The open nature of the Internet faces several threats over the next ten years that could severely curtail online liberty, according to a new report published by the Pew Research Center. The think tank released their survey of more than 1,400 analysts and experts as part of their series called "The Web at 25."
Most respondents said they believe the way individuals access information won’t significantly change for the worse by 2025. However, the research identified four key threats that pose serious concerns, including (1) efforts by nation-states to maintain political control by filtering, blocking or segmenting the Internet, (2) erosion of trust stemming from government and corporate surveillance, (3) efforts by corporations to further commercialize the online world, and (4) attempts by individuals to filter their own online exposure to combat information overload.
Great Firewall of China
The report highlighted attempts by governments such as China to control the flow of information across the Internet by restricting access. Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey were also singled out for their attempts to prevent their citizens from viewing content their governments find objectionable.
Even in Britain, "ISPs block sites the government considers ‘terrorist’ or otherwise dangerous,” Dave Burstein, editor of Fast Net News, pointed out in his response to the survey.
While blocking terrorist communications can obviously be beneficial, some industry watchers are concerned about the related threat of government censorship growing out of control, even in democracies. Burstein noted that, “There will usually be ways to circumvent the obstruction, but most people won’t bother."
Other experts quoted in the survey argued that opposing trends will counteract government censorship efforts. “There’s a lot of work underway now in developing open-source, interoperable, and encrypted versions of social media, in response to the increasing authoritarianism and state collaboration of existing walled-garden media,” Kevin Carson, a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society, wrote in his response.
Surveillance, whether by governments or corporations, was cited as one of the most significant threats to online freedom. Being vulnerable to monitoring by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), for example, poses a growing concern. Other respondents argued that technological innovation will give users a way to circumvent attempts to monitor their online activity.
The End of Net Neutrality
Efforts by Internet Service Providers to monetize network traffic also threaten the free flow of information, as companies favor certain content providers over others. Antiquated copyright and patent laws may also stifle communication as intellectual property owners aggressively enforce their legal claims.
“The extension of copyright terms back into the near-infinite past will reduce what can be shared,” wrote Jeremy Epstein, a senior computer scientist at SRI International. Meanwhile, efforts by individuals to counteract information overload may overshoot their mark, creating unnecessary barriers to content sharing.
However, many experts quoted in the survey said they believe the economic benefits of an open Internet will win out, and that laws that govern intellectual property will become more flexible. The technology employed by individuals to filter information overload is also likely to improve over time.
On a final positive note, Ericsson engineer Joel Halpern predicted that, "the trend towards making information more widely and easily reached, consumed, modified, and redistributed is likely to continue in 2025."
Posted: 2014-07-10 @ 10:26pm PT
A comprehensive overview of the situation would be appreciated. People these days tend to disregard things that are not a threat or seriously affecting them. They have no idea about these kind of things and what it might bring to them.
Posted: 2014-07-07 @ 3:54am PT
Orphan, sexual exploitation certainly has been in existence since before the dawn of electricity, yet high speed communications and file sharing have a huge impact on the issue. Try browsing news feeds from ICE and you'll see what I mean.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 10:31pm PT
NO-NO-NO multi-tiered, preferred, privileged, flexible, special, commercially interested. pay-to-play "$ervice$" allowed - EVER. > _N_E_T___N_E_U_T_R_A_L_I_T_Y_ < ONLY.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 7:25pm PT
This of course is entirely accurate and responsible reporting.What we can do is ensure that the so-called free western states uphold freedom of speech best as can reasonably. Of course if parties were to publish a easy home-brewed recipe for an atomic bomb this should be hindered harshly yet openly. The recent attempts by Chair Wheeler to prioritize traffic for commercial exploitation is beyond reproach.It is despicable for him to even suggest something he should be concerned about protecting us from. If nation states involve themselves in censoring data then that option is up to them and not to do so to the entire internet. There has long been overdue a serious effort to introduce a bill of rights as such for the net. Mainly because of lack of understanding of what it is. It should be free as the air to speak in wherever the air is. With reasonable open monitering. But the attempts as of late to grossly adapt it for commercial exploitation is a very dangerous precedent and a hypocritical one as well here in the US. It should be free as the radio airwaves where all can listen. This will always scare those in power to degree as it would be a great equalizer for all men. But there has been long overdue regulation at a higher point. Usenet has become IRC essentially
far from what it was and was meant to be. And patent trolls continue to own rights for sheer exploitation and many such abuses continue. For sheer lack of any comprehensible 'Bill' or regulation at any level. Simply because those in power are at a loss via misunderstanding of what the net is and should be. But we should NEVER compromise our right to freedom of speech and thought. The EC recently has suggested Google censor content to suit, which is arbitrary and morally wrong to us. If they want to censor content on the net than it is their responsibility to do so for their nation states. Never across the net. The net doesn't belong to them and should never compromise across the entire spectrum.The best solution for Wheelers spectacle is create bandwidth for all. Independent of bundles and accessible to the entire country and beyond. Competitive and unencumbered. What's frustrating is that this solution would not be hard nor expensive at all to implement. The monopolies like ATT, comcast, verizon etc. will fight it to the bitter end. They don't even want us to know of the perception. But such internet is already available in many places. LBJ brought electricity to the yokels and so it could be with fast pure internet with a eth0 solution. But in this post Ray-Gun world of de-regulation and behemoths sucking us dry of money and resource it might not be possible as its just too late. A bitter pill for a bitter world.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 5:40pm PT
Would be wise to filter out all child porn.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 4:08pm PT
One would think that the US government which is responsible for the creation of the internet could insist on net neutrality as a condition for making money as an IP provider. Pretty clear corporations rule the politicians. No point in voting, corporations will always outbid you for your local congressperson. You get what you get and have no say in the matter.
