Polarized Internet

The Internet that we use everyday is amazing: it connects different people across the world in multimedia ways instantly, and shares and spreads information to every corner of the globe in a speed that could not have been imagined several decades ago–yet this also means that once you put a chunk of information on the internet, it is like dipping a drop of ink into the glass: it can never be completely removed, and there’s a good chance that someone else that you never expect who knows the information.

While there is such claim that the internet helps decentralization in that it breaks the edges of borders between nations, it is somewhat getting polarized in another sense. Companies like Google and Facebook holds massive amount of our data, whether they intend to do that or not, there is thus no way that we can stop them from analyzing our data in the way that we do not agree. Personally, I am sometimes shocked and terrified to see some Facebook ads that displays something I previously searched at somewhere else. I have checked my Facebook settings, and turned off everything possibly related to that, but I still receive ads related to my life helplessly. A similar situation happens with Google, which is a major provider of a majority of webpage advertisements, as long as we have our accounts logged in.

Even though there are alternatives out there that we can use to replace features provided by Googles and Facebooks, speaking from experience, these companies do provide the most satisfactory service and features: they have the most precise search results, more convenience via third party website logins, and most people around us use them, making it literally very difficult to quit these products. These companies do act like the new terminals or key stations of the Internet world. Recently, Facebook was accused of pushing politically biased ad contents to specific users after analyses of their attitudes basing on their past internet activities, while it is facing lawsuit, it still has the power to use its users’ data against their will in the future, and it cannot be treated in an “innocent unless proven guilty” way. The same happens for all companies on the Internet holding user data. Moreover, these companies have the power to execute search result filtering and speech control with a couple of lines of codes, and to also block our accounts for whatever reason, thus blocking our access to our own information stored on those sites permanently. The question now becomes, who should govern this, or should this be governed? And if that happens, will the internet become more unpolarized than it is now


Another related question is, how should we protect ourselves? When more attention and efforts should be aroused to protect our rights in the cyberworld. We can and should, however, be more careful with what we put onto websites, including personal information, and the mentioning of our friends and family. It would also be wise to turn off unnecessary geolocation sharing features.

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