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Pew Study: Net Threats Include Commercialization

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project's latest survey of of online experts not surprisingly finds data collection and network neutrality among their fears about threats to the net.

The third in a series of Pew surveys tied to the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web finds that the respondents percieve the major threats to online access and information sharing as nation state restrictions, surveillance and pressure of commercialization.

That is according to a survey of over 1,400 respondents. The commercialization pressures include "assaults on network neutrality principles.

According to the report, the net threat fears are described as follows:

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.

David "Doc" Searls of Harvard suggested that content companies are threatening to take over the net for the sake of their bottom lines.

“What the carriers actually want—badly—is to move television to the Net," Searls told Pew, "and to define the Net in TV terms: as a place you go to buy content, as you do today with cable… This by far is the most serious threat to sharing information on the Net, because it undermines and sidelines the Net’s heterogeneous and distributed system for supporting everybody and everything, and biases the whole thing to favor a few vertically-integrated ‘content’ industries.”

Edge providers like search engines are not subject to network neutrality rules, but they were cited as potential threats to access and information sharing. "When people seek information online the algorithms designed to help them find what they need limit the results," said one respondent. "Such filters have many downsides, including the fact that they may be influenced by business considerations."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.