An Internet of Everything?/Access to Knowledge and Data in Everyday Life

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Yochai Benkler, in his text Wealth of Networks, argues that there are three layers of media communication - the physical layer, the logical, and the content layers. On the physical layer, we have the devices - iPhones, game consoles, computers, televisions - and the networks/wireless links that connect them. On the logical layer, you have software and communication standards that enable the connectivity between devices and their users. The content layer contains not software but ideas, messages, information, and entertainment—this is what we share. He argues that each of these layers can foster access to information. Physical has open wireless networks and greater wired capacity, facilitating a greater physical range of access for many people. The logical layer has had many new developments such as open-source software and peer to peer file sharing networks, where people can access and manipulate many different pieces of information from many different users across the globe, just with the click of a button. In the content layer, we have the Creative Commons licences and open projects such as Wikipedia, where ideas and creative thought can flow for all to benefit.[1]

But Benkler also asserts that this access can be blocked and restricted. On the physical layer, we have network operators that try to maximize their commercial advantage by instating different laws and legislation on how data can flow and content can be accessed. In the logical layer, there are different proprietary software that control and restrict the users. And in the content layer we have copyrights which criminalize the act of open access to people's ideas and penalize us for creative freedom.[1]

There is no true answer to whether we have open or closed access to knowledge and data in everyday life. Instead, there is a give-and-take. There is both "commercial expansion and altruistic innovation".[2] There are places on the web that facilitate free and open access to more information one has ever seen and, conversely, there are places on the web that every bit of information is monetized or restricted. And this is just in the Western World—different cultures bring with it different levels of access. Below we will describe and theorize over a just a small sampling of a large debate that has been happening since the beginning of communication technology and will likely continue as we transcend the Internet entirely.


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"That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his conditions, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expandable over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation." - Thomas Jefferson.

The world's first computing networks were established in the US during the Cold War, with the objective of facilitating easier collaboration between scientists.[3] Between then and now, much has changed, and 43.4% of the world's population have had access to the internet in 2015[4] (82.2% in developed countries[4]). The World Wide Web has taken over as our primary source of information in our everyday lives, and it is hard to imagine how life was before.

Various different cultures have given the Internet its distinct features, such as a decentralisation, networking technology, and a modular structure. Such cultures include scientists, hippies, communitarians, political radicals, hackers, public servants, and lastly the influences of the commercial market.[3] It's most important feature, nonetheless, has not changed with the years, which is free access, which is the base of free information sharing between all its users. This bears a significant value to democratic societies, which rely on transparency and open access to information in order to flourish.[5] The political power of the Internet which grants this access is evident when considering the blocking of access that are employed mainly by authoritarian governments.

It is easy in the clutter of information and data that we experience daily to forget how privileged we are in being able to access these at any point in time, with very little geographical restrictions. In the first part of this article, we will thus concentrate on advantages and disadvantages of open access to knowledge and data, before considering in detail the different contexts in which we are currently accessing information through the World Wide Web:

  • We will look at restricted access through many different cases. One way access is restricted is through monetized/commercialized access, where money is being made through people's uses of the internet.
  • We will look at how unlimited access to information has affected our decision making and interactions between others.
  • We will consider various practices of gaining illegal access to restricted information online, how this information is used, and which implications such illegal activities bear with them.
  • We will also examine how access to the internet varies depending on the nation and the culture within that nation.
  • We will consider how search engines such as Google organise our access to information and by doing so, influence what we perceive as relevant or accurate.
  • We will consider how Web 2.0 has enabled ordinary people to create and share their knowledge via Internet.

Main Concepts

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Access Definition

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We live in a day and age where technology is so advanced that there are now so many different devices that we can actually access the internet from. We have phones, computers, laptops, iPads and so much more. The most common way to access the internet is through computers. The computer was invented in the 19th century by mechanical engineer Charles Babbage. As it started out, computers were the only way that we could access the internet, meaning that our access to knowledge and data was limited as we could only use the internet if the computer was close by. In the 1980s the laptop was created by Alan Kay, laptops are portable computers that you can take with you anywhere. This meant that it is easier for people to access information as having portable computers meant that people were no longer limited to one zone. Then of course we have mobile phones, particularly smart phones. When mobile phones were first invented in 1973 they were much simpler than they are now. The internet was not actually invented until the 1980s and was introduced to mobile phones I the 2000s. As well as being able to connect to Wi-Fi (Wireless Internet) 3G was invented and launched in May 2001. 3G allows you to access the internet wirelessly as long as you have signal. It stands for ‘third generation’ as it is the 3rd type of access that technology that has been made widely commercially available for connecting mobile phones. Having 3G on your mobile device means that you can use the internet wherever you go and this means that you are able to access all the information you want whenever you want. With even more advancements in technology, tablets and iPads have also been created. Tablets are basically netbooks but without keyboards. They are touch screen devices and the average iPad is around 9.7 inches in size. These can also be used to access the internet and are becoming increasingly popular, they are very quick and easy to use and allow you to access endless amounts of data and knowledge. With so many different devices allowing us to access the World Wide Web, and other forms of information, we have endless possibilities. We can access the internet pretty much however, and whenever we want.

