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Netgain Challenge

From Mckenna Cisler

At this point, many of us have seen the true nature of the internet today; we understand that there are issues with privacy, transparency, and abuse of power, we have seen horrifying potential for them to get worse, and we have begun movements to solve them. Yet, as Ethan Zuckerman points out, only a small fraction of those who understand the issues are concentrating on solving them. Admittedly, those few are making great gains for a free and open internet, but they are still only a minority. So, in light of this we have tried to spread the word: we have exposed the surveillance efforts of governments, we have taught of the hostile forces hidden in the internet’s design, and we have built tools to make a free and open internet possible. But still the efforts and successes are restricted to a hard-working few. There will of course always be more to be done to spread the word further and motivate more to join the fight, but there remains a vast majority who, upon hearing of such violations as the NSA’s collection of America’s phone records or Facebook’s manipulation of its user’s emotions, appear to shrug off any concern with a “so what?” We see this in the many who continue to use services which they know to be abusive, and in those who give up their privacy for either more safety or increased convenience. This continued simultaneous acceptance and denial of the pressing issues of the internet echoes the doublethink which subjugated a civilization to “Big Brother” in the Orwellian 1984. In our time, the oppression has not yet reached the scale of Big Brother’s, but already the majority of netizens seem to be resigned to an internet which is closed and oppressive by default; an internet where user’s data is both sold to the highest bidder and surveilled for any incriminating word. There is much to be done to solve all the issues of the web, but until we free the many trapped in the acceptance of a closed internet, all efforts by the few will be subverted by the paralyzing apathy of the many. This, therefore, is the challenge: we must go beyond merely presenting the issues and producing the tools to solve them, and find means to not only make clear the severe implications of today’s problems, but also to take the responsibility of creating an open internet out of the hands of a stagnant populace. Only then will we be able to both raise concerns about the issues and ensure those concerns are reflected in a free and open internet.

civic engagement, civic participation, civil society, cultural exchange, dialogue, education, knowledge sharing, journalism, dissent, privacy, organizing, social movements, public service media, democratic participation
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