There are four looming threats casting a shadow of doubt on the prospect of maintaining an open Internet by 2025, according to a canvassing of more than 1,400 experts by the Pew Research Center Internet Project.
The experts were posed this question about the future of the Internet: “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?”
According to Pew, 35 percent answered with a pessimistic “yes,” while 65 percent answered with an optimistic “no.” Respondents were also given an optional open-ended follow-up question asking them to elaborate on the most serious threats to accessing and sharing content on the Internet, along with what measures should be taken to preserve people’s “optimal future capabilities in using the Internet.”
Pew gleaned four main threats mentioned throughout the responses to this follow-up question:
- “Actions by nation-states to maintain security and political control will lead to more blocking, filtering, segmentation, and balkanization of the Internet.
- Trust will evaporate in the wake of revelations about government and corporate surveillance and likely greater surveillance in the future.
- Commercial pressures affecting everything from Internet architecture to the flow of information will endanger the open structure of online life.
- Efforts to fix the TMI (too much information) problem might over-compensate and actually thwart content sharing.”
Each of those four threats is illuminated by Pew with quotes from various experts included in the online canvassing, which was done in conjunction with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center between Nov. 25, 2013, and Jan. 13, 2014.
In the European Union, online openness is being tested by the “right to be forgotten” policy, which allows people to request that Google and other search providers remove links to Web pages containing personal information from their search results. One of the ugly, unexpected consequences appears to be press censorship.
To read in-depth commentary about the four threats to online liberty, along with general thoughts from prominent Internet experts, see Pew’s report.