With the ongoing controversy over internet surveillance by the NSA, many Americans have been pondering the same question: What will happen to internet freedom?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows mixed feelings towards the future of internet freedom.
Researchers at the Pew research Center asked over 1,400 people the following question:
By 2025 will there be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online compared with the way globally networked people can operate online today?
Around 65 percent of those surveyed responded “no,” while 35 percent answered “yes.” However, despite the seemingly optimistic attitude of the 65 percent, their answers came with some qualifications. Many who answered “no” also noted that their answer was their “hope,” but not necessarily their prediction. Others added that they wished they could answer “yes” and “no.”
All of the participants were then asked to share what they see as threats to internet freedom. Their opinions could generally be divided into four categories.
1. Actions by nation-states to maintain security and political control will lead to more blocking, filtering, segmentation, and balkanization of the Internet.
2. Trust will evaporate in the wake of revelations about government and corporate surveillance and likely greater surveillance in the future.
3. Commercial pressures affecting everything from Internet architecture to the flow of information will endanger the open structure of online life.
4. Efforts to fix the TMI (too much information) problem might over-compensate and actually thwart content sharing.
Currently, the first and second categories seem to be most present in the minds of Americans. Following the scandal with the NSA and Edward Snowden, government censorship and surveillance is the biggest fear. Other countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey are already regulating and blocking internet freedom. Some experts think it’s only a matter of time before the United States begins limiting internet freedom.
Dave Burnstein, editor of Fast Net News, shares his opinion with Pew Research Center, “Governments worldwide are looking for more power over the Net, especially within their own countries…This will grow. There will usually be ways to circumvent the obstruction but most people won’t bother.”
Of course, there are always optimists who point to a brighter future for net neutrality and internet freedom. Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina, explains his optimism to the Pew Research Center, “Over the next 10 years we will be even more increasingly global and involved. Tech will assist this move in a way that is irreversible. It won’t be a bloodless revolution, sadly, but it will be a revolution nonetheless.”