MONGOLIA’S INDEPENDENT INTERNET?
Keywords:information capitalism, Mongolia, social media, surveillance, Internet
AOIR 2021 conference theme “independence” of the internet provides an opportunity for researchers to reevaluate internet development in the global south by applying theories of “informational capitalism” (Castells, 2000; Schiller, 2000) and “surveillance capitalism” (Suboff, 2019). This paper aims to trace the development of informational society in Mongolia, a 30-year-old democracy in the Central Asian steppe. With a nomadic culture, a Buddhist tradition, and a communist past, Mongolia’s information society has unique encounters with global corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (GAFAM). The paper focuses on juxtapositions of information society with traditional, cultural, political, and social aspects of Mongolian life. I establish how Mongolia is positioned in various global information society perspectives, by investigating tensions that have not been addressed in this nation’s context of a communist past and an ongoing nomadic lifestyle. I also trace the historic development of information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives during the socialist and post-communist eras. Online speech controversies, misinformation, and commercial speech on social media all tested Mongolia’s new Constitution of 1992. The constitution promulgates a free press and the freedom of speech in the zeitgeist of the 1990s to prioritize the eradication of communist-era political censorship and communist party control. One cannot help but notice the gap in the legal frameworks of Mongolian institutions between the current and the “aspired to” states of democratization and protection of human rights and cultural experiences.