegal content on their online platforms. Violations can result in heavy fines. “

Whether this situation will turn into “Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi” remains to be seen. Facebook’s recent renaming announcement to “Meta” and its pivot to creating a metaverse will only fuel the fire. If every aspect of our lives can be experienced in a fully immersive 3-D world with sensory capabilities rivaling those of the physical world, and if a business can control every granular aspect of those experiences, then who is the empire?
Jason Lim ([email protected]) is a Washington, DC-based expert on innovation, leadership, and organizational culture.

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