Goodbye Sky Harbour – A New Form of Internet

By: Willem Nesbitt

With my discussion last week centering around the proliferation of fringe conspiracies and how the internet has come to play a significant role in their rising popularity, it only makes sense that the conversation would shift into discussions of internet control, gatekeeping, and content. The European Union admits in their overview of the Digital Services Act that “online intermediaries have become vital players in the digital transformation” of society over the last twenty years, and even more over the past five (the internet of today is not like the internet in 2015, and certainly not like it was ten or fifteen years ago, but that’s another discussion to be had).

So then, is this Digital Services Act a potential solution to the ongoing issues with the evolution of the internet? The Act outlines ideas such as rules for the removal of content, mandatory transparency measures, and “traceability” (read: tracking), and this poses a difficult question as to the use of the internet – what will the fallout be from a more controlled internet? The term “wild west” has commonly been used to describe the internet, specifically in its early years before the spread of social media, and the ongoing corporatization of the internet and the increasing use of it as a political tool has created an issue. We see Des Freedman make the argument that the internet, specifically social media, has “nurtured highly skewed media environments” and eventually calls for the reconstruction “media systems in order to undermine the appeal of populist forces on the far right” (p. 604). It is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the internet that I once knew growing up, one that was far more diverse and creative and, in a way, far more lighthearted, has become a repository of doxxing, political radicalization, hate, and non-stop corporate advertisements.

2 Replies to “Goodbye Sky Harbour – A New Form of Internet”

  1. Hello Willem,
    Thank you for this insightful look at the legislation that outlines internet usage in one of the world’s largest unions. This aspect of having particular rules and guidelines towards content in the EU is something I’m sure will continue to play a significant role as our technological world becomes ever more apparent, especially in the era of Covid-19. It is with this that I pose one last question to you as our semester together wraps up.
    Do you think particular regulatory acts and legislations would ever work in a place such as the United States? With Google and other companies monopolizing the markets, would something like this ever be passed and upheld? Do you think that the current internet system and flow of information are already too far gone to try this in a single state like the USA? If not, how would the States go about and implement such actions?
    It has been a pleasure to read and comment on your material throughout this semester. Keep up the excellent writing! 🙂

    1. Austin,
      Those are certainly some pertinent questions – I feel that for any internet-related act pass through American legislation, the push would come from American companies like Google and Facebook, or internet providers like Comcast, through lobbying, though in terms of the ideas of the Digital Services Act, I don’t believe those companies would ever support such a piece of legislation. If we look back into the 2010s, events such as the discourse around net neutrality or the introduction and eventually quashing of the SOPA act, we can see a pushback against a corporate, more restricted internet, but at the same time, in the EU we have the issue of Article 13 (which requires online platforms to filter or remove copyrighted material from their websites).
      Unfortunately I feel as if these internet issues are both too expansive and too beholden to the whims of “Big Tech” to be able to give you a concrete answer.
      It’s been a great semester interacting and discussing topics with you as well, Austin. Best of luck on your final papers and exams!

      -Willem

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