Types of web access

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Internet access allows individuals to connect to the Internet using different computer devices. Once users are connected to the Internet they are able to access the World Wide Web, email and certain apps. There are so many ways to access the web, we have broadband, wireless, satellite, dial-up and loads more. These ensure that the public can access the web from different zones and again with the change in technology it has now become easier to do so. Users were first able to connect to the Internet through the use of dial-up in the 1990s but with advancements throughout the years, individuals are now able to access through satellites and people can also gain access through wireless connections. The progressions were able to happen very quickly over the years and as of 2014, broadband was abundant all over the world, with a global average connection speed exceeding 4 Mbits.[6]

  • Dial-up

Dial-up is where it all began, and was one of the first ways in which we were able to access the web. Using a PCI Modem connected to the PC, users connect to the Internet when the computer dials a phone number provided by your ISP and connects to the network. Data is sent over an analog, a public telephone and the modem converts received analog data to digital. As this was where it all began, the connection was not great so it would not always work. Dial-up does not tend to get used any more.

  • Broadband and ISDN

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is and international communications standard for sending voice, video, and data over digital telephone lines or normal telephone wires. Broadband ISDN is very similar but it transfers data over fibre optic telephone lines. The signal goes over the power lines that come to your house.

  • Wireless Broadband

The ISP connects to the internet through cabled connection and broadcasts this connection through radio waves. The ISP communicates with a type of antenna and this allows you to access the internet. The ISP broadcasts with such high power and this causes for the signal to travel further. It is a very popular form of accessing the web as there are no wires involved. Though this can slow down the connection as the signals always travel a lot quicker through cables.

  • Satellite

This involved getting internet access through a Satellite Dish. Signals are sent to the satellite and these signals get sent to you for access to the web. This can be slightly slower however, the satellite dish needs to have a clear angle towards the satellite in the sky in order to gain access. If other people in your area also decide to use a satellite dish then there will be a competition to access the signals and will cause the internet to become slow.

The word 'data' originates from the Latin word 'datum', meaning a piece of information. Data are the facts of the world, and are not dependent on being written down or taken note of.

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Knowledge is what we know, our maps of the world. You cannot store knowledge, currently, anywhere else but in the brain. Knowledge, alongside our belief and expectations are what we base our decisions in life on.

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Information is gathered data and knowledge. Information is what can help us to make educated decisions in our lives. It can be gained from our own experiences or stories of other peoples experiences.

Difference between information and data

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It is important to learn the difference between data & information. Data is never incorrect, it can change over time but data can not be incorrect. Information on the other hand could have captured the data incorrectly and therefore be incorrect. Information also captures data at a single point in time, and if the data changes, the information is incorrect. It is important to be wary of the fact that information is not always an accurate representation of existing data.[7]

Advantages of unlimited online information

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Plurality of Views and Opinions

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Due to the constant access to data in first world countries (see "Access to Internet in Countries"), a plurality of views are represented and are able to be seen by anyone who wishes to see it. This makes for a more diverse culture and gives a better representation of all current opinions, as well as giving everyone the ability to share their own.

Rossi [8] argues that different views are a positive thing, and that competition among people with different views (all supported by evidence) leads to higher quality research. If we believe this to be true, then the internet is an invaluable source of positivity, with discussions happening on everything from movie stars [9] to chocolate bars.[10]

Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking is the way we can know what to believe, and how we can use massive amounts of information to make informed decisions.[11] We are forced to critically think about what our own opinions and beliefs are when confronted with many possible choices, such as different opinions on the internet.

The internet is also changing the way that humans think entirely, making us more suited to reading off of screens rather than paper, and making our minds concentrate on multiple tasks at once.[12]


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Collaboration on work is possible across large distances because of our access to knowledge and data in everyday life. This can be for leisure activities, academic studies, business and citizen journalism, and can be done through a variety of mediums within the internet, ranging from video communication to file sharing. These methods are nearly completely free and give us the tools to collaborate on any project we choose to, with anyone we wish to collaborate with. As Bubas [13] discusses, some of these methods can be vulnerable to misinterpretation, untimely responses and even aggression, but ultimately have large potential and an incredible power to unify people in research. Also see Collaboration on the Web.

