Pew Research Internet Center thinks that the internet is under threat. Why would that be the case? The advent of the internet age brought tremendous changes and some people managed to take huge advantages out of the transition to an internet society. Internet is one of the best things that ever happened, if not the best. Looking back, the 1990 and early 2000s were the wild days of the internet. Things have changed almost drastically. Regulation strongly pervades internet behavior, but that is not inherently a bad thing. For example, the FTC attempts to oblige Amazon to make every effort possible to protect their online clients. Now you have to live in a certain country to have access to a particular internet service like video streaming.
Pew Research Internet Center conducts study with experts
Pew Research Internet Project performed a study precisely on the topic. More than 1400 experts in the broad field of internet studies opted-in as respondents. They were asked to answer one questions and elaborate further: “By 2025 will there be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online compared with the way globally networked people can operate online today?”
Sixty-five of the internet experts answered ‘No’, but the detailed answers mostly specified what they hope, not what they predict. In such a fast changing domain it would be almost foolish to aim for more. Pew Research Internet Center clustered the responses in four categories of threats. The first refers to the nation-states interventions in achieving more control over the internet through blockades and segmentations. Another suggests a loss of trust, consequence of revelations about mass surveillance undertook by both governments and corporations. The open structure of the net might be affected by commercial pressures, a third threat would be. The fourth threat is more elusively expressed and underscores the dangers of counteracting to the Too Much Information problem.
In a single sentence, the main threat is loss of democracy. It suggests that the internet used to be democratic, which is not entirely true. The present net-neutrality debate is just a facet of the problem. Facebook’s latest undercover mass study is another – Facebook thought it had so much legitimacy that did not even thought they would have to ask consent. Fact is the global digital divide is very sharp now, even if it is decreases as many people from developing states connect to the internet in a fast pace. We tend to think that access to the internet grants us instant equality, but the power relations are as asymmetrical as they are in real life.
Looking at the internet threats says a lot about how various understandings of what is happening often clash. Even if the internet is mostly portrayed as a medium, it is often perceived as an instrument. Like any other instrument, it can be used for a multitude of purposes by different powerful actors, and this debate triggered by Pew Research Internet Center aims at supporting a specific view.