The push for privatization is an inevitable adjustment in the regulation of cyber technology, security, and social media expansion. However, it is rather ironic – the push for privatization on a platform that is so diverse, social media outlets that are so expansive, and an audience of people who all claim autonomy over Internet media that is technically “free.” There are a multitude of layers when defining and understanding this shift to privatization. 1) Understanding the need for privatization/the time, place and purpose of Net Neutrality; 2) What is Internet Autonomy; and 3) What does this mean for Freedom of Speech?
The transition to privatization is not a clear path; rather, the shift from a government-sponsored backbone of networks to multi-commercially owned systems is very unclear. Trying to pin point the exact actions or even the individuals’ involved in this transition is ambiguous. Privatization reshaped the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) affecting content and control of the Internet infrastructure. Originally the purpose behind these network systems was to provide research communities with supercomputing centers. These centers provided higher broadband speeds and a larger source for acquiring information – thus changing the connection from a local standpoint to connecting both regional and local networks. Scene didn’t change until the 1990s when politics took hold of the Internet scene and began pushing for de-regulation and competition. Self-interest would become the primary motivation for management of the Internet, thus leading us to where we are now and the implication of Net Neutrality. The Net Neutrality Act would further push for more equal regulation between large and smaller carries, as well as push further towards an expansion of freedom of the press. However, with Net Neutrality comes the issue of autonomy of speech and opinion – and till recently, this type of freedom has not been address by legal or social standards. Rather it has been an inherent understanding/belief of human right.
“In the ideological world we inhabit, contesting interests and parties use “public” and “private” not only to describe but also to celebrate and condemn.” With that being said understanding autonomy as it relates to cyber information is a grey area. We as a community understand freedom of speech as it relates to the public forum, broadcasting, publication, and general communication. However, how free speech is defined on the World Wide Web is rather a new area, and regulation of such information has yet to be fully contracted on the legal stage. Limited standards have been set in regards to obscene and lewd material, and material harmful for children. The fear with further regulation and Net Neutrality is the possibility of limited reach to information and censorship. Freedom of speech and autonomy go hand-in-hand, but because the information can be so wide spread how it translates to the cyber community must be redefined to mirror its parameters.
Privatization has its place and time; it is an indefinite and inevitable change that has to happen, especially in regards to the increase of newer technologies. Where privatization will take us can only be a positive change – especially in the communication world. The communication world. The possibility for faster broadband speeds, larger libraries of information, and a larger outreach for audience connectivity, is what the cyber world is aiming towards.
Xiaoying Van Schaik, Graduate Student
Master of Arts in Emerging Media
Loyola University Maryland