Elon University

The 2012 Survey: What is the potential future of corporate social responsibility between now and 2020? (Credited Responses)

Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the 2012 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.

Corporate Responsibility Survey Cover PageCredited responses to a tension pair on corporate responsibility and the Internet in 2020

This page includes credited survey participants’ contributions to the discussion of the future of the Internet and corporate social responsibility by 2020. This is one of eight questions raised by the 2012 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts, stakeholders, and social analysts. Results on this question were first released by Imagining the Internet Director Janna Quitney Anderson and Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie July 6, 2012.

In a recent survey about the likely future of the Internet, technology experts and stakeholders were fairly evenly split when it came to imagining how they expect technology firms will perform when confronted with situations in which optimal product sales and profits can be made only when they follow restrictive rules set by autocratic governments?

>To read the official study report, please click here.<

>To read the responses of anonymous participants, click here.<

Following is a large sample of the responses from survey participants who took credit for their remarks when sharing their thoughts in the survey. Some are longer versions of responses that were edited to fit in the official report. About half of the respondents chose to remain anonymous and half took credit for their remarks (for-credit responses are published on a separate page).

Survey participants were asked, “When it comes to the behavior and practices of global tech firms and political, social, and economic movements, how will firms respond? Explain your choice and share your view of  implications for the future. What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate?” They answered:

“Attempts will be made to muzzle and manage the Internet and its use for free speech and political organization. However, these will be largely failed efforts in a giant game of whack-a-mole with the dissidents—who will always have subterfuge and better technological prowess on their side—winning most matches of wits and skill. There will, however, be a darker aspect to this natural ebb and flow, which is that we, as a society, will become increasingly less trusting of each other, retreating into safer closets of ignorance right at the moment that the truth is finally visible—for those who know where to look.” —Richard D. Titus, a seed funding venture capitalist at his own fund, Octavian Ventures; producer of documentaries, including Who Killed the Electric Car?; chairman of the board for European video tech start-up Videoplaza; based in San Francisco, California, and London, UK

“The main risk of authoritarian expansion is in the mature democracies where citizens have ceased paying attention. While some poster-boy authoritarian regimes will no doubt survive deep into the future, wherever there is real economic improvement for the wider populace there will continue to be an unavoidable democratisation of process at more local levels. The main danger in corporate behaviour is and always will be attempts to pursue once profitable but now failing business models beyond their use-by date. Ultimately, this creates openings for those who can better serve real needs. How long will it be before virtual communities start to take on significant self-government? Expect the unexpected.” —Tony Smith, secretary for the Kororoit Institute Proponents and Supporters Association; publisher at Meme Media; Open Source Developers Club; based in Melbourne, Australia

“Technology firms have every incentive to cooperate with repressive regimes, and even the so-called ‘democratic’ countries will find reasons to filter and censor the Internet in the coming years. Unless some dramatic political change happens that causes people to rise up against censorship, these trends will continue indefinitely.” —Peter J. McCann, senior staff engineer for Futurewei Technologies; chair of the Mobile IPv4 Working Group of the IETF; based in Bridgewater, New Jersey

“Most companies will publicly state that they are doing everything possible to protect citizens while making countless concessions and political decisions that will end up harming citizens. They will work with some governments and not with others. They will reveal the political nature of these processes and make decisions that will shape how they are perceived by their core consumers. They will be constantly called out for their hypocrisies and working to weather political storms by upset customers. But they will publicly present the values that their customers want to hear and their customers mostly want to hear that they’re doing everything possible to protect the good guys.” —danah boyd, senior researcher with professional affiliations and work based at Microsoft Research, Harvard Law School, New York University, and the University of New South Wales; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Many of us had a lot of hope for the Global Network Initiative, but it’s gotten bogged down in its own process and hasn’t attracted any non-US (or non-Google, MSN, Yahoo) adherents. In the absence of a collective initiative it seems unlikely that there will be any upside for any individual company that might want to resist the demands of governments—including the US government—when it comes to squelching connection and speech. Indeed, all companies want scale and certainty, and those things come to cooperative entities. I still have hope that multistakeholder efforts, particularly at places like the OECD, will bear fruit. But it takes an awful lot of work and time for that fruit to grow, and at the moment we have just barely identified the territory.” —Susan Crawford, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; previously a leader on the ICANN board, President Obama’s Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, and founder of OneWebDay; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Having done some work in this area, the companies will walk a fine line between not aiding criminal activity and not trampling on rights. Most companies will take actions—for instance not storing data beyond a certain point—in order to limit their legal liability.” —Jim Jansen, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University; sits on the boards of eight international technology journals; serves on advisory boards for three Internet start-ups; based in Charlottesville, Virginia

“Have you been reading the papers? In the United Kingdom and parts of the United States, governments are seriously examining or enacting control of social media locally. I don’t actually think the big companies in ‘democratic countries’ will care much about what happens in Syria, and they will try to tread carefully around China. I remain fairly optimistic though that ‘technology firms’ won’t be in complete control here, or that some of them will succeed in remaining largely conduits, and that firms that try to control content in response to government intervention will risk being abandoned in droves, and thus forced to stick to a reasonable path. We will see. I’m reasonably optimistic here.” —Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft; based in Redmond, Washington

“As it seems that many of those in ‘democratic countries’ find regulatory regimes that are converging with those in ‘authoritarian regimes’ it becomes difficult to clearly divide the two. Nonetheless, it seems unlikely that in eight years we will see a sea change in this regard. As cyberwarfare becomes steadily more important, nations will insist on invasive control over large computer services.” —Alex Halavais, associate professor at Quinnipiac University; vice president of the Association of Internet Researchers; technical director of UCHRI Digital Media & Learning Hub; managing partner of Forward Memory; author of Search Engine Society; based in New York City

“I am an optimist, but my deepest fear is that the second option will come true. It is all about putting ethics in business. What we have seen so far is that democratic countries and multinationals in democratic countries most happily cooperate with authoritarian regimes if it serves them right (oil, raw materials). Please, parents of the world, start raising your children again and teach them about the virtue of doing good! Back to the 1950s!” —Marcel Bullinga, futurist and author of Welcome to the Future Cloud – 2025 in 100 Predictions; based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“Market pressure from competition will always keep commercial operators working on behalf of authoritarian regimes. For each organization that chooses to stand up to the demands of a dictator or tyrant, another will step in to fulfill the request.” —Ross Rader, general manager at Hover, a service of Tucows; board member of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority; based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“Governments will continue to be autocratic, even in democratic countries.” —Adrian Schofield, manager, applied research unit, Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering; president, Computer Society South Africa; based in Johannesburg, South Africa

“Given how the Obama administration, which one would expect to take a citizen-friendly approach to national security, has kept in place the warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, no habeas corpus, and other extravagant incursions into civil liberties that the Bush administration undertook, I think few organizations will resist the pull to collaborate with governments. We’re all watching what Google and Microsoft do in China, while other makers of communications gear build back doors into their systems so they can close sales to other regimes. The sale of communications gear has become like the arms industries, and it’s unclear if there are any feedback loops or Wikileaks-like institutions that are taking on this problem. So it may be up to activists of many stripes to build a parallel Internet that is truly free of those players and those forces. The odds of this happening are vanishingly slim.” —Jerry Michalski, guide and founder, Relationship Economy Expedition (REXpedition); founder and president of Sociate; consultant for the Institute for the Future and corporate clients in many different industries; based in San Francisco, California

