|Originally published in the Nov. 2010 Socionomist|
Authoritarianism studies in the April and May issues of The Socionomist forecast that in a period of negative mood, many governments will pull the plug on large swaths of the Internet. In the U.S., the landscape is rapidly changing to make such action possible. The Senate Judiciary Committee on November 18 unanimously approved a bill that would give the Attorney General the right to shut down websites.
The private sector also reflects the growing regulatory urge: Microsoft Corporation says that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should have the authority to disconnect from the web individual computers that are infected with viruses. Since March 2008, Australia and France have embraced such regulations.
The Internet is a sensitive reflector of society’s rising polarization and desire to divide, regulate and control. For example, Tim Berners-Lee, the scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web, says some of its most successful users are theratening its core egalitarian principles. If this trend continues, he says, “The Web could be broken into fragmented islands.”
Eventually, governments may try to license Internet users via ISPs and, then, try to use that power to isolate and silence dissenters. We expect entrepreneurs to offer ways to bypass ISPs to gain Internet access, and regulators to attempt to stop them — setting up a ratcheting of conflict. The free and open Internet is a creation of peaking social mood; a large-degree bear market will change it radically.
1 Berners-Lee, T. (2010, November 22). Long live the web: a call for continued open standards and neutrality. Scientific American, Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=long-live-the-web
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