How Apple Might be Our Last Hope Before the Internet Dies

3 minute read
| Particle Debris

Censorship

There is a famous adage: Those who abuse their freedoms will lose them.

In this rather unconventional and alarming essay, John Dvorak suggests that that’s exactly what’s going to happen with the Internet in the U.S. While informed dissent, commerce, community and communication are positive elements, the self-serving, fanatic, undisciplined (or hateful) use of the Internet is, more and more, recognized by governments as dangerous to them and their citizens. We all may come to not appreciate the government’s emerging perspectives. And so, you won’t like what John says here, but his missive is something to ponder. “The False Promises of the Internet.

Business Insider recently provided some additional data on all this.

Question. Are there social and enterprise forces that can be marshaled to counteract the downsides of total Internet freedom? Are there opportunities for companies of good faith, like Apple, to make a difference? Or does a free society and free enterprise have within them the seeds of destruction when the Internet and the ugliest variations of social media are added to the mix and unleashed?

Our TMO Contributor, Charlotte Henry weighs in with “Social Networks Can Learn from Apple to Solve ‘Fake News’.

Continuing…. The next story adds some fuel to and punctuates this ongoing fire.

One of the byproducts of the Internet and digital technology is the affordance to create and introduce new products and services that appear to serve the customer but, also have a hidden (or not so hidden) mischievous agenda. Examples range from collecting detailed information about customers (to exploit and trick them) to maliciously squeezing out the competition. This is a cautionary tale about how, without sensible government regulation on behalf of the consumers, any company can be tempted to go astray. “AT&T just declared war on an open internet (and us).

In other words, to put it delicately, if the government doesn’t use its regulatory power wisely, as it does with the SEC, FCC, EPA and FDA to protect its citizens from malicious corporate behavior, what will be the final outcome?

Next page: A bit more news debris for the week of Nov 28th. The “Horn effect.”

7 Comments Add a comment

  1. Open talk about mandating a government back door into all of our devices.
    Net neutrality crumbling as we speak.
    A president elect that eschews the actual press for Twitter posts where the truth is whatever he says it is.
    A major part of the populace that is happy to believe whatever their drug of choice tells them.
    A fake story about a pizza place leads to death threats.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-38156985
    Fake news makes a real difference in an important election.

    Yes it is a dark time. And it will get darker, much darker.
    This was the genesis of my 2016 Christmas Card.

  2. JustCause

    PSYOP 101 discredit major sources of information, insert false secondary sources of information. Create confusion and weakened target.

    US has done it for years, now it’s being done to them.

  3. John:

    A pervasive grim, often-times angry, mood is overtaking populations around the world. Indeed, in the US, the winners of the presidential election appear to be as angry, sometimes angrier, than the losers, so much so that it begs the question; if this event is not a cause for their celebration and happiness, then for what are they still waiting? It is, then, of no surprise that this gloom should characterise much of the commentary in the tech world, including around Apple. Let’s see if we can answer the question just posed.

    John Dvorak initiates this cynical, almost dystopian analysis by declaring that the internet was supposed to ‘free the world’s oppressed people, and lead to some grand utopian future’ and concludes, ‘None of this has happened’. Really, on both counts? He does not provide any evidence that an end to oppression and the advent of utopia were ever popular expectations of the internet, let alone its goal, and one can only wonder where he got this fanciful idea and how prevalent is it. Restricting access to information has been, and remains policy, indeed the defining feature, of the world’s most repressive regimes, either by censorship, enforced illiteracy (at least amongst certain populations, like women and specific minorities) or both, and simply having a global network could never, by itself, reverse such a bulwark of tyranny’s preservation any more than can the availability of books and newspapers perforce mean that women will be allowed to read them. Expectations need to be tempered by realism and understanding of how things work, such as how policy and access to the implements of power, such as information and knowledge, are decided for a given population, a point that Dvorak’s analysis appears to have missed.

    Regarding the specifics of your various citations on the internet and access to it (including zero rating, censorship, etc), information including factual and fake news or data, social networks, and the like, we are in the midst of a global war of values, with an undecided outcome. This is not a war simply about beliefs and ideas. This is, as are practically all wars, about the balance of power, and where does its centre rest. On one side, we see an alignment of forces, be they market or martial, that seek to control access, including its rate, quality and content, and that seeks to justify monitoring and regulating that access for the preservation of the status quo, be it political, ideological or monetary. This side fights to centralise power amongst a specific controller, however defined. On the other is a disparate array of communities and stakeholders, occasionally allied but often splintered and set against each other on the basis of apparent grievances and interests. This side fights to centralise power amongst the masses (or distribute it, depending on your rhetoric). It is tempting to dismiss the latter’s campaign as utopian (it’s nothing of the sort, for with power inevitably comes responsibility – this is why democracies can fold) or Quixotic, and the former’s as a foregone victory, but that would require an ignorance of history, a misapprehension of the implements of power, and a wilful blindness of how the those implements have been progressively wielded to expand human rights worldwide.

    This is too complex a topic for this brief comment, but suffice it to say that these implements include the knowledge of alternatives and how these affect well being (eg the living standards of other populations or the privacy options of certain customers), and the means by which a people express a desire for those options, and the degree of their resolve to see their wishes fulfilled. The interconnectedness and mutual knowledge that the internet has already provided can no more be un-done than can a piece of music, once heard, be un-heard or a vista once seen, be un-seen.

    In addition, yes, a company like Apple can set a model and a standard, which by its existence, creates an alternative of greater privacy, and therefore liberty and power for the individual. The appeal and impact of such leadership, however, has as much to do with the consumer voting for that model with their wallets as it has to do with whether or not that option is available to a given population, and whether or not other tech/information companies are even playing the same game and therefore feel a need to respond. Purchasing power, and its directionality, however is a compelling force in a free market.

    In summary, we are, willingly or not, embroiled in a war that will determine the relative power of the individual to have access to real information and options, and to actively exercise well-informed choices that they believe ensure their best interests, prosperity and security; or in the parlance of the US founding fathers, the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. The past century is nothing if not a study in the expansion, however gradual and episodic, in rights and liberties writ large. I suspect that the internet, however contested the present, will not prove to be an exception.

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