“There are current cases supporting either view. This is related to the earlier scenario about whether the Web will become a big shopping mall (and in the physical world they typically ban free speech at privately owned environments) or whether the town square will still exist in the virtual world. I think as long as the communication environments of the Web are prominent, their use to share divergent ideas will remain viable. If it becomes just one big shopping cart, then I suppose we will not have much challenging diversity of thought. I like to think that American democratic ideals will express themselves in the behavior of American firms.” —Tom Franke, chief information officer for the University System of New Hampshire; based in Durham, New Hampshire

“Tech firms based in Western democratic countries will continue to support the compromises of political free speech and personal privacy that are, more or less, encoded in law and policy today. The wild card in the next decade is the degree to which civil unrest is limited to countries outside that circle. If disaffected youth, workers, students, or minorities begin to burn the blighted centers of Western cities, all bets are off because the forces of law and order may rise and demand control of the Web. And, of course, as China and other countries with large populations—like India, Malaysia, and Brazil—begin to create their own software communities who knows what forms will evolve, or what norms will prevail? But they are unlikely to be what we see in the West. So we can expect a fragmented Web, where different regions are governed by very different principles and principals.” —Stowe Boyd, principal at Stowe Boyd and The Messengers, a research, consulting and media business based in New York City

“All indicators are that Ithiel de Sola Pool was right in the prediction he made in his 1983 seminal and still important book, Technologies of Freedom. After reviewing the histories of developments in the three very different types of legal systems that were already then being applied to digital technologies—those that developed in response to print, telecommunications, and broadcasting—he argued that as legal frameworks converged in order to cope with converged technologies, it was likely that the most repressive elements of earlier systems would be those that would dominate.” —Sandra Braman, professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; chair, Law Section, International Association of Media and Communication Research; editor, Information Policy Book Series, MIT Press

“It is a call for us to protect our tools of publicness. At the e-G8, I urged President Sarkozy to join with the national leaders he was about to meet and take a Hippocratic oath for the Internet: First, do no harm. His reflex and that of governments is to control and regulate. We, the citizens of the Net, must resist, and I believe the way to do that is to discuss the principles of the network. In the book, I propose a set of principles. They are wrong. Indeed, in our distributed Internet, we will never—we should never—end up with one set of principles from one governance. The fact that no one can control the Net is what makes the Net free. But we do need to discuss the principles that underlie our Net so we can point to them when governments and companies violate them and so we can give cover to good actors who try to resist control from bad governments. My nine proposed principles for discussion:  I. We have the right to connect. If we cannot connect, we cannot speak. That is a new and necessary preamble to our First Amendment. Finland has declared Internet access—high-speed at that—as a right of citizens. Whether countries should subsidize and provide access is a separate question. But once access is established, cutting it off should be seen as a violation of human rights. ‘It’s now a basic human right to have Internet,’ Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer told media executives in the Middle East. “Systematic denial of freedom of accessing information will lead to a revolution.” II. We have the right to speak. Freedom of speech is our cultural and legal default in the United States. That First Amendment protection should extend not just to information and opinions delivered by text but also to information delivered by applications and data. Yes, there need to be limitations—on child pornography online, for example. But beware the unintended consequences of attacking a specific problem with an overly broad response. III. We have the right to assemble and to act. It is not enough to speak. Our tools of publicness enable us to organize, to gather together—virtually or physically—and to act as a group to demonstrate or to build. IV. Privacy is an ethic of knowing. We need protection of privacy vs. publicness is an ethic of sharing. The foundation of a more public society is the principle of sharing: recognizing the benefits of generosity, building tools that facilitate it, and protecting the product of it. VI. Our institutions’ information should be public by default, secret by necessity. Openness is a better way to govern and a smarter way to do business. VII. What is public is a public good. When public information or the public space is diminished, the public loses. Secrecy too often serves the corrupt and tyrannical. VIII. All bits are created equal. When anyone gains the power to decide which bits, words, images, or ideas can or cannot pass freely through our network, it is no longer free. IX. The Internet must stay open and distributed. ‘Let’s give credit to the people who foresaw the Internet, opened it up, designed it so it would not have significant choke points, and made it possible for random people, including 24-year-olds in a dorm, to enter and create,’ says Eric Schmidt. —Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism; author of Public Parts and What Would Google Do? and blogger at Buzzmachine.com; based in New York City

“There have been many claims for the democratising possibilities of network technologies, which, in truth, are claims that the private corporations that mostly control those technologies have some stake in democratisation beyond the primary goal of making profit and gaining control over markets. In some cases there is an alignment between the interests of specific corporations and the spread of democracy; however, in most cases profit, not politics, will always drive corporate decision making.” —Matthew Allen, professor of Internet Studies, Curtin University, Perth, Australia; digital ethics expert and past president of the Association of Internet Researchers

“The market forces will determine which of these outcomes is seen. I, for one, would not willingly buy services from a US-HQ firm that refused to keep secret the identities of demonstrators in a rioting state (whether Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya, or even Canada and especially the United States). Of course, all regimes, including those in the United States, have at times used illegal techniques to enforce the powerful will of those in command. In those instances we, who are observant, see what the technology company leadership is made of and that is where my loyalties will follow. The Internet is a leveling tool for the powerful and for the weak. At the same time, mediocracy is not the outcome—since the powerful lose power and the weak can gain it if and only if they learn how to communicate and are willing to share openly and honestly. Once anyone loses the faith of the people, the Internet will provide others the means to drain power from them. In a single phrase, the Internet is the last defense for true democracy.” —William L Schrader, independent consultant; founder of PSINet in 1989—largest independent publicly traded global ISP during the 1990s; lecturer on the future impact of the Internet on the global economic, technology, medical, political, and social world; based in Sterling, Virginia

“Technology companies—even the self-styled Googles [“Don’t be evil.”]—don’t really care about human rights. By definition, they care about profit, and so will always be driven to comply with governments who can take away that profit. This is why truly open software, owned by no one, is crucial: It is the last technological bulwark against tyranny.” —Glyn Moody, self-employed author, editor, and journalist; active voice in online social media networks; based in London, UK

“Neither scenario is what I foresee. I’m guessing that big proprietary tech firms and governments will both be increasingly hollowed out.” —Kevin A. Carson, research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives; based in Springdale, Arkansas

“So-called ‘democratic’ countries are no better behaved than other countries with respect to spying on their citizens, or, alas, with respect to ‘disappearing’ and torturing enemies of the regime. Somehow Americans have been persuaded that if the disappearee or torturee is Arab or Muslim it doesn’t count. You’re thinking of companies like Google or Yahoo, but it’s the ISPs that are the big problem, and we don’t have to guess about the future—ISPs eavesdropping on their customers for the benefit of the NSA is already the law! Not in China, not in Libya, in the United States. —Brian Harvey, lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley; based in Berkeley, California

“We need an opt-in, open-source like Global Human Bill of Rights and an associated Human API to pull this off. The increased openness and transparency the Web has made possible is the way we can make this happen.” —Susan Price, CEO and chief Web strategist at Firecat Studio LLC; TEDxSanAntonio organizer; Austin FreeNet cofounder; Knowbility board member; based in San Antonio, Texas

“The norms and culture of the past Internet will be more of an influence on the behavior of Internet infrastructure firms than any new set of expectations or norms. Far beyond platitudes like ‘don’t be evil,’ the engineers who develop new technologies will have both the inclination and incentive to design them to be resistant to central control and to undermine autocratic behaviors. Also, dissidents are more technology-savvy than dictatorships, and they will be able to repurpose digital technologies to serve their purposes more effectively than central governments will be able to use them for surveillance and suppression. The more pertinent danger is when corporations themselves become centers of power, and they shape technologies to serve their own interests rather than protecting consumer rights. This will be a trend that will be difficult to combat at the individual or governmental level, as the interests of the engineers and management may be more in alignment. This may enable firms to distort technological evolution to favor their interests over those of consumers.” —Jeffrey Alexander, senior science and technology policy analyst, Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development, SRI International; member, governing council, DC chapter of the Internet Society; based in Arlington, Virginia

