As a global society, we have become reliant on the internet. It is a tool that fuels almost every aspect of our lives. However, it is a dynamic and evolving tool, but that evolution is not always for the better. Interestingly, the internet was only proposed thirty years ago, by Tim Berners-Lee, yet, its creator has a few concerns.
While the internet has become a tool for the individual, it has also become a corporate tool, being used to make businesses money via its users through the data revolution that has happened. But potentially even more concerning is that this information superhighway does not always contain real and factual information.
Misinformation and fake news have become the scourge of the internet, and with its interconnect ability across the globe, the spread of this fake news is devastatingly easy, and dangerous.
One last concern that was raised by Berners-Lee in 2017 is that political advertising lacks transparency and the responsibility to be understandable and clear. So, while the internet is a tool of individuals and corporations, it is also a tool of political powers - and that is dangerous if it goes unnoticed.
However, we are in a world where we are becoming a lot more aware and conscious of the issues we face through the internet. Data scandals have been unearthed, and people’s information is now being valued and protected; Fake news is being questioned more, and individuals are a lot more critical; even the pressure on political parties is on the rise for their influence to be labeled and transparent.
However, awareness is not enough - there needs to be active tools and technologies put into play in order to ensure we can eradicate these three concerns.
It Starts With Being Brave
Taking control of personal data as one major aspect of internet life that needs to be addressed, we can pinpoint where awareness of this concern came in. Data scandals started to make news a few years back, with the biggest one being the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
People’s eyes were opened as to how much data they inadvertently hand over to internet companies, helping line their pockets, while becoming a product. This awareness has seen the creation of privacy-protecting browsers, such as Brave, really take off.
By securing a user’s data, Brave promotes the protection of personal data when browsing the web. However, it also goes a step further in that it allows for adverts to be viewed by the user, but they are rewarded with a cryptocurrency called BAT.
More so, this BAT token can then be used to tip content creators online, replacing the need for them to use online, data-sapping, adverts in order to make a living. It is a sleek system that has the potential to really change the way data is viewed and handled online.
Filtering out Fake News
Fake news is a major scourge on the internet at the moment and one that is difficult to tackle due to the promulgation and sharing of information across the web. However, as this scourge becomes better understood, so options to fight it are emerging.
One such option is, through the use of the immutable blockchain, to create a permaweb. This permaweb becomes a place to upload data that cannot be alternate with, tampered, or changed once it is uploaded. It becomes a permanent record of what happened, without the possibility of censorship.
Arweave is one company at the coalface of the creation of a permaweb. By creating this decentralized internet, the Arweave team will be able to provide a reliable and referenceable place of information, free from censorship.
But in the fight against fake news, it will also add a layer of accountability to those posting such stories as they will be immutably tied to their post and have a responsibility to prove its truth.
Linking back both to the issues of protection of data, and fake news is the issue with the sophisticated and target ad campaigns from political parties.
It has been suggested that in the 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor. And there are suggestions that some political adverts – in the US and around the world – are being used in unethical ways – to point voters to fake news sites, for instance, or to keep others away from the polls.
Again, it is this use of fake news and rich data that causes this kind of political obfuscation, but the real issue is that there is no obligation or responsibility from the political parties to label their marketing as coming from certain parties.
This is a big problem for the internet, and the vulnerable users who are exposed to it, but again, there are possible solutions being built. If we take deep fake videos as one example of a lack of political transparency, we can see companies delving in.
Axon Enterprise Inc., a tech manufacturer for US law enforcement, announced that it is exploring new data-tracking technology for its body cameras and will rely on blockchain technology to verify the authenticity of police bodycam videos.
This type of technology can also be applied to political videos and campaigns, and help eradicate such targeted, but hidden, agendas.
Building the Web We Want
In raising these issues of his internet, Brenner-Lee signed off the article saying:
“It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone.”Indeed, the dynamic nature of the internet means that it can flow and change through time. These issues that have cropped up can be addressed, and they can be solved. Even quicker and better, with the use of emerging technologies.
Featured image by Karlijn Prot on Unsplash.