Elon University

The 2010 IGF Survey: What is your greatest fear or concern for the future of the Internet?

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Researchers from the Imagining the Internet Center conducted a video survey of Global IGF 2010 participants, recording interviews with more than 60 stakeholders from all sectors of society about the evolution of the Internet. Use the video viewer to see their responses. Click on the first video to begin a player that will cycle through all visible on this page or click on those you wish to view. To see additional videos, click on the numbers at the end of the video column to display additional videos – there are dozens more than you see here. The question in this video set was: “What is your greatest fear or concern for the future of the Internet?”

      Links to 2010 questions: 
      >Q1: Cloud computing
      >Q2: The mobile Internet
      >Q3: Human right?
      >Q4: Influence of intermediaries
      >Q5: Influence of the IGF
      >Q6: Greatest hope for the Internet
      >Q7: Greatest fear for the Internet
      >Q8: Future in 10 seconds

      To get an accurate representation of all responses in full, watch all of the videos. Each clip is brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some respondents gave extended answers; some may be edited for brevity if necessary but the majority should include the full response.

      Most of the people surveyed noted that the open discussions conducted at IGF are important because people can speak freely about the challenges and opportunities of the Internet.

      Print transcript of the comments made in the video on this page:

      Rafik Dammak, policy consultant, University of Tokyo, native of Tunisia: If people cannot access it there will be a gap. There is not just a digital divide, though, there is a gap for people who cannot access the knowledge not just the data. Those who can access the knowledge can have, not control, but impact on many aspects of our lives. The problem that some countries have when they apply censorship is not that they just filter some content or information but sometimes they filter knowledge.

      For example, if you filter access to Wikipedia you don’t allow your citizens access to knowledge or information that may be helpful to them. If we could access it everywhere with a cheap solution, it would definitively change the lives of many people and how they interact on the Internet. To have broadband they will have access to everything to videos, to content, to text, any kind of media. It will change the behavior of users.

      Maya Ganesh, independent researcher, Bombay, India: I think the struggle of the nature of the Internet itself. I think there’s a lot of panic and hysteria right now about what’s appropriate or inappropriate content on the Internet. There’s not enough recognition of the fact that there are diverse populations accessing, needing and using the Internet.

      I think there’s a lot of hype around the protection of children, and the exploitation of children, and pornography, what is obscene content. It’s almost can’t have conversations about this anymore, and that is something that bothers me because we have a lot of preconceived ideas about what these words mean but you have to come from a place of evidence and research, and you have to listen to what people are actually doing before you can make policy. This is a place where policy makers meet, and I feel they’re not informed.

      Bertrand de La Chapelle, leader in WSIS, member of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, elected to ICANN board: My greatest concern is not about technology or about market power. My biggest fear is that the social networking tools and social networking spaces will actually be used to fragment more and more sub-groups of the global human community. So they will actually use those tools to fight against one another.

      I will remind people that the invention of the printing press brought 30 years of religious wars that were the beginning that led to the Westphalian Treaty where we invented the nation-state structure. We have to make sure that the tools that we produce do not facilitate the fighting of every single social network and the fighting of others.

      Hanane Boujemi, DiploFoundation, Malta: My greatest concern would be a limit in choices and posing obstacles.

      Sean Ang, Southeast Asia Center for E-Media, Malaysia: I don’t really have any fears except the government, actually more of a fear of an autocratic government. The Internet itself is actually neutral. I have the belief that in general humans good. So most likely it will be the model like Wikipedia, where people regularly contribute. So I see the Internet with a good future. I think there are probably some governments abusing their power and that is the biggest issue.

      Peng Hwa Ang, director, Singapore Internet Research Centre, Nanyang Technological University, longtime Internet governance leader: I think the fear I would have is the social harms that arise out of the Internet. In Asia more so than the US, for example, there is a genuine problem with addiction, and some people question to the level of how it could be an addiction, but I think there is a genuine problem with addiction. It’s basically who have the Internet on all the time.

      They don’t leave their houses, they are in their room, they eat at the table with it, what else could you call it? So I think it is a serious problem in Asia. There is some evidence of gaming addiction, something like 8 percent of young people being addicted. So this is understudied.