Business Collaboration

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Businesses can communicate and function from all around the world the same as if they are were in an office together because of our constant ability to download, upload and change files. Multinational corporations can use tools such as Skype to perform conference calls, which reduce the need for global travel, and can be used at very little expense. New ventures such as Skype for Business are always providing more ways in which to facilitate the internet for a better functioning business. Colleagues can now share screens, send files of any size and make regular phone calls from a computer. File sharing websites can also be used instead of sending a document directly to colleagues, so that it is accessible to anyone you allow it to be accessed by. Online storage such as One Drive can also be used to, effectively, create a LAN over the internet.

Academic Collaboration

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More and more academics are using the internet to collaborate with other people around the world, as well as higher academics collaborating with members of their field of study.[14] This very page is an example of how collaboration can be enhanced through use of the internet – a total of 27 contributors (as of 11/03/2016) were able to organise themselves and share ideas purely through the use of their access to the internet, to create a detailed online book on a subject. An example of some higher academic work might be that of Dr Bethan Benwell, who recently performed research on reading groups (which is yet to be published). To do this she collaborated with researchers from India, to the Caribbean, only meeting once prior to research, and then conducting and monitoring the research using the internet to talk with fellow researchers. A slightly different take on this is Eysenbach and Wyatt’s [15] piece on using the internet for surveys and health research, proposing conducting research entirely through online methods. This is becoming an increasingly popular way to conduct research with survey websites being used to perform surveys, such as Survey Monkey , which as of 2015 had 25 million users.

Collaboration on Leisure Activities

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Everyday Leisure activities such as singing, exercising and gaming can benefit from an access to information, to assist in collaboration. ‘Fear of singing’ [16] is an example of this that focuses on encouraging people to sing, by taking singing lessons over Skype. Many others have done similar projects such as providing dancing lesson online.[17] Other evidence of this can be seen in the online gaming community, where games can be played online and players can collaborate to complete goals and earn rewards. Minecraft – a creative building game – has thousands of examples of this, one more prominent one being a recreation of a map from another game. These examples are of course not solving any massive problems in the world, but are proof that even smaller things in the world can be solved through collaboration on the internet.

Access and Information

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Access to unlimited information is a great part of our new world. It allows us to find out things that would help us to make educated decisions on a variety of subjects. There were fears that libraries would become obsolete and that paper books would become a thing of the past but this has not happened. Libraries are becoming more digitised with many offering online access to e-books and physical spaces for people to come in with their laptops/ electronic devices to study.[18]

Anyone who has internet access is able to find out almost anything that they wish. This is particularly helpful when it comes to medical issues. People in the UK can use the NHS website [19] which allows them to look up what their symptoms are and get quick advice which, in many cases, has saved lives.

While most information is fairly easy to find there is information that is kept away from the general public. You have a legal right to any recorded information that is held by public sector organisations through the freedom of information act [20] but it can be denied if the information you request is sensitive or would cost too much.

From a young age we are used to having access to information through asking adults but as we get older and become the adults, it can be harder to find out information. That was before access to the internet was widely available but now we have a tendency of relying on Google to act as the “adult” and give us all the information we want.[21] A report on a study [22] suggested that the way we remember information is changing. Our brains are being rearranged so that we don't remember smaller facts that we can find out in a few clicks. This does not that we are becoming dumber but the way we access and process information is changing.

Informed Decision Making

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As our access to internet gives us the ability to see a plurality of views and opinions it gives our society a near perfect way to inform our every decision. This can range from something as simple as which restaurant to go to to who to vote for in the US election, showing how our access to information can be imperative in keeping a democracy afloat. This can seem close to persuasion into a certain decision (and some search engines can do this [23]) but for the most part using this information to make decisions is incredibly useful for our culture.

Other ways in which this can help us is in much more serious matters such as health advice. Websites such as the NHS can help provide information on how to improve your health, as well as provide crucial information on whether you should see a doctor, what your ailment might be, or even how to save someone’s life. Advice on healthy eating, exercise and other health issues can be found throughout the internet and are always available for us to delve into, should any issues or queries occur.


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Online identity and the ability to find representation online is a crucial part of the development of Web 2.0 and the growth of the Internet. An example of how the Internet has facilitated the ability to find online representation is in the theory of Long Tail economics.[24] The Long Tail essentially shows how society and economy is moving away from focusing on a small number of mainstream products and markets, and moving towards focusing on the huge number of niches at the ‘tail’ of the market. Production used to be a very high-cost business, making anything niche almost inaccessible, but the Internet and the ability to access almost anything has changed the economic landscape and has lessened the overbearing power of conglomerates and market leaders to allow lesser known entities to have a space in the economic world. This ability to unlock diversity, not just in the market but everywhere on the Internet, has led to people being able to find their identity online. As every group can be represented and not silenced by any one dominant discourse, anyone can go online and find websites or people who are like-minded.

