Who controls the Internet?

I want to add to what I wrote a couple of weeks ago on Net neutrality (see here), pondering on the change made under the Obama administration requiring all Internet Service Providers to allow full and equal access for all users of the Internet, and which has been recently partly reversed under the Trump administration.

I expressed a fear that while I needed to dig deeper in order to come to a fully rounded view as to whether or not the system previously in operation is better than what existed before that and now, I also took the view that a more important issue is the near monopolies operated by services like Facebook, Twitter and Google (which also owns YouTube) and this represents a threat given most Internet users rely on these when they come to use the Internet, and this is something to be taken seriously. Given I tend to listen to Alternative media of a conservative flavor more than most, my ears continually get bent by those who claim to have been censored by the dastardly liberals who control Facebook, Twitter and Google, using devious and blatant tactics to shut down what they see as unpalatable conservative commentary, on the pretext they are shutting down what they deem as hateful. I have shared examples recently (see here and here) on the matter and there are frequent references by the likes of usual suspects as Alex Jones, Paul Watson, David Icke. A further exercise is to study the memo written by sacked employee James Damore exposing Google’s discriminatory practices.

My engaging with computer related telecommunications began long before the Internet became widely known about. In a past life I was a software engineer and helped to build systems whereby people could send and receive messages and otherwise communicate through various telecoms media via computers located around the world. These were bespoke systems that only few (usually big organisations) had access to, but did what we set out to do. The Internet made available to the masses, helped by the availability of cheap computers and cheap and fast access to the world wide web using advanced digital technology, changed all that and most people now have access. In many cases it has become almost a necessity given how much we rely on the Internet to communicate etc. Only a few years ago the Internet was a nicety used by the few; now it is a necessity  to engage with in order to carry out our daily affairs. As for me, I spend hours most days accessing the Internet, e.g. sending and receiving emails, blogging, researching information, playing chess, watching videos, personal and business dealings.

The Internet, like most technology advances over the years can be seen in both good and bad terms. The examples I have given above I would argue are mostly good if these are handled responsibly and not allowed to take over one’s life or cut us off from human interaction. Bad examples include online gambling and pornography and when it becomes a means for creating desensitized, brainwashed zombies. A further worry, albeit one more likely to be raised by conspiracy theorists, is that the Internet can be, is being and will be used as a means of controlling the masses. The Orwellian nightmare portrayed in 1984 is all too possible with the Internet we have now, and likely to become even more powerful with more use of artificial intelligence. Moreover, when the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google can control what we see and access a good deal of our personal data, then that fear will be accentuated.

Right now, while Internet Service Providers, and those who provide the sort of services whereby the average man in the street can extract value from being an Internet user, are important players, they do not of themselves control the Internet despite their best efforts, at least not yet. My fear is this could change and those who take control will not do so with the altruist aim that all of us can potentially and freely access all knowledge, and thereby be able to share that knowledge and thus free humanity from its shackles, but rather they would want to control us and shut down dissent – and is incidentally one reason why I am anti-globalist. Already we are seeing people expressing views that the powerful and those “in control” don’t want to be spread being shut down, using the age old tactic of holding onto power by keeping the masses in ignorance. Remember: “knowledge is power” and the “truth shall set you free”.

I really do feel for a season the hidden hand that would control all humanity is being kept in abeyance, but for how much longer? We live as I often remark in interesting times, and the advance of the Internet, something that as a boy growing up I could hardly have imagined, is now a major influence and a utility on par with gas, electricity and telephones, and which is set to further expand, including in ways that may well surprise us.

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