      Lisa Horner, head of research and policy at Global Partners & Associates, UK: About the increasing trend to place controls on the Internet. I think part of the problems are being driven by a general climate of fear and moral panic about some of the issues, some of the changes that the Internet is bringing about it society. So I think we really have embrace change and guard against attempts to take disproportionate approaches to try to clamp down on some of these trends and trying to control them, and really find ways to make sure that the Internet continues to evolve to be a positive source in society.

      Jyrki Kasvi, member of Parliament, Finland, representing the Green League: My greatest fear would be that we value economic interests over the basic rights and freedoms and now I am talking about ACTA – ACTA is actually agreed at its first, worst form, so that we actually generate common rules around the globe for investigation and punishment for copyright infringement.

      I understand that copyrights have to be protected but, again, there is this commercial interest on one side and civil rights on the other side, and I’m very much for the civil rights here. It is unfortunate that these commercial interests seem to weigh so much more because they have professional and well-funded lobbyists working in governments around the world.

      Yassine Charif, High Authority of Audiovisual Communications, Morocco: I don’t want Internet to become a prison for the human being, because when I see people working for 10 hours on the Internet and forgetting what it is like to go to the sea or, you know? For me that’s the hope to get Internet is just a way in the life because it is very important for communication because the human being is a communication being, but not only.

      Dave Faulkner, director of Climate Associates LTD, United Kingdom: My biggest fear is that the energy consumption doubles roughly every five years, so by 2056 it would be using all of the available and land surface for solar farms to power it. If it goes on doubling after that it will use the entire surface of the earth by the end of the century for solar power. So we need to find a lot of energy to cope with the expansion of the Internet over the next hundred years.

      Mohamed Ibrahim, project manager for SO CCTLD in Somalia: I guess the issues about cybercrime and child porn, and all of those things worry me a bit. That’s the nature of human beings, there’s nothing peculiar about it that’s the world we live in, and if there was a way we could stop those things the sooner the better. But having said that, we also have to be realistic – it’s not unique to the Internet, it’s what happens in the real world as well. So those things worry me.

      Nurani Nimpuno, policy leader with NetNod, Sweden, advisor to Internet Governance Forum: My greatest concern is that the decision-making process within the Internet will be more and more closed. I think that would stifle growth. It would close down opportunities for growth, and development and innovation and creativity on the Internet.

      Juan Carlos Solines Moreno, Solines & Associates, Ecuador: My greatest fear is that geopolitical struggles start to increase around the managing of the Internet, or the influence that one country or another or one region or another may have over the resources. I also fear that some governments are trying to intervene through regulation and legislation over things they don’t really understand well, like convergence, like mobile services and that can be a barrier to the growth of infrastructure services. Of course that would mean that Internet penetration is lower, so I fear these type of things.

      Patrice Lyons, senior legal counsel, Corporation for National Research Initiatives, US: Since communication among people is such a basic dynamic that whether it’s the Internet, or something that might succeed it or some form of expression that we haven’t even been thinking about today, brainwaves or something, I think people will strive to communicate. Whether they communicate for good or bad, I think that’s something we need to be vigilant about. One of the things I suggested to the American Bar Association that one of the considerations was alternate dispute resolution.

      Andrey Shcherbovich, Moscow State University Higher Economics: My greatest fear or concern for the future of the Internet is spreading of negative information flows, which could be dangerous for children, for families, for young people, for example, racial minorities, etc.

      Cristos Velasco, founder and director general of NACPEC, Mexico: My greatest concern is, perhaps, cybercrime. Cybercrime is increasing at a tremendous, tremendous rate. One of my concerns is most countries should join the effort in developing legislation in the fight against crime, and not only legislation but also technical measures, international cooperation, mutual legal assistance programs, but also this process should be inclusive, not only public-private partnerships, but also everyone should have a stake, should have a voice in this important field of cybercrime.

      Rafid Fatani, PhD student, University of Exeter, UK: My greatest fear would certainly be the fragmentation of the Internet. I’m really worried that countries will start creating their own alternative DNS roots and start pulling away from the global Internet, and we kind of lose the essence – that I can send you an e-mail from Central Africa and you receive in Central America in seconds. It would certainly be a disaster if we lose that.