The ability to communicate with like-minded people (or just anyone online in general) has always been a major part of the World Wide Web. From the early days of internet forums to the present day social media landscape, people have always been able to communicate with each other. The creation of an online identity has, therefore, always been a cause for debate. Much of the discussion centred on the creation of a ‘false identity’ – becoming a different person online. The idea of facilitating ‘impression management'[25] was thought of negatively. However, the presentation of an online self is not necessarily so negative. Helen Kennedy observed in her studies on media identity that “the subjects showed no signs of wanting to hide their gender and ethnicity and so ‘benefit’ from the possibility of anonymity that cyberspace offered them. Rather, they often made their gender and ethnicity central to their homepages, just as it is central to their identity.”[26] People tend not to want to be anonymous online – instead, they wish to show their true selves, something they cannot always do in real life. Anonymous online settings can be empowering because they facilitate identity exploration, or occupying identity positions which may be difficult to occupy in real life.[27] There is no bias towards gender, race, or class online, which allows for a very different identity experience online as opposed to real life.

Unfortunately, there are also examples of this 'false identity' being very negative. Even with security put in place to stop this negative identity change is still possible to do. People can create false social media accounts to destroy businesses,[28] bully others online Hate and Violence Online or in more serious cases there can be illegal acts such as child grooming [29] (also known as Catfishing). However, this is increasingly being caught onto and security is being tightened online to stop these acts being committed. Online cyber bullying through fake accounts is being cracked down on,[30] fake online reviews for restaurants are being caught onto and stopped in the UK according to an Eater article[31] and new laws are preventing more and more illicit activities online to stop misrepresentation.[32]

An example of how access to data can change the way people represent themselves is through social media. The ability to explicitly show who you are, what you like and dislike, enables other online users to identify themselves by seeing similarities with other people. Coupled with Web 2.0’s capacity to allow anybody to express their own identity through a blog, article, film, or any other creative endeavour and have it viewed by anyone (a further example of the Long Tail economic model) identification through an imagined online community is much easier online than it would be in real life where self-expression is not as easy. As Adrian Athique puts it, “Participating in the new audiences created by the emergence of mass media encouraged individuals to imagine themselves as part of larger and more abstracted social formations. In doing so, they were moved to imagine a community of comparable others in whom they invested a lasting fraternal bond”.[33]

The internet is an extremely valuable, and probably the most important way in which information can be distributed. The high speeds and worldwide audience ensure a broad spectrum of variant information can be found on literally any subject. Within the World Wide Web, one of the fastest and most effective ways in which information travels is through the overwhelming use of social media. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and video streaming sites such as YouTube ensure that information can be posted and will travel at an extremely high speed to an exceedingly large audience. The always-on effect of Social Media is often used in a very positive way to represent people, wether it be public figures, celebrities or your friends and family. The domino effect of hashtags and viral videos, and the popular and constant stream of sharing, reposting and retweeting ensures a quick and effective way for information to be passed. However, social media and the internet are not just used for representing people, their powers are often used as a stage for under-represented groups and overlooked yet often pressing issues within society. Through the use of social media and the power of the internet as a whole under-represented groups, individuals and issues can be given a voice and the world can be educated on matters often swept under the carpet. Many pressing issues such as perspectives and arguments on body image and gender stereotypes, specifically within women have been represented and continue to expand within social media. The huge public response to the “Free The Nipple” campaign highlights this and also debates online censorship and inequalities for women. The internet is also used to represent and raise awareness of issues that are important but are often overlooked, For example, Model Bethany Townsend creates a huge media storm by posing for a photograph in a bikini which openly exposed her colostomy bag to raise awareness for Chron’s disease and to get people to share and discuss the matter with one another. Other viral crazes to highlight important issues include various campaigns from cancer research such as the #barefacedselfie campaign in which women of all ages bared their faces of makeup, and exposed the real them in a big to raise awareness for cancer sufferers. Another successful representation of an important issue was the viral video nomination and challenge entitled the “ ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” which was created to raise awareness and encourage support for disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the campaign was a worldwide phenomenon which entertained and educated whilst representing the disease and sufferers of it.

Police and Law Enforcement Protection

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With such a vast amount of information available online one key advantage of this is using the information to prevent crime and disorder. The police can access the wide information available and assess the nature of the content to prevent criminal activity or to find those responsible for criminal activity that has already happened; the police and law enforcement use this intelligence to prevent crimes from happening in the future. To use the internet for the protection of the public the government and the police access individuals in the public’s information they post online through social media and other websites.

