Story One: Net Neutrality and the Web We Want

The Internet, or the Web, has quite literally taken over the world. If I have a question, I have no doubt that I will find my answer on Google. I will choose any website that appears to show me what I am looking for, and if the website asks me to “accept cookies” or “allow” something, I do it without a second thought. This, however, may be a bad move on my part. I don’t really know what I’m accepting or allowing, and who knows what information, personal or other, I am accidentally sharing with this random website and its creator(s). 

Of course, there are pros and cons to having endless pages of options when I ask the Internet a question, search for new shoes, or look up where the nearest brunch spot is. I am positive that I will have no problem finding what I’m looking for because the results that I receive from a Google search seem to be never ending. This is because, as stated by [1] Bello and Jung (2017), “The ‘Internet’s openness’ should be understood as a guiding principle that transcends each of the layers/tiers and extends throughout the digital ecosystem, and that each of the stakeholders of this ecosystem is essential to its development.” So really, the fact that the Internet is so open and broad is great when you want a quick and (potentially) correct result. But with all good, there is also bad. 

As I mentioned above, myself (and probably most of my peers too) will navigate to websites that we have never even heard of and although I am careful not to click any suspicious links or ads, I am well aware that technology and hackers are extremely advanced and my personal information can be taken away from me with one wrong click. The benefits of net neutrality are evident – it allows for a “freedom of choice guaranteed to users of applications and content,” but the harmful side effects are apparent as well – “the above does not prevent certain malicious content, which […] may generate harmful effects over the Net or on user devices” (Bello and Jung, 2017). This is why, even though I have admitted that I am not as careful as I should be while browsing the Web, I am at least smart enough to know to proceed with caution — privacy is valuable and sometimes oversharing is a mistake.

For the most part, to me, the Web is not necessarily scary. Do I understand the intricate details of how it works? Not in the slightest. Do I get overwhelmed and confused when I try to comprehend how things like phone calls, Google searches, or coding even work? Definitely. But I’ve grown up with the Internet and all of its intricacies, though I never learned about them in any depth. This means that for me, I can’t imagine a life without the Web, because I use my phone pretty much every hour and my computer at least once a day and I don’t know how I would fill the majority of my time without the Internet. (Whether that’s a good or bad thing, well that would depend on how long I decide to use social media and online shopping to procrastinate that day.)

Because the Internet is a part of my daily life, I am glad to see that [2] Larsen (2016) states that “there is hope for the Web. We need to rein in the bad behavior that threatens to hurt us and support the parts of the Web that are most important to us.” I wholeheartedly agree with Larsen’s statement, because although the Web and the things that accompany it (tracking, hacking, security breaches) can be unfamiliar and even dangerous at times, I can certainly admit that I have become heavily accustomed to using Maps and booking my flights online and Googling “5 minute dinner recipes.” I think that Larsen’s take on “saving” the Web is a good one. After all, if there are people who can hack computers or steal credit card information, there must be people who can use their Internet knowledge for good and aid us in protecting our privacy and data, thus ultimately allowing us to “save the Web.” 

Citations:

[1] Bello, Pablo, and Jung, Juan, GLOBAL COMMISSION ON INTERNET GOVERNANCE. “NET NEUTRALITY: REFLECTIONS ON THE CURRENT DEBATE.” The Shifting Geopolitics of Internet Access: From Broadband and Net Neutrality to Zero-Rating. Centre for International Governance Innovation, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep05240.9.

[2] Larsen, Solana, “Who Saved the Web?,” August 4, 2016. https://webwewant.org/news/who-saved-the-web/

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