Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Internet, News, and Policy

This is an exciting time to be living in right now, with the rapid growth of the Internet forecasting not only a distinct change in how we communicate with each other, but also an increased ability for all individuals to change the course of the future. Up until now, most people used only their televisions and their radios to receive their news and thus shape their opinions. However, an inherent issue with these sources of news is that they are linear and not interactive. The content of news programs are decided on by only a few individuals for consumption by the public, and an inherent side effect is that many people will form their opinions on issues because of how the information was presented to them. Therefore, those who are in the position to decide what news to show and how to show it have a decided advantage in shaping future elections or policies.

As more and more people begin to shift away from mainstream media to the Internet, more and more power returns to the individuals to make informed decisions. Now, because of the few degrees which separate most information on the Internet, most knowledge about current events is literally a few clicks away, and because of the ability of everyone to have a say on the Internet, all sides of every issue can be examined and discussed. Misinformation and propaganda will be reduced as people will be able to easily fact-check using different sources. News will shift from essentially an oligopoly of several large news channels and radio stations to a free market of individuals. Right now we are at a tipping point, as this new generation of Internet users is balanced by the older generation which still relies on television and radio. The timing of recent bills such as PIPA and SOPA to try to continue the process of increasing the government's control of the Internet is perhaps unsurprising. The Internet in the United States is currently a remarkable entity, as it a truly open forum for the exchange of information and ideas, and is the last medium left that allows each of express of freedom of speech in a effective manner, because every voice can be heard and every person can effect change should their opinions spread virally. Since future policy could then be shaped because of the voices of any single individuals, it makes it impossible, for better or worse, for those in power to chart the path for this country, which is perhaps to them, a scary proposition.

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