• 23 DEC 17
    • 0

    A Non-Neutral Internet Spreads Misinformation

    From Futurism https://futurism.com/five-things-to-worry-about-in-2018/

    On December 14, 2017 the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal “net neutrality” — the Obama-era regulations that prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritizing certain websites, blocking content, and charging for different download speeds. The internet will no longer be classified as a public utility, so it can’t be regulated by the government. Providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will not only be able to create fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet, but also decide which websites travel in which lanes — and even block certain websites from consumers on the internet, Heather Ross, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation and Society, told Futurism.

    While changes to the marketplace won’t happen overnight, Americans will probably see some changes to their internet service or bills in the next year. Proponents of the net neutrality repeal state that this move will restore free market status to the internet, which will benefit consumers by theoretically lowering their internet bills and supporting innovation in telecommunications and broadband technology, Ross said.

    Not everyone agrees it’ll work out that way. Nicholas Economides, an economics professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said it’s unlikely companies will cut consumer prices. “I don’t think AT&T is going to cut my bill. The idea is laughable,” he said.

    Indeed, some experts believe that this development spells ill for American democracy. “Without federally-enforced net neutrality, internet service providers are not only empowered, but actively encouraged to exercise discriminatory oversight of the internet traffic they carry,” Aram Sinnreich, an associate professor at American University’s School of Communication, previously told Futurism. “Free speech and privacy will be the collateral damage, as the ISPs become able to block encryption, censor dissent, and pick and choose winners and losers.”

    ISPs could store content and deliver it from their networks instead of directly from the original content provider, Libby Hemphill, an associate professor of information at the University of Michigan, pointed out. “ISPs may want to do this for really popular content, for instance,” Hemphill previously told Futurism. “What it means for consumers is that if you want to access popular content, you can get it fast. What’s been popular lately? Misinformation. So, potentially, misinformation and click bait gets cached and served fast, while authoritative reporting remains un-cached and slow. That’s not good for consumers or for our democracy.”

    Economides, the NYU professor, took the argument one step further. What would happen if, say, The Wall Street Journal paid internet service providers for expedited service, while The New York Times did not? “Suddenly, the level playing field in online news competition is gone forever,” he said.

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