The early idealism of the Internet was imagined as some great network that would somehow free the world’s oppressed people and lead to a grand utopian future. All the world’s information would be available at the touch of a button, greater participation in government by the people would be easy, and so on.
None of this has happened or will happen. Instead, the American public dove into a closed system called Facebook, where it dwells as the machine feeds them filtered crap in an echo chamber of their own creation. Those who venture beyond the bubble quickly retreat back into the Facebook milieu where they feel safe.
This was not the promise of the Internet, nor is the ever-increasing censorship of the net. If you took the folks who were gung-ho about the Internet and its future in the early 1990s and compare their ideals to the facts of 2016, you have to laugh.
Currently, Facebook wants to make a play on China, and has reportedly developed a tool that will allow for content censorship there. In other words, it will not pass along information the Chinese government does not want spread. Especially forbidden are facts about the protests of 1989, negative portrayals of current or previous government, and organizations like Falun Gong.
But China is the tip of the censorship iceberg. Here in the US, there is no government censorship. It’s not necessary, as all sorts of sketchy do-gooder operations censor all sorts of websites and opinion writers.
The original censor was Net Nanny, which was designed to keep your kids from seeing porn. That evolved into blacklists to minimize the shipping of spam. Now we have a phenomenon called “fake news,” which propagates the notion that some websites are making up stories and should be blacklisted as fake news sites.
This is funny to me as I still recall Jayson Blair of the New York Times making up accounts and running them as fact in the paper of record until he was caught. Stephen Glass is another great story about a real news reporter making things up, as is the tale about Janet Cooke at the Washington Post. Google them all and ask yourself where the fake news really comes from.
But this is not really about fake news. It’s about a consolidated effort to censor everything except official government-approved positions and viewpoints. And to be honest, what do you think a government should do? The free and open uncensored Internet actually opens the door for all sorts of manipulators to roam free. When you hear reports about how ISIS recruits terrorists online utilizing a range of propaganda mechanisms, they are not kidding.
This is what happens if you do not clamp down on the net. What did you think would happen? I’m often stunned by the naiveté of the Internet pioneers when it comes to the dark side of the net. The Chinese have a clue; a lot of countries do. And they are not going to let open subversive activity take down their regimes in the name of free speech.
The future of the Internet is grim. It will consist of Facebook and its own censorship police with an agenda. Also you will have approved, probably licensed, blogs, podcasts and news outlets that have to follow rules like those imposed by the FCC on broadcasting. You’ll have the closed alternative social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. And, you’ll have endless e-commerce sites and hubs selling you stuff that you probably do not need, led by Amazon.
In a decade when the new closed and censored net is in full swing ask yourself, “What did you really expect?”