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The worst of the threats that affect our Internet is the threat to Internet freedom. 1400 experts were interviewed for the 2014 Future of the Internet and they identified four major threat areas. They hope that content access and sharing will improve in the next ten years. But they fear government crackdowns and continued spying.
The respondents mostly agreed that they hope for important changes for better content access and sharing in the next ten years. This is mostly because of mobile Internet being offered in more places worldwide. But they still fear that Internet freedoms are at risk of being violated more widely. They discussed risks involved with the operation and structure of the Internet today. This revealed four major threats to Internet freedom that we may see by 2025.
Internet Freedom Threatened by Government Censorship
The experts fear that countries will impose greater Internet controls for political and security reasons. Internet freedom will be threatened by website filters and blocks. And content access and sharing will be affected by the segmentation of the Internet. Countries in which Internet users have protested government crackdowns are most likely to suffer more restrictions on Internet freedoms. They are also more likely to increase surveillance. These threats to Internet freedom are meant to control threats to government stability and cultural and religious beliefs. We already see examples of this in China, Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan. Increased online criminality is another reason, and has the same detrimental effect on Internet freedom. The respondents also talked about crackdowns as defensive measures against foreign spying. NSA surveillance was specifically mentioned.
Content Sharing Threatened by Lack of Trust Due to Government and Corporate Surveillance
Most of the respondents shared the view that people will not share openly because of surveillance threats. The recent revelations about mass surveillance by governments and private entities has a lot to do with this view. Large scale monitoring of Internet activities poses a threat to Internet freedom because of privacy issues. If this surveillance continues, people and organizations will limit their sharing activities and access to their content online. They mentioned geographic fragmentation of content sharing as a particular effect.
Internet Freedom of Access Will Suffer from Monetization
Respondents discussed how many online services are charging more for services. Net neutrality was a major theme here. If ISPs are given the power to dictate content delivery fees, it may become too costly for the majority of Internet users. Because of increased fees, they fear that people will at least change how they share information online. The worst that could happen is that people stop sharing. The openness of the Internet is therefore threatened by this monetization. Copyrights and patents were also mentioned as threats to the flow aspect of Internet freedom. Commercialization of the Internet changes the way people view the Internet. When the Internet freedom to share information becomes affected by money and is no longer a place for open sharing, content access will become harder. Most respondents felt that there was no way to fight against the political and economic powers behind this Internet commercialization. People will not be able to exercise the Internet freedoms that they enjoy now if the Internet is not recognized as a public utility.
Too Much Information Will Eventually Hinder Content Sharing
Most of the respondents recognized that there is a problem of too much information being shared online. They feel that with an overload of information, it might put people off entirely. People want Internet freedom so they can access all the information they want to. But because there is too much to deal with, companies have designed filters to serve up only what they consider to be the best results. This is a constraint because people do not get the full range of information. Some say these filters help people manage the information. Others say that it harms Internet freedoms because people are being served pre-digested results. Companies like search engines are in charge of determining what to show people and this therefore robs them of their Internet freedoms. They point out that these companies have financial reasons for serving the content that they filter for Internet users.