“There are no ‘democratic societies’ (noun); only an increasing number of variations on the theme of ‘democratization’ (verb). A healthy future must include being smart about the balance between public and private sectors and interests. Increasing numbers of corporations have off-shored, bottom-line interests in addition to their (multi)national interests and locations. Managing 7 billion people is a frightening prospect for those in power (rightly so), whether corporate, government, or military/intelligence entities. (Inter)national security must be based on an ecological context for the fragile balance between competing and cooperating interests and intentions. Narrowly biased, reactionary responses to the complex disruptive forces emerging and being given voice in the information revolution are very likely.” —Richard Lowenberg, director, broadband planner 1st-Mile Institute; network activist since early 1970s; prepared State of New Mexico’s “Integrated Strategic Broadband Initiative”; integrates rural community planning with network initiatives globally; based in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Contrary to common wisdom, corporate responsibility efforts will be of greater interest within the business community than without. There will be continuing disagreement in regard to what corporate citizenship standards should be and what ‘corporate citizenship’ means.” —Sean Mead, director of solutions architecture, valuation, and analytics for Mead, Mead & Clark, Interbrand; member of the Internet and Electronic Commerce Committee, 1997-present; lecturer at Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum; based in Dayton, Ohio

“As more and more of the world joins the ‘developed’ world, the amount of influence authoritarian regimes will have will correspondingly decrease. The amount of gain a company can expect to attain from a despotic government will be negligible compared to what it derives from the rest of the world. This prediction is particularly dependent on what does and doesn’t change in China over the next several years.” —Michael Goodson, assistant project scientist at the University of California-Davis; based in Davis, California

“This is a tricky one, since for businesses worldwide—and their shareholders—it’s about the money. But being closely associated with suppressing legitimate protest movements through use of a firm’s technology will be bad for business.” —Lee W. McKnight, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Syracuse University; founder of Wireless Grids; co-founder of Summerhill Biomass; president of Marengo Research; principal investigator of Wireless Grid Innovation Testbed (WiGiT); based in Syracuse, New York

“Recent events and the perceived role of social media mark a watershed, which will prevent the second scenario coming about: firms that err too much on conceding to autocratic governments will be penalized by consumers (though I doubt by government as described in the first point).” —Mark Watson, senior engineer for Netflix and a leading participant in various technology groups related to the Internet (IETF, W3C), specifically dealing with video standards; based in San Francisco, California

“I’ll choose the first scenario but it’s way overstated for the timeframe in question. While we’ll see a few signpost examples of CSR [corporate social responsibility] leadership and a few bad actors over the next decade, neither broad-scale R2P nor significant work for authoritarian regimes will occur. Corporations are effective at being both opportunistic and agnostic on these issues, and there’s no win for them to be committed to either outcome. Only when we have a real valuecosm platform on the Web (http://bit.ly/GIvLn2), in 2030 and beyond, will individual citizens within democracies have enough artificial intelligence guiding their purchasing and voting decisions to begin to seriously enforce R2P and other CSR activities in significant ways. In the meantime, corporations will do PR spin around these issues but will effectively be able to avoid being either an advocate of or a policer of the common citizen.” —John Smart, professor of emerging technologies at the University of Advancing Technology; president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation; based in Mountain View, California

“Responsive technology firms will have to chose if they are a part of the solution or a part of the problem.” —Raimundo Beca, partner at Imaginacción, a Chilean consulting company, and longtime ICANN leader; based in Santiago, Chile

“The question isn’t whether democratic countries will expect domestically-based tech firms to respect democratic norms in their work abroad: It’s whether democratic countries will resist the temptation to adopt the authoritarian tactics these technologies enable. The recent use of social media surveillance to respond to the Vancouver riots, which was followed by the UK government’s even more worrying proposal to shut down network access during periods of unrest, is a sign of the shifting ground. Particularly during an era of heightened security concerns, we are vulnerable to arguments about public safety driving us towards very troubling limitations on the use of social and network tools for organizing and dissent. But I chose the optimistic scenario because we do still have a choice, and my hope is that the initial backlash (or at least ambivalence) about state-sponsored surveillance and selective network shutdowns will increase public awareness of the stakes of free access to communications. If that issue becomes a passionate cause in the West, perhaps we will ask companies to hew to the same standards in their work abroad.” —Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design; based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Much though I would like to see the world otherwise, large technology firms operating globally will always be under intense pressure from shareholders to keep expanding into new markets, developing their customer base, and increasing profits. That means inevitably they will have to do business with authoritarian regimes, as we have already seen in China. Some of America’s most prestigious firms—Google, Apple, Cisco—have already been accused of promoting practices that would not be tolerated in a liberal democracy. I’m pessimistic about any improvement in this trend, not simply because these firms are corruptible, but also because regimes like Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia have set up extremely elaborate systems for filtering and effectively partitioning the Internet. And this movement against an open Internet has a political echo in Washington, thanks to the far-reaching efforts of certain Republicans to eviscerate any semblance of network neutrality rules of the kind proposed by the FCC. The Republican goal of making Internet-related firms unaccountable for their actions will encourage unethical corporate behavior online, as well as undermine efforts to prevent unjust discrimination and traffic filtering both at home and abroad.” —David Ellis, director of communication studies, York University, Toronto, and author of the first Canadian book on the roots of the Internet; his blog is titled Life on the Broadband Internet; based in Toronto, Canada

“Technologies of control have no intrinsic relationship restrictions. If it works on employees of businesses in democracies, it works on citizens of governments in dictatorships. Inversely, if it doesn’t work on citizens of governments in dictatorships, it doesn’t work on employees of businesses in democracies. Pick one. It’s an architectural question. Don’t say your personal moral values are that businesses have a right to control their employees but governments have no right to control their citizens. The dictatorships don’t care about your personal moral values.” —Seth Finkelstein, professional programmer and consultant; 2001 winner of a Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier Award from Electronic Frontier Foundation for groundbreaking work in analyzing content-blocking software; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Technology firms may be expected to abide by a set of norms, but the expectations are for public consumption only. The links between elected representatives of so-called democratic countries and the corporate powers that corrupt them absolutely are so tightly woven that they render integrity and ethics meaningless. By 2020 technology firms will be functionally dependent on regulatory protections afforded by insider legislation and increasingly fearful of punitive sanctions imposed by the police state. Therefore they will be unable to protect the individual freedoms of their customers. No data shall be sacred.” —Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, owner and managing editor of corndancer.com, committed to the non-commercial roots of the Internet and World Wide Web; based in rural Washington County, Arkansas

“There is a complex issue of bias in assigning corporations a moral responsibility to enforce cultural and political values. The issue is not putting a company in disfavor with autocratic governments, but what culture or current belief system writes the norms to be enforced. Throughout history, we have seen people with good intentions doing what we would now consider abhorrent. We have to control our own tendency toward solipsism and moral colonialism.” —Pamela Rutledge, director, Media Psychology Research Center, Fielding Graduate University, and instructor, UC Irvine Extension Business School; based in Palo Alto, California

