In the lead-up to our Decolonizing the Internet conference July 18-19 in Cape Town, we’ve asked a few participants to answer some questions about what interests and excites them about this topic. Our conference attendees come from all different backgrounds and corners of the globe – they bring a huge diversity of experiences and insights to the question: whose knowledge is represented and reproduced online?
If we’re going to correct the exclusion and marginalization of so many voices on the internet, we need a multitude of us working together, sharing ideas, and taking action. In this mini interview, we asked Peter Cunliffe-Jones, the London-based online editor of AFP news agency and the founder of Africa Check, to tell us a little about what brought him to these issues and what #DecolonizeTheInternet means to him.
Tell us a little bit more about you and what brings you joy (your work, your passions, your interests)?
I grew up near the city of Liverpool in England, earning my pocket money delivering newspapers to the homes of the football players and became a Liverpool fan at an early age. It was, I suppose, an early entry into the news business and I have worked as a journalist since 1990 – most of it for the AFP news agency – reporting on the wars in Bosnia and Croatia for two years, spending five years in Lagos as AFP Nigeria bureau chief, and three years in Hong Kong as AFP chief editor for Asia. Writing is a passion. One of my proudest days was receiving a kind review by Chinua Achebe of a book I wrote on Nigeria.In 2012 I joined with colleagues in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal setting up the first independent fact-checking organisation in Africa: https://africacheck.org/. Facts matter. Some claims are right and others wrong. But understanding is complex and stories are how we understand the world. Life is many things however. Beyond my journalism Iam a piano player, birdwatcher and mountain walker too. All these things and my family bring me joy.
What does ‘decolonizing the internet’ mean to you?
Everyone around the world takes decisions big and small every day. They do that on the basis of the best information available to them. Increasingly that information is found online, but in many parts of the world, it is partial, and controlled by others. Decolonising the internet is – to me – about tackling that problem. Information is empowering, and ensuring the widest possible access to reliable information, grounded in the realities of the communities it depicts, decolonises both the individual and society. It is vital work.
What excites you about the Decolonizing the Internet conference?
What excites me about the conference is coming together with people who have thought about this topic a lot and who have the chance to do something about it. It is the people in the room who make a difference and excite me and I hope to learn a lot from everyone.