      Marjolijn Bonthuis, adjunct director at ECP-EPN, The Netherlands: The fear is that there are becoming more gaps. Because now you speak about the gap between the poor and rich and about the young people who are very involved in the Internet and those who miss the development, but you see new gaps between youngsters because some of them really get along with peers and from their parents really get help and others don’t. So we focus on disabled people or elderly people, but we forget about the youngsters who really need to get guidance as well.

      So it’s not only about security it’s about guidance. So I think if we miss that it is a very important part. So look at the youngsters, not only their voice because that is one of the main issues over here as well is that we need to hear the youngsters’ voices but they also need guidance. I think that is a big responsibility for governments, and schools and parents.

      Charles Gaye, VP of Liberia Chapter of Internet Society, Liberia: My greatest fear or concern for the future of the Internet is terrorism, so that the worst people cannot grab a hold of the technology and do evil things.

      Robert Guerra, Canadian and project director, Internet Freedom, Freedom House: I think the greatest fear is something you mentioned earlier, the issue of balkanization and segmentation of the Internet, that the great interconnected space we have now ceases to be interconnected, that because we have so many different languages that content that was accessible before won’t necessarily be accessible, that the mechanisms of control and security will make it difficult, and that there will be a blacklisting of inappropriate terms.

      The great potential of the democratizing force that it has been to developed countries – that that potential will not be available. The US has had an Internet president and I hope he’s not the only one. The thought that there would not be another Internet president is scary.

      Tracy Hackshaw, Internet Society ambassador to IGF from Trinidad & Tobago: Basically for overregulation, and the reason is not so much that I don’t want it to be over-regulated. It’s that I do believe there may be uses of the Internet that may not be proper that will be emerging rapidly over the next few years as mobile gets more used.

      I’m not just talking about crime, but other things. Using it for propaganda-type of approaches, for things that are not open, fully closed cliché-type environments that could create hate, create some disharmony.

      Those kinds of things end up with people trying to regulate them and that’s a challenge when you start using a free, open environment and you get to that point, then people step in and say “OK we need to regulate this, and stop this, and do this.” At that point, I believe that because of how open, how unregulated it currently is that the bad ones will actually do this and we’ll have more regulation. I fear it’s going to be more of that.

      Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and Internet evangelist for Google: The biggest worry I have is that because the Internet has become an avenue of free expression, and by the way freedom to hear those expressions and find them, I think it is viewed as a threat to some governments that are able to sustain their operations solely by starving their populations of information.

      The Internet, of course, opposes that in some very dramatic way. The biggest fear is that governments will decide either because they are authoritarian and feel they need to stay in power by preventing people from knowing anything or they conclude that in order to protect society they have to do things on the net that vastly constrain what we are able to do, my fear is that it will become constrained. I hope that I am right that it is not necessary to constrain the Internet in order to get advantage of it and in order to avoid the harms that potentially can be visited through it.

      Vasil Pefev, telerik.com, Bulgaria: Governments. I believe that they will step in. They will play a bigger role over the content of the Internet, and I do believe that they can actually shape what people know and what people read on the Internet. So this is my biggest concern. As an example I can give Chernobyl. Most of Eastern Europe did not know of the explosions, and I do believe like something like this will happen again and I don’t want governments to interfere.

      Xu Jing, Peking University School of Journalism: Online crimes. I think it is becoming a social problem. Because of the digital divide we can’t find the criminal cases that happen worldwide.

      Henry Judy, counsel, K&L Gates, US: My concern, my major concern, is that the Internet will be used as a weapon.

      Dmitry Kohmanyuk, Country Code Top-Level Domain, Ukraine: My fear is for the Internet’s future would become too controlled by parties that would fragment it. The Internet works best when it is united into one network

      Carla Wetherell, youth IGF representative from the UK: People would rely on it too much. I know that people rely on it now but if people rely on it too much it will just become too big and they won’t even bother going out of the house. They will just talk to people on the Internet, not face-to-face.

      – Interviews were conducted by Samantha Baranowski, Kirsten Bennett and Drew Smith, researchers from Elon University’s School of Communications, under the supervision of Glenn Scott, associate professor, and Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon. 

      – The transcript of these video interviews was prepared by Lindsay Fendt,
      a student researcher with the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University

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