Countering Threats to the Internet

By Goldsborough, Reid | Teacher Librarian, October 2014 | Go to article overview

Countering Threats to the Internet


Goldsborough, Reid, Teacher Librarian


Anticipating the future can be a way of helping to ensure a better one. This is the thinking behind long-term planning, and it's behind a recent report by the Pew Research Center titled "Digital Life in 2025: Net Threats."

The Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org) is a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC, that does public-opinion polling, demographic research, and media content analysis. It sees its mission as illuminating trends shaping the Unites States and the world rather than taking explicit policy positions.

The research center is part of Pew Charitable Trusts, a philanthropic organization created in 1948 by the adult children of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew. "Net Threats" is the latest report in Pew's Digital Life in 2025 series.

The 1,400 experts canvassed by Pew fear four main threats to the Internet:

1. Actions by countries to maintain security and political control will lead to more censorship of Internet information, including blocking, filtering, and segmentation.

2. Trust in the Internet will evaporate because of increasing revelations about government and corporate surveillance.

3. Commercial pressures affecting Internet architecture and the flow of information will compromise the open nature of online life.

4. Efforts to fix the problem of information overload will become excessive and thwart Internet content sharing.

Some of these threats affect Internet users worldwide, while others primarily affect those in other countries. The censorship of Internet information is largely an issue elsewhere.

Countries such as China, Turkey, Pakistan, and Egypt block their citizens from Internet information perceived as a threat to the regime in power. Experts fear that this will increase.

On the positive side, the Arab Spring of late 2010 and early 2011 showed how the Internet can aid democracy. Autocratic leaders were forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, with the Internet playing a vital role in organizing opposition.

In this country, there's great concern among experts and ordinary users alike about government and corporate efforts to tap into the information people share on the Internet. People worry about the surveillance of e-mail and phone records by the U.S. National Security Agency to protect against terrorism, as well as the mining of postings by companies such as Facebook and Google to maximize their advertising revenue.

On the positive side, new laws and regulations may prevent the most flagrant privacy abuses. …

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