Police can use the information posted online as evidence in proving criminal activity. An example of this is in Chicago where Naperville Detective Rich Wistocki used information posted online as evidence to prove gang and drug related crimes.[34] In this particular case photo evidence was posted online of gang members in possession of drugs, committing illegal graffiti and pointing guns to other individuals. Wistocki (2006) said whilst talking about the individuals posting information on social media "These guys put this out there, thinking that nobody's watching. That it's only their friends, but they are wrong".[34] The police used the easily accessible information posted online as evidence in their case to arrest and detain the individuals that were involved in the criminal activity.

The police can also use the information that members of the public post online in child protection. The government use of internet information to protect children on and offline falls under The National Crime Agency command.[35] They are an organization that use access to information to protect children and prevent Child Exploitation and Online Protection for children. The NCA's CEOP Command (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. They use information to protect children from harm online and offline, directly through NCA led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies.[35] In assessing the content of information that a child is exposed to online they can use this to prevent any harmful or paedophilic actions from happening to them. They can do this by tracking registered offenders who have a sexual interest in children and who have failed to comply with their notification requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as well as tracking potential offenders’ online activity.[36] There is a question however as to if the police go far enough and spend enough time and effort accessing information online to prevent crimes. The article "Police ‘skimming surface’ of online child protection" on harriet line explores how police action online could go further and be more intrusive into the public's information.[37] The hurdle for accessing information online to prevent crime is that there is such a vast amount of information to go through that is available that it can be very hard to find what is relevant in the protection of the public and preventing criminal activity.[38] Another hurdle the police have to overcome in accessing the individuals from the public’s information online is invading a person’s privacy. The article "Online Security and the Protection of Civil Rights:A Legal Overview" Talks about how that the police's use of information online does not against the civil rights of the individual members of the public.[39] The police must comply with the civil rights of people in the public when accessing information and there needs to be a balance between police protection of civil rights, by not invading members of the public's personal information too much.

With such a huge dominance in communication through social media the police can use these social media platforms to search for information of criminal activity through the information shared. By scanning social media the police can protect children online from harmful content or abusive users of social media. The article "Online Police to Hunt MySpace Paedophiles" shows how police have used the information on social media to prevent crime.[40] With reference to MySpace the police used the online information through social media to protect children by searching through potential offenders paedophilic activity.[40]

Disadvantages of unlimited online information

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Information Overload

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Data Smog: coined by journalist David Shenk refers coined the phrase to refer to an overwhelming amount of data and information.[41]

Analysis paralysis: when an individual becomes so lost in the process of examining and evaluating various points of data that he or she is unable to make a decision with it.[42]

Information fatigue syndrome: occurs when we over-expose ourselves to media, technology and information.

No matter what phrase is used, it all means the same. In today’s society, one has access to an abundant amount of data and information. The Internet has only added to the to al that information. So what happens when all that information becomes too much information?

"Too much information for the brain to digest leading to an inability to appraise the situation which in turn leads to feelings of extreme weariness." - 'Information Overload – Myth or Reality', Andrew J. Stanley and Philip S. Clipshain

Unlimited access to technology

There is a constant outflow of information online for users. This is part of the ‘always on’ culture. Users are constantly online on social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snap chat. As so many users are involved in such a large online community, information gets spread and shared consistently. Much of this information is not taken in however, leading to information overload. The information is shared rather than consumed. “We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don't allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.” This quote is saying that with all this technology there is many new ways to learn new information, however it is rather used as a background to more aspects of social media technology. The way to get online to social media websites and to more information is expanding also, with being able to access your social media sights on the go and more easily because of apps on smartphones. Smartphones are also now constantly being updated to make it easier to access Social Media accounts, so the information will keep being constantly flowed to users. The search engine Google allows the user to search for anything, and they will find it. So many use this to find information for work, without really taking in the information. Google can even allow the users to find addresses of people’s houses, and sometimes information on a specific person.

