The Future Internet Is Not So Free Or Open, In Pew's New Survey | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

The Future Internet Is Not So Free Or Open, In Pew's New Survey

What we know as the World Wide Web — the main way by which most of us access the Internet — just turned 25 this year. Its existence has allowed for all kinds of learning and free expression, coding and making, rule-breaking and platform-making. One American researcher even links the Internet to a decline in religious affiliation.

An estimated 5 billion of us are expected to have Internet access in the next decade, but what will the Internet look like then? How easily will we be able to get, share and create with it?

The Pew Research Center reached out to more than 1,400 tech industry leaders and academics, asking about the basic way the Internet will function come 2025. In the Pew report, the threats they see are geopolitical, economic and socially relevant. A lot of the Internet's "future" is already expressed in the current. A few key themes:

1) Control means less freedom: Actions by nation-states to maintain security and political control will lead to more blocking, filtering, segmentation and balkanization of the Internet.

Already, China is known for its "Great Firewall," and social media crackdowns in Turkey and Pakistan lately show a global trend toward regulation of the Internet by certain regimes. And that's without mentioning stepped-up surveillance.

"Surveillance ... at the minimum chills communications and at the maximum facilitates industrial espionage[;] it does not have very much to do with security," said Christopher Wilkinson, a retired European Union official and board member for EURid.eu.

2) Trust is evaporating: "The next few years are going to be about control," said danah boyd, noted Internet thinker and a researcher at Microsoft. Survey respondents told Pew that trust in open communications technologies will continue to evaporate in the wake of revelations about government and corporate surveillance. We've reported on the U.S./China "Cool War" that reignited because of Chinese fears of American corporate surveillance; it's just one flashpoint in a larger theme.

3) The lure of money endangers openness: There's a serious worry that commercial pressures will affect everything from Internet architecture to the flow of information and more deeply endanger the open structure of online life.

This isn't limited to prioritization for some content over others, which is the debate over net neutrality. Experts also expect that commercial pressures that preserve copyrights and patents mean the free flow of information will suffer. Leah Lievrouw, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has a sense of hopelessness about it:

"There are too many institutional players interested in restricting, controlling, and directing 'ordinary' people's ability to make, access, and share knowledge and creative works online — intellectual property rights holders, law enforcement and security agencies, religious and cultural censors, political movements and parties, etc. For a long time I've felt that the utopianism, libertarianism, and sheer technological skill of both professional and amateur programmers and engineers would remain the strongest counterbalance to these restrictive institutional pressures, but I'm increasingly unsure as the technologists themselves and their skills are being increasingly restricted, marginalized, and even criminalized."

There is more in the full report, such as the respondents' take on what to do — and what companies will do — to help clear the clutter of content overload. (Hint: Some folks are concerned algorithms and other solutions will overcompensate ...)

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In An Earthquake, History Fuels One Writer's Anxiety

An earthquake in Napa Valley this week brought back old fears for author Gustavo Arellano. In his anxiety he's revisiting the book A Crack in the Edge of the World.
NPR

Real Vanilla Isn't Plain. It Depends On (Dare We Say It) Terroir

There's no such thing as plain vanilla — at least if you're talking about beans from the vanilla orchid. Whether it's from Tahiti or Madagascar, vanilla can be creamy, spicy or even floral.
NPR

Federal Judge Blocks Texas Restriction On Abortion Clinics

Requiring every center that performs abortions to meet all the standards of a surgical center is excessively restrictive, says the federal district court judge who blocked the state rule Friday.
NPR

An App Can Reveal When Withdrawal Tremors Are Real

You probably haven't thought about whether your phone could help diagnose alcohol withdrawal. Well, it can. An app for doctors measures tremors and may help tell if someone's faking it to get drugs.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.