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.