Social Media Overload: Always On Culture

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How it relates to our culture

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Information Overload tends to be a very real everyday problem we, as consumers, face, especially in regards to Social Media and the constant overload of information, notifications through the ‘tethering’ of devices. But what does this mean in effect? Watson describes the functions of media is to inform, educate and entertain. It seems that in practical application of these functions the uses can be helpful and harmful at the same time. Danah boyd, brings up the notation of the ‘Always-On’ culture.[43] This is a state of constant connectivity to communication.[43] That is to say, a constant network to people and information that is perpetuated by the unlimited accessibility to the internet. Boyd comments on the blurring of the boundaries of being online and offline, because of this.[43] This is the notion of the ‘Always-On’ culture.[43] Much of this information is due to the surge in Social Media websites, and what boyd describes in terms of generation as the ‘digital natives’ who are constantly connected with every new evolution of the social media websites.[43] That is to make a generalization, however, as this ‘Always-On’ culture may be common in the younger generation but not strictly for it.[43]

Implies a blurring of the boundaries between our public and private lives

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This creates an argument of the implication of the blur between public and private lives. The overflow of information shared on social media. The ‘overshare’ concept is related here within the excess of information as users become more comfortable sharing information on their private lives within a public space, as, to them they see only a screen which creates an atmosphere of openness to which people could be more inclined to share more about their private lives in a public space then they normally would. Turkle comments on this space which social media provides for constant communication.[44] She reckons that users have become used to the pleasures and privileges social media offers. She comments on the description of life on Facebook as seeming to be better than actual life.[44]

Personal information

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Another problem of the overload of information on social media is an excess of personal information on the user, rather than just vice versa, of the user having too much information from the technological devices. It could be put into question the amount of information on the users. It is no secret that social media websites such as Facebook us the users data to build up selected advertisements specific to the interests, age, gender and location of the users.

We are ‘tethered’ to the technologies we consume

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Turkle comments on the appeal of the technological devices which carter to this always-on lifestyle.[44] Because of the technological advancement it is easier to feed the human qualities of social need, as it creates a feeling of constant connectivity as it makes us feel as if we are never truly alone.[44] This is due to the constant overflow of information of the news feeds of other people’s lives and the constant instant messages which pop up.

  • The ways it makes people disconnected (and stay indoors)

More concerning reactions from the Always-on culture have been brought up through this wave of overload on information within Social media. This includes the ‘tethering’ of devices which make users constantly accessible (boyd). Thus, there tends to be an inclination towards an absences in attention towards physical spaces, and in fact outdoor spaces. Turkle comments on this concern as through networking and social media recreates a physical reality to a striking simulation of the real thing.[44] Through a dependency on social media to connect users around the world at all times, which is constantly accessible.[44] This has created new social problems that were not faced before as people are constantly using their phones and other mobile devices in real life social situations.

  • The fear of missing out

Another concern risen from social media information overload is the constant stream of sharing in what activities users are up to, creates a new idea of the ‘fear of missing out’. Turkle explains this as the news-feeds give information which plays on the normal tendency to seek out missed experiences.[44] It creates a new and overwhelming plethora event memories through tagging and photos for the average user to seek out and being to fear that they have, and maybe currently are, missing out.


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Social media has taken on a new and important role to the current online culture which has overflowed into the real life culture of our generations. Baudrillard critics this excess of information and stimulation provided by social media and the always-on culture, as it being the excess of information provided which creates uncertainty towards real life relations and our relationships with real life.[45] She claims it is the ‘hyper-information’ that claims to offer users useful and enlightening information but really creates a clutter in the social media platforms, and even the technological spaces.[45] It is, however, to our benefit that these spaces can be used with a certain level of understanding and responsibility. There is certainly an argument that can be made that, despite these negative results of the overload of information we are wiser than we have been and a general collection of knowledge and information could be a benefit to the social media culture.

Credible vs. Falsified Information

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"How to differentiate credible from fraudulent information is not a new problem, but unraveling these in the context of a vast rapidly changing networked system is" - Nicholas C. Burbules

Anyone can put anything on the Internet. With access to so much knowledge and data in everyday life, sometimes we need to stop and think about what is considered credible knowledge and data. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word credible as “Able to be believed in, justifying confidence; convincingly honest, principled, or authentic and often, as a corollary, accurate; trustworthy, reliable." [46] Filtering information and knowing how to evaluate what is credible and what is falsified is important.

Criticism and Interpretative Theory professor Nicholas C Burbles mentions three reasons why the internet is a complicated place from a credible standpoint in his research paper “Paradoxes of the Web: The Ethical Dimensions of Credibility.[47]

  1. The Internet has a problem of sheer volume
  2. The Internet is a self sustaining reference system
  3. The Internet is growing at a rapid speed

There is no control over the information on the Internet. Because of that there are some questions that should be asked when identifying if a source is credible or not. Who is publishing the source and what is the purpose? Who is the author and are they well known? Where is the information coming from and is it supported by evidence?

Native Advertising

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It is important to be able to point out cues and signs when deciding what information is credible. Knowing what is news and what is an opinion and considered bias is a difficult task. Even well known news sources had harmed their credibility. This was proven when the Atlantic magazine posted an “article” advertising the church of Scientology. They used a method called Native Advertising.[48]

Altimeter Group defines native advertising as “a form of converged media that combines paid and owned media into a form of commercial messaging that is fully integrated into, and often unique to, a specific delivery platform." [49] What one might think is a news article about scientology is actually bought media. Native Advertising can be looked at as misleading and un-credible. A credible news source must be transparent with its audience. In today's day in age we are seeing concepts like Native Advertising popping up all the time, and consumers have to be even more careful when researching information.