“The problem facing technology firms in the democratic countries will be that some autocratic countries will have developed their own competing IT tools crafted to accomplish the same tasks, but invoking regime-desired limitations. However, I believe that those autocratic regimes will soften their restrictions over time, just as they have done in the print media. In the end, the competition will be economic-focused, not access-focused.” —Donald G. Barnes, visiting professor at Guangxi University in China; former director of the Science Advisory Board at US Environmental Protection Agency; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“Unfortunately, many firms will cave and do what authoritarian (or Bay Area Rapid Transit [reference to 2011 confrontation on rights]) entities want them to do. For those that don’t, they’ll perceive that they’ll be shut out of markets. The key will be to design communication tech that is not client/server or cow/calf, but instead dispersed and unable to be controlled. If we do that, then we have a chance at getting a scenario that is more like number one.” —Mary Hodder, founder of Dabble Wellness Mobile; a technologist and product developer; chair of the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium; based in Mountain View, California

“Some firms will make money out of working with tyrants and criminals but many will not for commercial and ethical reasons. The classification, ‘in democratic countries,’ also needs qualification. How democratic is a country where a large majority of mass media is owned by one man, for example?” —Pete Cranston, digital media, knowledge sharing and ICT4D (information and communication technologies for development) consultant; based in Oxford, UK

“China will be the only authoritarian government with immunity to the Web, primarily because they have developed their own state-controlled analogues to the technology firms in the West. Google’s experience with China will have hardened the resistance of technology firms operating from democratic nations to such interference. The costs to reputation and subsequent reputation will exceed any penalties autocratic regimes can wield. Western nations are increasingly viewing cyber-attacks on public and private infrastructure as a critical national security threat. By 2020, nations will devote substantial portions of their defense budgets to protecting against cyber attacks from autocratic nations. Democratic-nation-based firms will be protected by Western governments.” —John Jackson, an officer with the Houston Police Department and active leader of Police Futurists International; based in Houston, Texas

“I fear the second choice may be the more likely outcome. I do not think that China, Russia, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and a host of Internet-restricting countries are likely to change their ways. The most likely outcome is that the Internet-restricting countries are most likely to develop their own Internets and operate the equivalent of ‘dual Internets,’ excluding Western communications firms entirely.” —Henry L. Judy, an attorney contracted for his expertise in corporate, commercial, technology, and financial law by Washington, DC, firm K&L Gates LLP; based in Asheville, NC

“Both statements are likely not descriptive of the future. Rather, firms will continue to resolve these issues on a case-by-case basis, usually out of sight of First Amendment advocates.” —Jeff Eisenach, managing director and principal, Navigant Economics LLC, a consulting business; author of numerous books and articles on technology and economics; formerly a senior policy expert with the US Federal Trade Commission; based in Washington, DC

“Unfortunately, large technology firms will inevitably cave in to governments’ pressure to surveil and control citizens’ activities. The good news is that grass roots, open source capabilities will grow increasingly useful for people to work around government penetration of our digital infrastructures.” —Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future; at one time or another, a consultant for the FCC, Congress, the White House, OSTP, NTIA, the Internet Society, IETF, Internet2, and other key organizations; based in Palo Alto, California

“Most technology firms are already deeply collaborating with government security agencies. From Cisco’s huge effort for the great firewall of China to AT&T secretly turning over virtually everything to the NSA, corporations by nature support the powers that be. With only occasional honorable exceptions.” —Dave Burstein, editor of DSL Prime and Fast Net News; based in New York City

“There is no way to know which of these paths will eventuate. This set of alternatives involves so many issues and interdependent choices that there is no reasonable way to predict what will happen.” —Ken Friedman, dean of the faculty of design at Swinburne University of Technology; based in Melbourne, Australia

“Profits ultimately drive motivation at corporations. And although many corporations will pay lip service to things like R2P, in the long run, making money always trumps good intentions.” —Bill St. Arnaud, consultant at SURFnet, the national education and research network building The Netherlands’ next-generation Internet; research officer at CANARIE, working on Canada’s next-generation Internet; longtime Internet Society leader; based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

“Global firms will disaggregate into networks of microfirms that serve and conform to conditions in the microclimates in which they operate.” —Cathy Cavanaugh, associate professor of educational technology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

“We are already seeing the ‘democratic countries’ trying to ban or monitor services: the United Kingdom and United States shutting down access to limit protests; Australia passing laws to ban access to what some people consider pornography; the United States and United Kingdom monitoring for terrorists; the United Kingdom passing laws requiring record keeping of all transactions, including law abiding ones; and more. There will be little in the way of the dichotomy suggested by these answers. Instead, there will be a continuum of various forms of regulation, and businesses will tune their models to stay out of the line of fire and remain profitable. Some may adopt the approach of having independent subsidiaries in different parts of the word to carry the brand yet adhere to local regulations—a model used by oil, banking, and telecommunications companies now.” —Eugene H. Spafford, professor of computer science and engineering, Purdue University; executive director, Purdue CERIAS, US Public Policy Council; based in West Lafayette, Indiana

“To think that companies like Facebook and Twitter and Google answer to higher moral standards is a joke. They are for-profit companies that answer to money and shareholders. Citizens’ privacy and democratic organizing are backseat concerns to profit.” —Daren C. Brabham, assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

“Corporations do not take responsibility—people do. The corporate legal entity was created to limit individual liability for the actions of a business entity. It continues to serve that purpose today. If we, as a society, want to have more responsible corporations, we will need to find ways to hold the individuals shielded within their corporate roles responsible for their corporations’ activities. We have had a very difficult time achieving this. I doubt we will manage to fix it in nine short years.” —Nikki Reynolds, director of instructional technology services, Hamilton College; based in Clinton, New York

“Tech firms will respond in the right manner, keeping themselves distant from sensitive issues via continued utilization of filtering and up-charges for same. Even though it’s an income-driven policy, it remains the right best practice to follow.” —Stan Stark, consultant at Heuroes Consulting; based in Houston, Texas

“Technology firms will minimize the ability to be used as tools of either governments or individuals simply to reduce contingent liability. To those who believe that corporations will develop a sense of right and wrong, I must point out that without a near-dictatorial ruler, the chaotic, work-avoiding, and gain-seeking nature of the individual will be expressed in an ‘it’s not my job’ effect that will allow corporations to behave in misanthropic ways. Similarly, to those who believe corporations are evil incarnate, I assert that these entities cannot execute in an evil manner long term without some express or almost complete tacit approval of the individuals making up the board and management team. If we learned nothing else of the near meltdown of our banking system, we must take away an understanding that our society will only recover from this travesty and prevent future recurrences by holding corporate leadership both civilly and criminally responsible for the breakdowns. While bills of attainder are prohibited by our constitution, our political system must learn to react swiftly and strongly to each corporate attempt to slip through the cracks and exploit loopholes. This, in turn, will bring about greater and greater risk aversion and in inculcation of automatic risk shedding into publicly-transited systems and services.” —Rob Scott, chief technology officer and intelligence liaison at Nokia; based in Sunnyvale, California

“The power of orientation of citizens of the more-developed countries will soon and dramatically decrease. When grown-up segments of business originate within countries in development—where the attention is less focused on civil rights and more on spreading economic benefits to the whole population—the consequence will be less attention to concepts such as freedom of expression or civil rights or the protection of privacy. This erosion of weight of civil rights activists, luckily, will not happen completely before 2020, but we shall be already far advanced on that way.” —Giacomo Mazzone, head of institutional relations, European Broadcasting Union; based in Geneva, Switzerland

“It won’t really matter, as the global telecommunications architecture will be beyond the direct sovereign control of any one nation.” —John Laprise, visiting assistant professor at the Doha, Qatar, campus of Northwestern University

