The raft of punitive regulatory measures , that several governments across the world has recently instituted to to "fix the net" is an ominous portent for the internet's future
This grave threat not only comes from increased governmental scrutiny but also from several tech companies ,who have donned the role of gatekeepers.
The internet is perhaps the most fluid and transparent information highway, that humanity has ever experienced. It is a place where one can fully exercise their fundamental right to speech, without any fear of repercussions. It has bought the global communities closer and the creative cooperation that has occurred has immensely benefitted mankind in every aspect of our lives. It made each and everyone of us feel somewhat connected to each other and the beneficial effects of globalization that all of us are reaping, was only possible because of this wonderful medium.
It may be lawless and anarchic, but the internet has provided an ideal platform for average Joes like us to give vent to our opinions and creativity in front of a global audience. It subsequently became the world’s largest encyclopedia, built on the egalitarian ethos where exchange of ideas occurred freely in the absence of any real world barriers. Until recently, governments across the world were content with leaving the web to its own devices. But it seems the honeymoon period is over . Of late the choking regulatory measures enacted by several governments is a rude departure from their earlier stance of singing peans about the internet’s tremendous potential.
Civilizing The Net
The internet despite its numerous perceived pitfalls, has worked wonderfully in revolutionizing our lives. Therein lies the problem. It has given birth to thousands of sites like Wikileaks, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook whose pioneering services have more or less altered the course of human history. The power of the internet community has surged in the last decade and it now has the wherewithal to topple governments and usher in revolutionary changes as was witnessed in the Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East or the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” . This growing power is being perceived as a major threat by Governments all across the world , who are resorting to every wile to maintain control. In last yeas G-8 summit in Paris, the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy eloquently talked about civilizing the net in order to stem its pernicious influence in the society.He asserted that people must not overlook the fact a democratically elected government is the only legal representative of the will of the people
Worryingly, Sarzoky’s sentiments are shared by politicians all over the world , who are wasting no time in enacting laws or measures to censor the web under the cloak of privacy, decency, security and even civility. Even in US , a land which once championed freedom of speech and thought , the incumbent government is mooting the possibility of several draconian laws, under the guise of national security. The “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act “ nicknamed SOPA and the PIPA, that Congress is contemplating passing, if one assesses carefully, are actually two draconian laws designed to control one’s freedom of communication and thereby can potentially impinge on one’s First Amendent rights.
Ever since the announcement of these two bills, several websites like Wikipedia and Craiglist have blacked out, being incensed at the heavy handed policies of the government. The websites have clearly maintained that these two acts completely vitiate the spirit of the internet , where freedom of communication and expression form the essence of everything.
Why this sudden hue and cry? Is the internet suddenly malfunctioning? . The actual reason is politicians have become jittery after witnessing the internet’s far flung influence during the Jasmine Revolution and Occupy Wall Street Movement. These movements were able to muster such widespread and were able to mobilize such enormous number of people, only through the power of social media. These have made several governments paranoid.
Not only overbearing regulations, the internet is facing a subtle but equally dangerous threat from the cloistered application ecosystem,fostered by bellwether companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google. Unlike the internet ,where one can develop and sell any service , the world of application is an insulated one which works under the strict supervision of parent organizations. The plethora of applications one can access on one’s phone, has rendered mobile internet irrelevant. As per a latest research 90% users spend nearly 80% of their timeon their phones, browsing various applications while the web is only accessed sporadically. We are inexorably being nudged towards a closed environment , where a free world wide web will become moot. Some deluded people maybe content with a closed world. No matter how delightful the world may appear it can never compete in richness, diversity and complexity with the anarchistic, vibrant, throbbing web outside its closed gates.