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David Wees

Mathematics Teacher, Stratford Hall

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Is the current direction of the web Democratic?

While I agree with Roger that his vision of the future of the web is where we are headed, I would like to argue that it is wholly unDemocratic. The control panel version of the Internet is disturbing, because it seems to me that we have become willing to sacrifice the ability to control what we view and interact with for the convenience of other people making that decision for us.

Facebook and Google's algorithms to filter what we view based on our preferences means that, through the algorithms they have written, corporations have more control over the information we receive than ever before. The definition of fascist corporatism (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism#Fascist_corporatism) is "management of sectors of the economy by government or private organizations." In an information technology age, management of information is management of the economy, and we are letting private corporations manage entirely too much of our information.

We know where the road of fascism leads us. We need to take a step back from that road and find a new path.

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    Nov 13 2011: Filter bubbles are easy to get around if you want. You can delete your cookies, you can access the internet from other computers, and you can use other search engines. Furthermore, many of the result filters organize the order of the results. There is nothing stopping you from looking at the fifth page of results.

    The real danger as far as I'm concerned is in the realm of wireless internet provided by cell phone networks. There seems to have been a complete abandonment of net neutrality within cellular networks. For instance, in my cell phone plan i get free data for facebook and twitter. Why don't I get free data for wikipedia? Why is the cost of my data dependent on what site I am visiting. The whole idea of net neutrality is to prevent the provider of the internet from exerting economic control which sites I see. Now it costs me more to go to wikipedia, rueters, cbc, or whatever than it does to go to facebook.

    What happens if media tycoons use this to control the news. Imagine fox news is free but I have to pay for cbc.

    There was a reason the net neutrality laws were put in place.
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      Nov 13 2011: I agree with all of that. The mobile and app based web are different landscapes with more private ownership built in. This is only opinion - I believe it is inevitable that the web move in this direction. The question then is how do you exercise control in this changing system?
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        Nov 13 2011: First, governments should enforce the same net neutrality regulations on cellular internet networks.

        Second. Consumers should avoid using them and stick to regular wifi networks that hook to the old shool internet to show our intolerance to net non-neutrality. (its cheaper anyway)
        • Nov 13 2011: Ah, at least *I* live in a country with proper cellular network legislation. And none of the carriers here are that biased either. They also let you get to some websites free, but you at least get to choose which ones.

          Well... That is the price for a world controlled by large corporations...
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      Nov 13 2011: The question is Scott: are most users aware of this issue? Do they know how to avoid being in an Internet filter bubble?

      Net Neutrality is a huge issue as well. No disagreement from me here, we need to get that sorted out, and I don't see that we can rely on our governments to support Net Neutrality.
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        Nov 15 2011: @ Richard. Well, I am glad to hear that not all countries have the same policies the U.S. and Canada have in regards to cellular networks. (I feel like I reinforced the stereotype that North Americans think they are the whole world). Hopefully countries like yours (Czech Republic) will set an example to my government about enforcing net neutrality. :)

        David,

        We have to remember the good old education system. Teachers (even in public high schools) are wise to require diverse source when doing research. Many people have gone on in education and have at least some university or college experience doing research. This is the skill we use when we search for information. People are smart, they know they can't just look in one place and believe everything they read, whether its google, facebook or the local newspaper.

        People who can't get around a filter bubble have only themselves to blame. If someone finds google too filtered, they can go somewhere else. They can use another search engine, or for that matter, go to a library. We can't expect to be spoon fed an objectively diverse collection of sources at a click of a mouse. We have to dig a little. As long as people keep digging then there is a market for a search engine that provides unusual info.

        Admittedly I find search engine filters to be a little condescending, since they imply I can't decide for myself what I'm looking for. I find that about a lot of the "conveniences" of new high tech innovations lately. But I don't think it prevents me from accessing information. If I want to know something, I take it upon myself to find out. The internet still helps me do that.

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