“Unfortunately, more and more countries, including the United States, are now dominated by big corporate business. They get their candidates elected and their lobbyists create our laws. Thus, even in a democracy like the United States we will continue to see expansion of government/corporation use of electronic data collection focused on what those leaders want. They will have increasing power to shut down the communication of dissidents. We see that now in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc. However, without a major change of direction the United States is going to manage electronic communication like those dictatorships for more control by the existing powerful. Plutocracy is rising in America and democracy is diminishing. Voter apathy contributes to this. I see less concern among my students. There are more reasons for the youth to be concerned about wars, government abuses, and other rights violations now than in the Vietnam era. Yet we do not see general public frustration and political activity like the 1960s.” —Ed Lyell, professor at Adams State College, consultant for using telecommunications to improve school effectiveness through the creation of 21st-century learning communities; host of a regional public radio show on the economy; based in Alamosa, Colorado

“I would like to think that the integrity of global technology firms like ICANN, the Internet Society, ITU, and others will remain intact and that the interest of the people for whom they have been charged with the responsibility to protect will be always be upheld in the face of the force of governments who want to impose their philosophical and political will on Internet users within and outside of their countries. Technology firms operate worldwide, and therefore their responsibilities are far-reaching. Therefore, it becomes cyberwarfare for one government to try to overtake the use of the Internet and deny users a human right to access information and to give an opinion. The responsibility must remain with international bodies like ICANN and its associated organisations, to protect the interest of all Internet users. Negotiations by governments to make such rulings about blocking access, etc., should initially be conducted through these organisations.” —Maureen Hilyard, development programme coordinator for the New Zealand High Commission; vice chair of the board of the Pacific Chapter of the Internet Society; based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

“The incentives are overwhelmingly on the side of collaboration.” —Fred Hapgood, technology author and consultant; moderator of the Nanosystems Interest Group at MIT in the 1990s; writes for Wired, Discover, and other tech and science publications; based in Boston, Massachusetts

“The needle will bounce both directions, perhaps forever. There is always tension between freedom and repression. Technology isn’t going to change that one way or the other.” —Karen G. Schneider, director for library services at Holy Names University; prolific author of books and articles on technology; based in Oakland, California

“Large corporations depend on the good favour of their host governments, discouraging their protection of citizens from their own governments. The large generally static infrastructure of large corporations also makes them particularly vulnerable to punishment by these same governments.” —Paul Gardner-Stephen, rural, remote, and humanitarian telecommunications fellow at Flinders University; founder and director of the Serval Project; based in Adelaide, Australia

“Recent events in the United Kingdom and United States as well as the Mediterranean show that while governments are tempted to shut down Internet access to stifle dissent, this is difficult to do.” —Tom Worthington, adjunct senior lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University; also active in CSIRO ICT Centre Telecommunications Board, Australian Computer Society; based in Canberra, Australia

“Firms are capable of abiding by social norms, but what happens on this point is subject to political will and to electoral forces that are very hard to predict.” —Allison Mankin, employed at a research organization in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area

“Almost nobody cares what the companies are doing in the developing countries and/or in China. If the problem is not local, people just don’t care. Would you choose your operating system based on the fact that a Chinese dissident was denounced by a company? Probably not. In the end, it’s all about the money and how big the profit is. I am even more skeptical—I foresee the governments becoming the puppets of big companies and not the big companies dancing as the governments whistles.” —Ondrej Sury, chief scientist at the .CZ Internet registry, CZ.NIC; active leader in the IETF; based in Praha, Czech Republic

“The trend here, seen in the Arab Spring and likely to be repeated at the London Cyberconference in October [2011], will be open access to telecommunications based on responsible democratic norms. Global public opinion seems to be largely in the favour of the first scenario, and companies will only be able to work at the behest of governments in terms of significant security threats (as seen in a Western context). My qualifier here is that this applies to all but China, where most companies will accept cooperation with the regime’s information and telecommunications laws as an acceptable cost of business for access to a perceived lucrative market. —David Saer, foresight researcher for Fast Future, a consulting business based in London, UK

“In the United States, in particular, privacy is revered and litigation feared. A certain degree of ‘doesn’t-hurt-me-so-I-don’t-care’ oblivion will prevail, but in general people dislike having the government and large corporations controlling their lives, and will become increasingly sensitized to such intrusions.” —Mack Reed, principal, Factoid Labs, a consultancy on content, social engineering, design, and business analysis; COO, F8 Interactive, developer of life-like, non-violent games; longtime member of the WELL and the Burning Man community; based in Los Angeles, California

“If not by subscription to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) philosophy, by any other name, telecommunication and Internet mega corporations would sooner or later begin to resist authoritarian directives that are no longer characteristic only of authoritarian governments. Authoritarian directives on telephonic and Internet communications that interfere with civil liberties are more pronounced in the recent past, so these mega-corporations have rather been taken by surprise and were completely unprepared for the first few of authoritarian directives from some governments. While governments have become excessively assertive towards communication technology firms, it is also to be remembered that the firms that operate in the telecommunications and Internet eco-systems have also grown significantly powerful. As these large firms expect more surprises from governments, they are likely to become better prepared to influence government decisions away from adverse authoritarian directives. The public repercussions for business compliance for authoritarian directives would actually help these firms firm up their stand against further directives. There are more of responsible firms than unscrupulous ones, and these responsible mega-corporations are more likely to exercise benevolent influence, in concert, than make it habitual to comply with ill-advised directives of governments.” —Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, president of the Internet Society-India Chennai; founder and CEO of InternetStudio, a Web development and IT services company; based in Erode, Tamilnadu, India

“We’re moving more toward a world where global firms are more and more allied with government and vice versa. We’re moving toward a world in which everything we do is tracked and monitored. Global tech firms will greatly influence political policies, and all governments, but especially more centralized ones, will greatly influence the policies of firms, as they relate to customer privacy, because, you see, customers and citizens are becoming closely tied together as well. To the extent that there is marriage between global corporations and governments, there will be marriage between the concepts of customer and citizen. Dangerous.” —David Kirschner, PhD candidate and research assistant at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

“Beyond democratic and authoritarian regimes, the scenarios neglect the existence and rising importance of a third type of regime, the one of the global techno-structure to which major technology firms belong. They will primarily serve their own interests, which are ably disguised into concern for public interest in the corporate, social, or environmental responsibility statements. The question is whether the people’s democratic choices will or not have a bearing upon corporate decisions. On the light of current accomplishments one can only be pessimistic.” —Michel J. Menou, visiting professor at the department of information studies at University College London; based in Les Rosiers sur Loire, France

“We are now at the time of greatest use of mobile technologies for social change. But this is largely because there are so many options for communications that it is difficult to block them all. Radio in Serbia, texting in the Philippines, Twitter in Egypt, colored shirts in Ukraine, phone trees, USB exchange, etc. The problem of blocking by a government or its agents will be continuing. The resistance to a monoculture of communications is the only way to confront that undemocratic impulse. Businesses, although considered ‘persons,’ are not moral.” —Paul Jones, clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

“With few exceptions, firms (including technology firms) have always served the world’s authoritarian regimes and conspired with the US government to support them and maintain them. Both large companies and Western governments have mostly worked together to keep dissident movements around the world under control. This seems unlikely to change.” —Richard Holeton, director, academic computing services, Stanford University Libraries; co-leader, EDUCAUSE Learning Space Design Constituent Group; author of Cyberspace: Identity, Community, and Knowledge in the Electronic Age; based in Stanford, California