Political Polarisation

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New evidence set forth by Pew Research Centre, suggests that digital media platforms could be unintentionally causing political polarisation in America. The research explores the primary ways in which Americans on both ends of the political spectrum receive information, including the news media, social media and conversations with family and friends. Its findings suggest that media habits of people with more consistent liberal and conservative views differ substantially with people with mixed or centralist views. Despite a unanimous stance from academics that social media has positive implications for political participation, there has been growing concern in America and in other developed countries that the format of social media platforms is having negative implications in terms of public discourse on political issues.[50]

Facebook is now the second most popular means for receiving news on politics in America, only slightly behind local television. It is much more popular than any other social media site, such as Twitter, or YouTube as a news medium. Facebook's simple user interface has allowed it to become highly accessible to almost every demographic and as a result of this it has arguably become one of the staples of 'always-on' culture. Facebook profiles are structured by user generated information shared or 'liked' by 'friends'. Political news on Facebook is therefore largely influenced by an individuals choice of friends. Facebook also uses systematic algorithms that track the kind of content users are liking or sharing so that they can give you more of this kind of content. Political news on Facebook is therefore also based on your behaviour. The result of this style of formatting is that people are less likely to interact with political news and opinion that is not in line with their own ideological beliefs and agendas. According to Pew Research Centre, this phenomenon is more prominent among American conservatives, who are less likely to have Facebook friends with opposing political views, and more likely to only see content on Facebook that fits their own political beliefs,[51] but the overall result is that both liberals and conservatives are living in separate digital spheres whilst browsing Facebook or other social networking sites, and the main form of interaction with politically oppositional social media posts is by chance rather than by necessity. According to the Public Affairs Council, political polarisation is at a 25 year high in America.

Offensive and threatening content

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One of the problems of the Internet is that not only everybody has access to it and can upload data which could be not correct, but that everybody also can upload everything, content and topics they would not talk in their daily, “real” life. These topics can sometimes be offensive or even dangerous. Below are some examples of those topics.

Pornography/sexual abuse

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Pornography are magazines, picture movies etc. that show naked people or sexual acts in order to cause sexual excitement. At least 12% of all websites on the internet are pornographic sites and 35% of internet downloads are pornographic material.[52] Every 1 in 5 mobile searches are for pornography and a quarter of a billion people are expected to be accessing mobile adult content from their tablets or mobile phones by 2017.[53] 69% of pay-per-view Internet content market is pornography and Internet porn alone is a $3 Billion per year business.

Pornography itself is not threatening but 49% of the scenes in porn films contain verbal aggression and even 88% contain acts of physical aggression which can be upsetting especially for kids and teenagers and they may develop a false notion of sexuality. The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old and every 9 out of 10 children aged between 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet. Another problem is that many people become addicted to pornography, because it is available everywhere and anytime on the Internet. And one of the biggest disadvantages of internet pornography is the access and availability of child pornography. There are at least 116,000 searches for “child pornography” every day and more than 100,000 websites offer illegal child pornography. Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children and more than 20,000 images of child pornography are posted online every week. Furthermore, the Internet allows networking among child abuse perpetrators and children may be sexually harassed via the Internet, 1 in 5 children (10 to 17 years old) receives unwanted sexual messages online.