Ronald C Krause Jr:
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 4:01pm PT
@ Real Threat,
Can you do anything about it? Yes, but it usually takes time and money.
One can reduce their internet signature to almost nothing, and in some rare cases literally nothing. It takes: specific computer hardware (and even a specific way of purchasing that computer hardware), some added specific software, a few boat loads of reading material (several thousands of pages actually), and some money. But the best part it, in order to relay any of that information, it takes a nearly identical mirrored set up.
But not to give up though. For a while now there have been items such as TOR, TrueCrypt, and even organizations such as WikiLeaks.
But for any american out there, also realize that - ones rights as an american can and do end at the border. A true hacker is not able to bring their valued items across borders.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 3:37pm PT
The real threat is people. You can choose the sites you visit and if by chance a negative site comes up, you can leave or shut off the machine.
Governments will always exploit the power and suggest it is in the nation's interest. Probably somewhat accurate.
As an IT professional, if you turn on the computer, type it into a keypad, use a phone or watch TV, you are being monitored. You don't even know by which entity.
Should you give up, no. Can you do anything about it, maybe not.
Enjoy what you do have.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 3:29pm PT
If you think hackers are the worst threat to internets viability then you really don't understand the internet.
Ronald C Krause Jr:
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 3:22pm PT
Respectfully stating... The largest group of professional hackers in the world are the NSA. The NSA has hacked items like Iran (the nuclear program in it's development stages) and also created items that have effected every adult american. Not just today, but for well over the last fifteen years, the NSA has had the ability to hack almost anything. The question should be... WHY??
But also let me clearly point out... I am a computer hacker myself, by profession. I make quite a decent living at it myself, and also in participating in group hacking activities.
On my resume for years... Among many other items, I'm a Blue Hat and Gray Hat hacker. That's even as it appears on my official IRS submitted tax documents.
So I have hacked professionally for such organizations as: Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and many, many others.
Not all hackers are bad
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 3:13pm PT
Net neutrality must be coupled with a fiber last mile. Freedom with out speed equals boredom. We as a country my give into our need for both speed and freedom. A fiber last mile provides both.
Tom WheelerSux Azz:
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 2:51pm PT
First thing to do if you want to improve the internet is to get rid of Tom Wheeler.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 2:14pm PT
too lazy to read .... first world problems
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 2:11pm PT
dzim, you're completely confusing issues - a "free internet" as you call it or the issue of "net neutrality" has nothing to do will illegal activities online which have always been illegal since before electricity was discovered.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 1:36pm PT
The worst threat to the internet's viability are Hackers
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 1:14pm PT
I believe the "Net Neutrality" issue, while -very- important, is a red herring. The HUGE US ISP's will cave on Net Neutrality and use this "loss" to justify implementation of pervasive, nation-wide Metered Billing across the US. The average consumer doesn't realize that internet service is NOT like groceries or gasoline or electricity. The incremental cost to the ISP of delivering bytes, above the basic fee for service, is almost nothing. Almost unmeasurable. Metered billing above some fabricated cap is always almost pure profit--for a monopoly!
Internet service is already the most profitable product the US monopoly cable systems sell--by far. The US National Cable Industry Association is publicly predicting that the average consumer bill for internet service will be $200-$300 within 3-5 years. No channels, or content, or Netflix, or anything--just for internet!
We must not let this happen. If it does, it will prove that the legislative and regulatory authorities are totally in the pockets of these monopolies. What we do at the polls in November matters more this year than ever in my lifetime, for freedom of information and for our pocketbooks.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 12:55pm PT
The human race isn't trustworthy enough for a free Internet. A large percentage of Internet use revolves around criminal enterprises, such as sexual exploitation. Total freedom for some equates to total and horrific slavery or even death for others.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 11:48am PT
NSA's abuse of the internet for invasion of peoples privacy will drive the global internet into subdivisions controlled by individual regions. Therby losing the universality of the internet and killing the opportunity for a global sharing of ideas.
Posted: 2014-07-06 @ 10:37am PT
I think as hackers become ever more savvy, and their tools more sofisticated, outright attacks will also constitute increasing threat.