“Most people have no idea what filtering software is actually being used for. Therefore, the technology firms will continue to create this type of software and sell it to whomever wishes to use it, whether for good or bad, in order to make as much money as possible. I do not think that corporate responsibility will come about unless it is regulated.” —Darlene Thompson, program administrator at N-CAP, a non-profit corporation that encourages the use of ICTs in Canada’s remote north; participant in ICANN secretariat, NARALO; based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

“The Internet may undermine the very notion of a nation, although not by 2020.” —Cheryl Russell, editorial director for New Strategist Publications and author of the Demo Memo Blog; based in Beaufort, South Carolina

“Again, it hard to imagine either scenario playing out this way. I expect the balance to be pretty much what it is today.” —Peter Mitchell, chief creative officer at Salter-Mitchell, a company that builds behavior-change programs, relying heavily on inventing digital products; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“People want to share information. Once the genie is out of the bottle, authoritarian governments are on borrowed time.” —John G. McNutt, professor of public policy and administration at the University of Delaware; based in Newark, Delaware

“I don’t see people changing that much. They usually do what is in their best interest, not in others.’” —Elizabeth Swift, integrated library systems administrator at the Jefferson County Library Cooperative; based in Birmingham, Alabama

“The Arab Spring has opened the floodgates to this kind of change, and it will be hard to box back in automatically. Any kind of tech collusion with autocratic regimes would lead to irreparable brand damage for any company who did it. The hero that technology has become is too powerful today and will only continue to grow in that heroism as it aids the collapse of more governments in the next ten years.” —David D. Burstein, founder of Generation18, a youth-run voter-engagement organization; author of “FastFuture: How the Millennial Generation is Remaking Our World”; commentator on millennials, social innovation, and politics; a senior at New York University

“The second scenario is the trend.” —Janet D. Cohen, self-employed futurist, writer and Internet specialist; assignments include work for World Future Society publication, World Future Review; based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

“The future does not bode well for the exercise of First Amendment rights. Anonymity will be forever ended, disguises will be prohibited, and anyone who attempts to protest either online or in public will be forever identified and flagged. The KGB already is beginning to look quaint and benevolent compared to the obsessiveness with which American government agencies are collecting information. The same thing is true for privacy rights. Scott McNealy of Sun had it right when he said, back in 1999, ‘You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.’  By 2020 it will be far worse. People will be tracked everywhere from cradle to grave.” —Robert Ellis, partner, Peterson, Ellis, Fergus & Peer LLP focusing on Internet law since 1989; a co-author of Internet and Online Law; based in Columbus, Ohio

“Idealism is fine, but only if profit is built into the model. This is fast becoming the new normal.” —Pat McKenna, president at MojoWeb Productions LLC; teacher of web design, principles of e-marketing, and social media for small businesses at Waukesha County Technical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“People in democratic countries will selectively raise the bar on corporate responsibility. It will become a branding issue for larger consumer-facing companies. But there will always be companies willing to do the deed for money and/or access to markets. Expect selective adherence to these principals. In other words, companies that may not cooperate with small authoritarian governments will be tempted to make exceptions for China and wealthy Middle Eastern countries.” —Steven Swimmer, self-employed consultant; previously worked in digital leadership roles for a major broadcast TV network and a major museum; based in Los Angeles, California

“If attempts to revise government by active protest or resistance continues to spread outside of the Muslim Middle East to Europe and other developed countries such as the United States and increasingly Asian and BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India, China], these media will be rendered decreasingly effective for political change. Government agencies are actively working now in developed countries to substantially limit the possibilities for political change through street action. The violence that has typically accompanied these movements will be the primary public relations theme used to justify curtailing these communication capabilities. Commercial firms, particularly as they are capitalized increasingly by the ‘Russian Mob’ and other organized crime, will be decreasingly trusted as partners of the government in filtering and editing information for them. The longer-range trend may more likely be nationalization of key information services, and/or government regulations for commercial firms to comply with government mandates for information and assistance as a requirement for maintaining licenses.” —James A. Danowski, professor of communication, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; co-editor of Handbook of Communication and Technology; program planner for European Intelligence and Security Informatics 2011 and Open-Source Intelligence and Web Mining, 2011

“Transparency is the issue that will drive responsibility. If firms can avoid being transparent to their stakeholders (harder to avoid each day), they may be able to provide services clandestinely to authoritarian regimes. By 2020, entities will actively monitor who is surveilling them and will create alternative versions of themselves to hide from pervasive transparency. This will be an uneasy living arrangement.” —Barry Chudakov, principal at Metalife Consulting and a visiting research fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto; based in Winter Park, Florida

“The financial strength of China underscores the fact that the economic power shifts from democratic countries to authoritarian countries. A large part of the world’s technological innovation will continue to take place in democratic countries, but individual companies will have to adjust to the political demands of China.” —Charlie Breindahl, part-time lecturer, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen Business School, Danish Centre for Design Research, Copenhagen, Denmark

“The most likely scenario is that transnationals will present a democracy-loving face to democratic nations, but take steps to protect themselves in rich autocratic nations. This will be easier as data and computing expertise becomes global. Moreover, corporations can simply outsource data operations to other countries, thereby relieving themselves of the full risk of setting data policy.” —Stephen Masiclat, associate professor of communications, Syracuse University; based in Syracuse, New York

“The collaboration of most phone companies with the Bush administration makes me opt for scenario two. As the history of capitalism demonstrates, the bottom line of any capitalist enterprise is profit and everything can be sacrificed in order to maximize it, including especially the rights of invisible citizens whose only importance lays in their ability to make a monthly payment. Firms might decide to implement steps that protect dissidents only if it is cost-effective for them to do so. In light of the very nature of the capitalist spirit, there is no reason to believe that firms will suddenly (and spontaneously) ‘get religion’ and become concerned about citizens’ rights, especially if they live far away and cannot defend themselves. In addition, the ethical behavior of firms necessitates an educated and concerned citizenship that is informed about the plight of dissidents in other places and that cares about it. The present state of education does not indicate that this level of education/care has been attained. There is no reason to believe that this will change in the next nine years. Au contraire.” —Simon Gottschalk, professor in the department of sociology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas

“Hacks, underground technology, open technology, and legacy technology will still be the mainstay of dissidents. They will continue to benefit from advances in communications technology, but I suspect that even in democratic countries, commercial technology firms will be constrained by legislation.” —Vanessa Clark, marketing director for Mobiflock and Twokats Communications and freelance journalist; Cape Town, South Africa

“There is a good chance that either of these scenarios could happen, in fact, they already have—Google in China falls into the second choice and the Arab Spring falls into the first. I have selected option one because I hope that the Arab Spring does not stop in the Middle East but continues to trigger uprisings all across the globe wherever people are oppressed. The biggest challenge, of course, will be China. If China is able to contain their housing bubble and avoid a meltdown, they will be the masters of the world, but they are facing a housing bubble so huge that if it bursts they go down and take everyone with them. They will not be the new boss in town and could go to either extreme. It will depend on the people, and the Internet/social platforms will play a critical role.” —Greg Wilson, a Los Angeles-based marketing and public relations consultant who provides organizational change management

“As online communities have emerged and social media has grown in use we have seen a move toward the ability of masses to police themselves and their content. Enabling this to continue with proper intervention tools—for instance, the ability for individuals to block hate content, spam, and personal attacks—will continue to enable these communities to thrive both online and offline. Technology firms must continue to support efforts for individuals to shape their own online experiences.” —Laura Lee Dooley, online engagement architect and strategist for the World Resources Institute, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC

“Tech companies will recognize their ability to mobilize virtual nations of purpose. The potential is hundreds of millions could virtually vote on global issues in a few days’ time, warranting a seat at the United Nations. Crowd-accelerated innovations in the political sphere have already been dramatically demonstrated.” —Frank Odasz, president Lone Eagle Consulting, a company specializing in Internet training for rural, remote, and indigenous learners; speaker on rural 21st century workforce readiness, rural e-commerce,and telework strategies, and online learning for all; based near Dillon, Montana

“In the real world we have certain rights and expectations of where we can and cannot go, what we can and cannot do, and these are regulated and decided upon by the societies in which we live and the governments that we elect. I see no reason why this pattern should not be replicated just the same in virtual space as it is in real space. There will be teething pains as this evolves—not least because of the ease with which things can be blocked, or for that matter unblocked, within the virtual world, sometimes leading to decisions being taken without perhaps quite as much thought as would be taken in a real-world equivalent. But nonetheless, the overall cultural and societal values of the real world of any society will predominantly be echoed in its virtual equivalent.” —Rich Osborne, senior IT innovator at the University of Exeter, based in Exeter, UK

“I certainly hope the first scenario is the case! But it may ultimately be a question of political will more than ‘association with sensitive activities.’” —Heywood Sloane, principal at CogniPower, a consulting business; based in Wayne, Pennsylvania

“Social pressures among democratic societies will drive toward the first scenario.” —Stephen Hoover, lecturer at Minghsin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan; lives in Chunan, Taiwan, and works in Hsinchu, Taiwan

“Two words: Arab Spring.” —Michael Castengera, senior lecturer at the Grady College of Journalism, University of Georgia, and president at Media Strategies and Tactics, Inc.; based in Athens, Georgia

“The lessons had in China and other nations illustrated to technology firms that the cost of compliance is too high. Autocratic governments by their nature are untrustworthy and cannot be negotiated with because they can easily simply change their minds. If information technology companies capitulate, it is too easy to lose on both ends. Unlike extractive industries, IT firms can arise from anywhere and be everywhere. What we will see is an industry arise with the expressed purpose of aiding regimes and hacking IT companies to get the information they need to disrupt dissent. Let the Net wars begin.” —Ted M. Coopman, lecturer, department of communication studies, San Jose State University; member of the executive committee, Association of Internet Researchers; lives in Santa Cruz, California, and works in San Jose

“We are moving toward totalitarianism (under the guise of national security) here in the United States! Democratic countries are moving toward more and more political unrest as their economies crash. People are becoming more and more unhappy and I anticipate larger and more frequent global uprisings. There is no way that countries won’t demand business and tech firms to curb use, out dissidents, create blackouts, and any other measure to control their people. It will, of course, all be for ‘our own good’ and tech firms will comply with government requests/demands because the dollar wins over the good/will of the people every time. There is no doubt about that.” —Lucretia Walker-Skinner, quality improvement associate with Project Hospitality, a non-profit organization based in Staten Island, New York

“Early indications are that firms reason that getting into a market requires going along, at first, and then some day changing their approach. We’ll see more going along to get along at first.” —Valerie Bock, technical services lead at Q2Learning, LLC and VCB Consulting; based in Decatur, Illinois

“The current level of freedom of Internet content will remain guaranteed by most nations. The companies have their headquarters in those countries. Any attempt to restrict freedoms to a threatened site will generate the site’s displacement to another country/service provider.” —Daniel Ferrari, system analyst based in São Paulo, Brazil

“Firms are capable of blocking and monitoring Internet activity anywhere in the world and they have agreed to filtering and blocking content. Cyberwar is our next big debate, as technologists attempt to protect and yet ultimately restrict. Take airport security after 9/11 as an example. We acquiesce. We would do the same thing with the impact of a cyberwar. We would be too ill-informed, too passive, too willing to do what governments and large technical organizations tell us, if we think it might make us safer.” —Leara Rhodes, associate professor of journalism and international communications at the University of Georgia; based in Athens, Georgia

“It will be a mix but trending toward the side of the latter option, as these companies will be pressured by governments if not fined, to release information. We’re seeing that already in some situations and frankly there are probably a lot of cases of it on a daily basis that we don’t know about.” —Sabeen H. Ahmad, new media director, Brodie Collins Consulting; co-editor, Divanee.com, a consulting business based in Washington, DC

“This will vary by company, but most will tend to side with the developed world’s agenda.” —Mark J. Franklin, director of computing services and software engineer, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

“There is too much technology under development at all times for there to be a unified effort to minimize the usefulness of technology tools. The technology marketplace has too much energy and operates at too fast a pace for there to be any type of systemic governance or invincible alliance such as referred to in the second scenario.” —Matt Minahan, consultant in organization design and development; adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and American University; previously a senior management consultant with The World Bank; based in Silver Spring, Maryland

“Although technology can temporarily disrupt economic and power structures, it cannot, by itself, cause permanent change.” —Peter Pinch, director of technology for WGBH, a public media company—including television, radio, and online programming—based in Boston, Massachusetts

“The struggle between Winston Smith and Big Brother [a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984] will go on forever I can only hope that eight years out the losses won’t dramatically outweigh the wins.” —Jim Hokom, Web manager, Crossroads Urban Center, a non-profit organization; based in Salt Lake City, Utah

“Information is power, and this will remain true in our future. Private and public will penetrate all aspects of information flow. Private organizations will use this to gain an understanding of the bottom line; governments will use it to protect their citizens. However, citizens are now accustomed to this and to some point actually welcome it. Most of the world is doing nothing wrong and see their government’s intrusion as a need for safety.” —Keith Davis, team lead for the S6 Community of Purpose—working on a knowledge management initiative for the Signal Center of Excellence – RLM Communications—Military Communications Expert Organization, US Army; based in Grovetown, Georgia

“It is unlikely that legislation will be passed to hold domestic companies to a standard of global behavior. But it’s quite possible that several such companies will voluntarily refuse to filter and edit their services on behalf of the world’s authoritarian regimes, and develop their own internal codes of conduct—either out of a sense of democratic responsibility or as a result of pressure from their users. It’s also a bit of a false equivalency to only assume that authoritarian regimes will place pressure on technology firms to quell political organizing by dissidents. It’s not beyond democratic regimes to suppress information or work with commercial interests to control the flow of communication—it’s just done by less obvious means in the name of national security.” —Jessica Clark, media strategist, for the Association of Independents in Radio; senior fellow, Center for Social Media, American University; media policy fellow, New America Foundation; based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Democratic countries will learn that they must tread carefully in the spontaneous uprisings of other countries.” —J. Clarke Price, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs; based in Dublin, Ohio

“The likely outcome here will be largely dependent on whether a critical mass of leading countries can agree on an international convention or protocol for telecom access, freedom, and privacy. Without that, you will see more Google/China and Blackberry/India protocols, where telecom firms have to find a way to mollify national governments if they want to do business there.” —David A.H. Brown, executive director, Brown Governance Inc., a consulting business based in Toronto, Canada

“Business is about the bottom line, not democracy or human rights. I wish the first scenario would happen, but I don’t see that happening by 2020—maybe by 2080? —Rebecca Leet, principal, Rebecca Leet & Associates, a consulting business based in Washington, DC

“Who will govern these companies to enforce R2P? Why is Twitter blocking trending of #occupy-related tweets in the United States after allowing the activity that led to the Arab Spring? As long as companies can choose to monitor/block activity based on what they consider to be their own best interests, this activity will likely continue and increase.” —Nathan Swartzendruber, technology education at SWON Libraries Consortium; based in Cincinnati, Ohio

