Problems with the Internet

The Internet was first invented by Robert E. Kahn and Vint Cerf during the 1970s for military purposes. It later expanded as a method of communicating, and then to businesses, and finally to personal users. The internet quickly took over the globe, despite there being more than a few issues attached. The greatest problems with the internet are commercialisation, data protection, and fake news.


Originally invented for academic and governmental use, the internet started becoming commercialised during the mid-1990s. Businesses began to use it to interact with one another, and eventually, to talk to their market. They began to see the internet as a free publishing tool; a way to expand their businesses and make advertising abroad more feasible. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) began offering commercial services for businesses to operate online by the early 2000s. It soon became obvious that not having an internet presence was no longer an option.

Brett Frischmann’s article on ‘Privatization and Commercialisation of the Internet Infrastructure’  aptly describes the result of commercialising the Internet. “The provision of Internet communication services, regardless of use, is being handled by commercial firms on a profit-making basis”. The internet used to be a tool to create unique pages based on an individual’s interests. Today, even those few personal blogs that remain are plagued by advertisements and endorsements.

Pop-up banners and spam ads have taken over every single website out there. While they may be good for legitimate businesses, there are many criminals out there using commercialisation as a way to get some quick cash. Not every ad or email can be trusted, and many people have been led down dark and dangerous paths. The result of these tricks usually ends with identity fraud or empty bank accounts.

The pursuit of profit has damaged many individuals, and unfortunately, these deceptions are becoming more and more common. So has the internet become too marketed? I believe so. Commercialisation is the greatest threat to the internet, and as Tim Berners-Lee says himself, “The system is failing”.

Data Protection

Without a doubt, data protection is one of the largest problems in technology that we face today. This simple term brings numerous images to everyone’s mind, from identity theft to cookies to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) laws. It is a topical subject at the forefront of many news stories and a terrifying one at that.

The simple act of using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, both well-liked and trusted domains, can lead users down many unsavoury paths. Google has an unparalleled memory, one that stretches back to the very first line in your internet history. From your birthday, interests, and location it personalizes every result that comes up once you hit that search button. It is clearly the best salesman in the world. Not only does Google keep your search history, but so does every other website, using the innocent, childlike word ‘cookies’. They use these to store data in order to tailor a page for the user. Today, cookies know you better than you know yourself.

How many of us have looked at that little warning at the bottom of the page, and just hit “Allow Cookies” without even reading it? According to the GDPR’s own website, “Consent must be clear and distinguishable from other matters and provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language”. So shouldn’t there be a clause preventing users from hitting “I Accept” just as readily as they hit “I Agree” in Terms and Conditions? If someone is using their data maliciously without consent, is it their fault for not reading the website’s Data Protection notice? Or is it the website’s fault for mishandling the user’s information in the first place?

These are only a few issues that we must consider about Data Protection. BSC’s article lists ten very real and very frightening problems that we still face. The truth is, even if you take precautions with your information, cookies, and regulations, you still can’t ensure that your data will be safe.

Fake News

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘fake news’ can be defined as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”. This is a term that has existed since the late 1600s when Titus Oates, more commonly known as Titus the Liar, invented a plot to overthrow King Charles II in order to besmirch the Jesuit religion. ‘The Popish Plot’ was quickly proved false, however, by then, nearly three dozen innocent men had been executed.

Today, the aftermath of ‘fake news’ isn’t quite so drastic, though many a celebrity has been disgraced. Means of transmitting ‘fake news’ advanced from word of mouth to text to eventually, the Internet. Progress in technology and more social media websites have made these false news stories more accessible, and as the number of publishers increased, the number of editors plummeted.

Perhaps the most noticeable user of the term ‘fake news’, is US President Donald Trump. He’s a man well-known for his outrageous tweets. His overuse of the words ‘alternate fact’ went to such an extreme level that it launched an F.B.I. Investigation. As of August 1st, 2018, Donald Trump has made 4229 false or misleading claims, according to The Washington Post. Unsurprisingly, this ‘fake news’ rampage is the top reason why he’s currently named “The Worst President in US history” by the American Political Science Association.

‘Fake news’ undermines journalists, news reporters, and the general mass media of the twenty-first century. It tarnishes good reputations and credibility, and can even sway presidential voters, as we found out in 2016. It has become an epidemic. There’s a loss of trust in the press, on the Internet, and more importantly, in the government.

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