The Internet is changing. The idealistic euphoria which recently enabled democratic protests to kick-off across the world is starting to give way to a much more sinister corporatized landscape where free speech and free‑use are coming increasingly under threat.
More disturbingly, autocratic governments are finally waking up to the potential of the internet to surveil an unsuspecting public en masse. The change hasn’t been sudden. Instead, like the allegorical frog in a pot of boiling water, it has slowly but inexorably crept through the cracks in the fabric of the internet.
Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian who was jailed for blogging, writes movingly about how he noticed the internet had changed during the 6 years he spent in prison. One of his criticisms is focused on how people’s experience of the web is increasingly being shaped by silicon valley giants like Facebook and Google – and this is fundamentally changing the original, open and decentralized structure of the internet.
Organizations and whistle-blowers have been fighting tirelessly to sound the alarm, but their voices are becoming drowned out by well-funded corporate lobbyists and insidious government censorship. As users and consumers, much of the responsibility falls on us. We must think carefully about how we use the internet and realize that it is our choices that will ultimately determine the direction in which the internet evolves.