“The openness of the Internet and World Wide Web will make it increasingly more challenging for organizations to selectively monitor and protect Internet activity from any group.” —Jack Spain, principal at Spain Business Advisors; based in Cary, North Carolina

“Unfortunately, technology firms and other utilities will want to avoid entanglements in the charged political landscape. They will want to preserve their ability to operate in difficult markets while not alienating their consumers in democratic countries.” —Jean Westcott, co-author of Digitally Daunted: The Consumer’s Guide to Taking Control of the Technology in Your Life; based in Washington, DC

“Companies will most likely take a conservative approach to this. It’s better for companies to have their brand out there than it is to not have it there. If that means censoring content due to different governments, then in a business sense it’s most likely worth it for the profit gained.” —Katrina Griffin, e-marketing strategist for Medseek; based in Peoria, Illinois

“Corporations have not shown themselves to be particularly altruistic in the past and will likely do what ever seems best for them at the time. However, if a corporation becomes too limiting in its ways I see the current market climate turning away from it and favoring others that provide more freedom of consumer interaction. Historically, when societies/companies become too limiting, they survive for a while but ultimately give birth to dissent that cannot be controlled and seem to fall apart. The existence of counter information to that put out by the government or the corporation also seems to influence the resistance to control. For example, if information is tightly controlled to the extent that only one way of thinking is presented, it is easy to control what people will follow it, i.e., North Korea; however, when an alternative view is presented as possible and it appeals to people then they may chose to rebel and either attempt overthrow their governments (the Arab Spring) or switch to a new product line (Apple computers).” —Dana Levin, student at Drexel University College of Medicine; based in Philadelphia and New York

“There will be greater pressure in the future for telecomm firms to not cooperate with autocratic governments; the inevitable expansion of telecomm expertise in the future is not likely to diminish the use of telecommunications as a tool for the suppression of the rights of citizens in autocratic governments.” —David Morris, managing director of research for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; based in Lansing, Michigan

“The world is moving slowly towards openness. It will be too easy to disclose dodgy practices, so corporations will have to behave nicely.” —Anders Fagerjord, professor of media and communication, the University of Oslo; based in Oslo, Norway

“Either access to technologies operated in democratic countries will be curtailed—think the Great Firewall of China—or the technologies will be co-opted. Well-meaning developers can easily create technologies that can be used for surveillance with a little effort.” —R. Kelly Garrett, assistant professor at The Ohio State University School of Communication; based in Columbus, Ohio

“I lean a bit toward the ‘more responsibility’ scenario, but only as pressure can be exerted where there are options for use of systems/technologies.” —Caroline Haythornthwaite, director and professor at the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies of the University of British Columbia, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“This question is very complex. There will be many different policies pursued by technology firms in both democratic and other political regimes, and the outcomes will be equally varied.” —Hugh F. Cline, adjunct professor of sociology and education at Columbia University; retired from a position as a senior research scientist and administrator in an educational testing company; lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and works in New York City

“Due to powerful technology development it is becoming easier for governments to control the Internet, control the information, and control the people. The technology firms will be responsible for protecting the rights of people, although it is difficult for them go against governments. It might be necessary to sugarcoat this issue to somehow work through the United Nations to gain consensus.” —M.C. Liang, National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

“People will fear corporations more than their governments. For instance, ‘Google might see we said something bad about it and penalize us in search results,’ is already a common sentiment.” —John Capone, freelance writer and journalist; former editor of MediaPost Communications publications; contributor to The Daily, BlackBook, New York, The Fix and Prefixmag.com among others; based in Napa, California

“Efforts such as the Aspen Institute IDEA Project are working on establishing multi-stakeholder processes to bring about global norms for these and other trans order issues.” —Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Communications and Society program at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit organization; based in Washington, DC

“Assuming Net neutrality, a decrease in the number of authoritarian regimes seems likely, if only because they are not sustainable (e.g., even the Soviet Union fell). Also, users are wicked clever—they always find the work-around (and there is always a work-around).” —Natascha Karlova, PhD candidate in information science at the University of Washington; HASTAC Scholar; based in Seattle, Washington

“Not just authoritarian regimes [are leveraging this power], but also those that are democratically elected, based on a mandate of protecting their people from Internet nasties. The technical interests of all types of government are becoming aligned in this regard.” —Z. Sroczynski, software engineer at ION Geophysical; based in Edinburgh, UK

“The democratic intention remains strong in those countries where it’s been adopted, so I’m holding out hope that we will continue to see support for free speech and protection of related rights globally. Some firms may cave to authoritarian pressures more readily than others.” —Jon Lebkowsky, Internet pioneer and principal at Polycot Associates LLC; consultant and developer for mission-driven nonprofits and socially responsible companies; president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin; based in Austin, Texas

“Firms worldwide are very quickly learning the power the Internet places in the hands of the consumer, particularly when it comes to advocacy and cause-based action. I think it is this—consumers being able to organise across borders—more than anything else that will drive firms to be more responsible in their actions wherever they operate. Power to the people by the people in the hands of people will have much greater meaning across all spheres—including trade and commerce.” —Rajnesh Singh, regional director, Asia, for the Internet Society; founder or co-founder of multiple companies; based in Singapore

“The proportion of regimes that are authoritarian has been declining ever since the dissolution of the USSR beginning in 1989 and 2011 and the Arab Spring. There will always be a spectrum of democracy-authoritarianism, but the trend has moved away from absolute power. This trend was really born in the 18th century with the American and French revolutions. It reversed for a time in the 20th century, but was reenergized in the decade leading up to 2020. The issue is not so much one of authoritarianism as it is one of ineffective or weak governments with so many young governments experimenting with new forms of government. This will fuel inevitable dissidents, but of a different cast than those under iron rule.” —Charles Perrottet, partner at the Futures Strategy Group; author, speaker, and a leader on the Millennium Project Planning Committee; based in Glastonbury, CT

“Firms will take steps to mitigate their exposure to regulation in order to protect the bottom line. Nothing else matters in a capitalist system.” —Ron Smith, bridge coordinator at Helen Bernstein High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District; based in Hollywood, California

“Technology firms headquartered in democratic countries have little choice but to comply with the constraints imposed on them in different international jurisdictions.” —Robert Renaud, vice president for library and information services and CIO at Dickinson College; member, EDUCAUSE Advanced Core Technologies Initiative Design Group; based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania

“With everything currently going on (Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring), we seem to be moving hard and fast toward the former. Having traced some of these moves across Twitter, people are already making this happen.” —Liza Potts, assistant professor of digital humanities, Michigan State University; a leader of ACM’s SIGDOC; formerly worked as a user-interface program manager for Microsoft in the early 2000s building early Web apps for them; based in East Lansing, Michigan

“Currently, technology firms are selectively monitoring and blocking services, though it’s not because an authoritarian government told them to do it. Individuals at the firms took it upon themselves to do it. I’m not sure what to think about what the situation will be like in a few years.” —Beth McConnell, assistant for Captel (Ultratec, Inc.); based in Madison, Wisconsin

“I hope, for all of our sakes, the first choice actually predicts reality in 2020.” —Melinda Blau, freelance journalist and the author of 13 books, including Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don’t Seem to Matter But Really Do; based in New York City

“You will find examples of both ends of this spectrum—based on location, the company culture, and the makeup of the management team. And let’s not forget the political aspects, as well!” —Tom Rule, an educator, technology consultant, and musician based in Macon, Georgia

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