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José María Díaz Nafría
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 German "Cybersubsidiarität"
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Lionel Mattes (11.06.2020, contribution elaborated within the Seminar "A Journey through Philosophy and Information" facilitated by J.M.Díaz at the Hochschule München)

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1 Abstract

Information streams seem to be in the hands of a few people/institutions. As a result majorities of the population often do not have access to facts. Facts are quoted out of context and those decontextualized facts are often used to represent capitalistic interests. Furthermore represents the current structure of the internet an opportunity for individuals who intend to spread disinformation -> [Disinformation]. The increase of the emerging phenomenon of disinformation could be observed especially during the corona crisis. However, at the bottom the problem is a lack of appropriate control of information streams. Cybersubsidiarity intends to provide a solution for this issue by creating a viable systems based construct which is going to be presented in the following lines. The elaboration of that construct is basically guided by the cybersubsidiarity concept which has already been presented by Hofkirchner and Díaz Nafrìa (2019).

1.1 Introduction

In the year 2020 the world seems to be almost entirely globalized. This is a development which had been rapidly increasing by faster information-exchange, also spurred by the internet. Terms like information-society are omnipresent and might convey the impression that our so called “world-society” gets provided reliable und proofed information. But unfortunately that is definitely not the case. Indeed information might be especially nowadays one of the most valuable assets humankind has to rely on in order to solve the big world-challenging issues. The challenge which might be the most prevailing right now is the “COVID-19” crisis. In June 2020 practically every single country on the entire planet earth is affected by the new Corona-Virus. As matter of fact, income streams of information regarding COVID-19 where increasing significantly and are perpetually on a high level (JHU 2020). Many people inform their self via internet, which has the side-effect that a lot of unfiltered information reaches the awareness of people minds. To illustrate that process I want to tell the reader about a video-clip which occurred in social media and gained (especially in Germany) millions of clicks. In this clip a physic-therapist, who is working in a clinic for pulmonal-deseases, claims that the clinic is paying 5000 Euros to the relatives of decedents in order to make them state that their beloved ones died because of a corona-virus infection. As it turned out, the content of his statement was nothing but a lie. The self-publicist himself made a deposition in which he backtracked his statements. Unfortunately there are thousands of examples, in which possible “Fake-News” cannot be proved to be dubious information. As a consequence of that processes uncertainty and distrust against governmental institutions and so called main-stream-media are increasing in population. This development must be considered as harmful for a stable and sustainable world society. Therefore concepts of solving those kinds of problems are essential. Off course the danger of censorship seems to be a central aspect which has to be considered. In order to evaluate a way to approach that issue I will try to clarify the concept of “Cyber-Subsidiarity” which was presented as a backbone for a global and sustainable information society in an article which was developed by Hofkirchner, Díaz and other authors.

1.2 Information

I want to start, clarifying a definition of information by Spangenberg: "Information is raw or processed data, which can be interpreted by different people with different economic and ideological interests, in different cultures and at different times. However, what remains open is the question of what the information does, in fact, mean (Spangenberg, 2005).". As spangenberg mentions, there are multiple ways of interpreting the original source where the information origins from. The issue here is, that many times people do not have access to the so called proxy information an are dependend on big information-agencys.

2. Cybersubsidiarity

"The real structure of the internet, particularly when it is powered by current big-data technologies in the present situation of strong inequality, represents an important breach in the subsidiarity principle." (Hofkirchner, Díaz et al 2019) The term subsidiarity is well known as a socio-political principle. This principle is what many constitutional states are committed to. Even the European Union refers to it in its foundation treaty. The basic principle aims that every individual or social group can lead a free, autonomous live with free choices to make, as long as the individual or social group can be held to account. If a assignment seems to affect to many people among population or just overcomes their responsibility, according to the subsidiarity-principle, there has to exist a overarching structure (e.g. government institutions), which accepts responsibility for the affected people (Finnis 2016). But as mentioned in the entry quote of that paragraph the current structure of the internet cannot cope with that principle. "Moreover, current big-data technologies seem to intensify the already intolerable inequality." (Hofkirchner, Díaz et al 2019).

Most of the information-flow is concentrated in a few hands. And this is also where many of those problems derive from. There is a significant lack of veracity control in the information exchanges. A problem which currently can be more and more often observed is "decontextualization", which means that the context of peoples actions are globalised, stretched and the information is mediated by untrustworthy means. As Hofkirchner and Díaz Nafría proposed (2019), a cyber-subsidiarity model, backed up with a subsidiary information management system, which is following the Viable System (VS) Model intends to provide solutions for those kind of problems. To receive an impression how the VS works it is crucial to know that it is actually assembled by three different principles:

1) The principle of recursion (it states that any VS is composed of nested VS)

2) The principle of requisite variety  (it states that the variety of a system must be greater than the variety of issues, the system is facing)

3) The principle of subsidiarity (it states that the variety is resolved at the lowest (recursive) level.


