The failed promise of the Internet
The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. What was responsible for its birth? Who is responsible for its demise?
In "The Future of Ideas," Lawrence Lessig explains how the Internet revolution has produced a counterrevolution of devastating power and effect . . . . .
Internet’s very design built a neutral platform upon which the widest range of creators could experiment. The legal architecture surrounding it protected this free space so that culture and information – the ideas of our era – could flow freely and inspire an unprecedented breadth of expression. But this structural design is changing – both legally and technically.
This shift will destroy the opportunities for creativity and innovation that the Internet originally engendered. The cultural dinosaurs of our recent past are moving to quickly remake cyberspace so that they can better protect their interests against the future. Powerful conglomerates are swiftly using both law and technology to "tame" the Internet, transforming it from an open forum for ideas into nothing more than cable television on speed. Innovation, once again, will be directed from the top down, increasingly controlled by owners of the networks, holders of the largest patent portfolios, and, most invidiously, hoarders of copyrights.
The choice Lawrence Lessig presents is not between progress and the status quo. It is between progress and a new Dark Ages, in which our capacity to create is confined by an architecture of control and a society more perfectly monitored and filtered than any before in history. Important avenues of thought and free expression will increasingly be closed off. The door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology makes an extraordinary future possible. (emphasis added)
The above description of the book does not mention one of the biggest barriers to the free interchange of ideas on the Internet: the arbitrary censorship* of visitors' comments and contributions on blogs and other websites, notably Wikipedia. However, the above description of the book is highly applicable to that arbitrary censorship. Also, the description mentions "cultural dinosaurs of our recent past" but does not mention the new dinosaurs that have arisen on the Internet itself, e.g., Wikipedia and big, popular blogs that arbitrarily censor visitors' comments, but the book was published in 2001, well before Wikipedia and most of those big, popular blogs appeared.
* No, ViU, Hector, and assorted other trolls -- deleting comments such as the following is not arbitrary censorship: (1) gossip about my private affairs; (2) saying that I misunderstood something without giving another interpretation; and (3) clearcut lying about objective facts, e.g., saying that a news article said that Judge Jones said that he would follow the law in making his decision, when the news article actually said that Jones said that the results of the school board election would not affect his decision.
Labels: Internet censorship (new #3)