Experts Point to Four Major Future Threats to an Unrestricted Internet

Pew research: four threats to the Internet
Will the Internet always be as free as it is today? It’s certainly less restrictive in some places of the world than others, and many companies and governments have a different view of how free it should be compared to the average citizen. It’s a question the Pew Research Center Internet Project put to 1,400 experts in a study (PDF) who were asked whether or not they felt the prospects of the Internet remaining as unrestricted as it is today would remain through the year 2025? While most believe it will continue to have most of the freedom we see today, they did note there are four major threats which could change the way the Internet currently runs.

The experts were all asked the following question, “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?”

The vast majority (65%) were optimistic with their assessment believing that no major changes will take place, while the other 35% thought major changes for the worse were coming. The experts were also given the chance to elaborate on what they felt was going to be the most serious threats to the open Internet in the future, and Pew found four reoccurring threats the experts frequently mentioned:

  • Nation States: Those nation states trying to maintain security and political control will be tempted to block, filter, segment and balkanize the Internet to their advantage to maintain control over information.
  • Surveillance: Trust among those who use the Internet may disappear with information about governments and corporations gathering data, tracking users and keeping tabs on those who use the Internet. The anonymity that lets the Internet function the way it does today may disappear.
  • Commercial Pressures: The flow of information and the open structure of the Internet may favor some companies over others and companies try to squeeze more profits out of the Internet. The Internet might be broken into several tiers with those with money getting better access to users than others.
  • TMI Issues: As more and more information floods onto the Internet, efforts to address the “too much information” (TMI) problem might overcompensate and cause issues that make it more difficult for those using the Internet to share information with one another.

All of the above concerns are already taking place to some degree, and it will take efforts by those who want to keep the Internet free from having those threats take over. All governments already block and filter the Internet to some degree, whether that be covertly or overtly. The Edward Snowden leaks have already shown governments and corporations are tracking much more information that most thought, and this surveillance has already caused some people to self-censor what they do on the Internet. Net Neutrality is an ongoing battle with corporate interest wanting to create different levels of access to different companies.

(Photo courtesy of tangi bertin)

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3 Responses to Experts Point to Four Major Future Threats to an Unrestricted Internet

  1. Eric says:

    Why does any of this matter? This isn’t something the government can control, this is the Internet, we will find a way around it.
    Expect us.

  2. justaperson says:

    I just wonder what the older people from a few years ago, who fought younger people saying that the government didn’t choose what we had access to on the web, are saying now? Are they still so obediently not believing what is right in front of their faces?

  3. justaperson says:

    Really? Did you really just say that. Please, for the sake of humanity, THINK!!!!!!

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