Fig 1. (Hofkirchner, Díaz et. al 2019) gives a overview on the Cybersubsidiarity model. a) vertical nested structure b) horizontal organisation


As mentioned before a VS requires resilient information management, in order to cope with the massive information streams. The VS in the presented concept (Fig 1. right hand side) is composed of five subsystems, which cooperate in order to accomplish a sustainable information-management -> [Information Management]


(S1) Every VS is responsible for some major tasks and includes different operative units (OU) which handle those tasks. According to the principle of recursion, each operative unit is a VS itself. Each OU is capable to perform at least one fundamental task.


(S2) acts the role of a mediator. It provides information channels that allow the OU´s of S1 to cooperate among each other. Furthermore it alleviates S3 to act the role of a coordinator.


(S3) includes structures and controls to guarantee internal regulation (especially for S1) , optimizes capacities and resources and ensures synergy at the operational level. It receives an overview over the processes developed in S1 and is used to carry out strategic plans. Furthermore it supplys a interface for S4/S5.


(S4) copes with the task of informing of environmental changes with the purpose of forecasting forthcoming scenarios. It additionally it is responsible for future-orientated organisation in order to preserve viability and sustainability of the VS.


(S5) is responsible for political decisions in the organisation as a whole. It is capable of pondering the claims of different parties. It is guiding the organisation as a whole and preserves up-to-date systems identity (Hofkirchner, Díaz et al (2019)).


In summary it can be said that System 1-3 are dealing with the "inside and now" operations of the organisation. System 4 copes with "Outside and Then" as a strategic-response-system to external demands. S5 balances the "Inside and Now" and the "Outside and Then" in order to maintain the sustainable identity of the system.

Additionally it is proposed to establish other "regulative principles" which provide adequate guidelines for the design of newly created sustainable organisations and tools for the assessment of already existing organisations.


2.1 Conclusion

As described in the entry lines there are significant repercussions on society, as a result of disinformation ->[Disinformation] and decontextualisation -> [Context]. Especially decontextualisation seems to be nowadays issue. Due to the fact that the major part of world’s population does not have proxy access to facts, information agencies are able to report their "preinterpretated" facts, representing non advantageous interests for public. No surprisingly it seems that there is no approach presented in order to solve that problem to a broader public so far. It seems like that is a issue which originates from the established capitalistic influenced media systems. Politics did not seem intending to raise its awareness sufficiently to this systemically problem so far. More political awareness gained the phenomenon of disinformation. Due to COVID-19 crisis the amount of disinformation streams literately exploded. As a result, the European Union (EU) recently published  a report on the threat of democracy and public health, derived from the massive amount of disinformation which occurred during the pandemic spread of the virus. As the European Commission (EC) states (2020): "Misinformation -> [Misinformation] and disinformation in the health space are thriving, including on COVID-19.”. It is important that you rely only on authoritative sources to get updated information on the COVID-19 outbreak." Obviously the EC perceives the danger which comes with disinformation. They intend raising public´s awareness only to "authoritative sources", which seems fair at first glance but is it likely to happen that a public authority like the EU can convince a population of which big parts lost confidence in the so called "authoritative sources"? It is crucial that existing structures like the EU gain back the lost confidence among parts of the European population. A well-engineered cyber subsidiarity system, based on the principles elaborated in previous paragraphs intends to provide a solution. A construct which has proxy access to information embeds existing governmental structures, NGO´s and other relevant systems to ensure a veracity control in the information exchanges. In a practically relevant way, the "Inside and Now" structures would analyse spread information and would be able to filter disinformation. Of course the mechanism must be capable of providing only proofed, reliable information which is not quoted out of context. Only that would create a environment, which allows people to receive not decontextualized information. Only if such a environment can be created there is the possibility that majorities of the population are able to build on received information in a conducive way. In consequence current negative social developments e.g. increasing frictions in political orientation (as it can be observed in many European countries at the moment) could be decreased. Due to the fact that disinformation seems to be often used to influence political discussions among population which causes way to often sheer intractable seeming conflicts. Of course the implementation of a cyber subsidiarity based internet structure would need the cooperation of most of the big players in the world, like governments, global business groups and others. This requirement also represents a difficulty in the implementation of such a system because particularly often the big players of the world are benefiting from the current internet structure with all the information-stream in the hands of a few mighty.



  • Spangenberg Joachim (2005): Will the information society be sustainable? Towards criteria and indicators for a sustainable knowledge society. In: Int. J. Innovation and Sustainable Development, Vol. 1, Nos. 1/2.
  • Hofkirchner Wolfang, Dìaz José et al (2019 p.13): ICTs Connecting Global Citizens, Global Dialogue and Global Governance. A Call for Needfull Designs
  • Finnis John (2016): Subsidiarity's Roots and History: Some Observations Notre Dam Law School:Journal Articles
  • European Comission (2020): Fighting disonformation [Online]  <> [Consulted: 13.06.2020]
  • Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) (2020): Corona World Map [Online]  (JHU)> [Consulted: 15.06.2020]

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