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  • Cyber racism: Racism means the discrimination of a group of people because of their culture, religion, skin colour, nationality or ethnic background. Racists often believe that a hierarchy of the human races exist and that some humans are superior to others.[54] Aggressive or offensive behaviour against other ethnic groups often results from such thinking. Cyber racism is a form of racism and can be defined as racism which happens in the internet including racist images, videos, blogs, online comments and websites. Most racist groups use the internet for communication (e.g. via e-mail), for commerce (e.g. ordering material such as racist clothes, music etc.), to spread their ideas and propaganda and as an alert-system to mobilise groups and individuals.[55] Because of the internet and the new technologies it is possible for racist to publish comments containing racist content which can be seen by thousands of people within seconds.
  • Terrorism: Since 1998 the number of websites run by terrorists or their supporters has grown from a dozen to more than 7000, with pro-jihad sites predominating. A very popular example of terrorists using the internet is the Islamic state. The terrorists’ usage of the Internet can be divided into six types: propaganda, financing, training, planning, execution and cyberattacks.[56] The most important tool of their internet usage are social networks. They use online message boards and chat rooms to coordinate attacks, raise funds, spread propaganda and share information e.g. offering tutorials on building bombs or on how to smuggle themselves into other countries. A very popular example of terrorists using the internet is the Islamic state publishing videos of executions. The videos they publish on the one hand help to raise morale and on the other hand are a method to demonstrate their power to western countries. These videos are very dangerous because the terrorists present themselves as heroes and because of that more people, especially young people, want to join them.
  • Self-harm: Self-harm or self-injury describe the act of hurting oneself, inflicting physical harm on your body. Most people who self harm do it by cutting themselves, but it also includes burning, hitting or breaking bones etc. The main reasons for self-injury are depressions. In the UK one in every 130 people injured their body on purpose. A study performed by Cardiff University has found that there is a direct link between people, especially young people, who self-harm and their internet usage.[57] They found out that young people often search for pictures showing injuries and that those pictures almost become a part of their self-harm ritual. One study reviewed by an Oxford research team found out that ‘of 15 teenagers who had carried out particularly violent acts of self-harm, 80% said they had gone online to research self-harm beforehand. Of 34 who self-harmed by cutting, 73% said they had researched it online'.[58]
    • Suicide: In 2012 in the UK 5.981 people killed themselves and many people fear a possible connection between the internet and suicide.[59] When you search for “suicide websites” in Google there are about 34.400.000 results. Worldwide a few thousand of suicide websites exist. Some of them are just a forum for people with depression or suicidal thoughts were they can talk about their feelings and are offered help. But there are also a lot websites which give actual advice on how to commit suicide and encourage vulnerable people. In Australia those pro-suicide websites have been forbidden ages ago, but in the UK they are not illegal. In 2014 Hajime Sueki published articles about his research on suicidality-related internet use.[60] Based on his findings he concluded that “suicide ideation, depression, anxiety, and loneliness do increase with certain types of suicide-related Internet use”. And Professor Paul Montgomery, from the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention at the University if Oxford, said: 'We are not saying that all young people who go on the internet increase their risk of suicide or self-harm. We are talking about vulnerable young people who are going online specifically to find out more about harming themselves or because they are considering suicide already. The question is whether the online content triggers a response so that they self-harm or take their own lives and we have found that there is a link.'[61]
    • Eating disorder: Eating disorders can mean eating a large amount in a short period of time or eating very little but also eating non-food items. The most popular of those diseases is probably bulimia where people eat a lot and then vomit on purpose to get rid of it. Just as the suicide websites there are many forums offering help to those who suffer from eating disorders but also many sides to encourage them. If you google the words “thin and beautiful” the first two results are pro-ana, meaning pro-anorexia, websites.[62] Jennifer Van Pelt, MA assumes that “hundreds of pro-ana and pro-mia Web sites are active and hundreds, if not thousands more, link to blogs, forums, and pro-ana Internet images that are easily located by the young cyber generation”. Those websites give advice e.g. about weight loss methods and tell readers how to hide it from their friends or families. Some of the websites claim to help those who suffer from eating disorders to get rid of their illness by giving them e.g. “healthy” eating tips but are actually pro-ana. Other forums and blogs pretend to be “diet sides”. Those pro-eating disorder websites can be really dangerous by encouraging people to lose even more weight and telling them that disorders like anorexia or bulimia aren't illnesses but a lifestyle.

Consumerism Online

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As the Internet has become more and more popular, its power as a base for advertising and promotion has exploded. The average person spends over 20 hours a week on the internet, which is three times more than it was ten years ago.[63] Companies, websites and pretty much everyone else has seen the marketing possibility of the Internet and as a result, it is almost impossible to avoid a constant stream of marketing and promotion. Searching, signing up, registering, recommending, rating are all central activities that the user of online media must submit to. These practices go on to create value by providing consumer behaviour data which then feeds back into search algorithms, making even more targeted advertising possible.[64] Measuring user behaviour and collecting data about them is the key way in which advertisers target audiences online. It is a recent phenomenon – user data was much harder to collect and store back when advertising focused on television and newspapers. Nowadays, however, everything a user does online is collected and sold to companies so they can create targeted advertisements that fit the image of the user that the company creates based on the data they collect. Companies now have access to almost everything an online user does.

One of the most contentious and hotly debated cases of data collection is that of Facebook. In 2015, the Belgian data protection agency commissioned research into Facebook’s methods for collecting data from its users. The subsequent report discovered that not only does Facebook track everything you do anywhere online when you're signed in to Facebook, but it also tracks everything even when you are signed out. Furthermore, Facebook can (and do) track data from anyone who visits their website even if the person does not have a Facebook account or has explicitly opted out of having their data collected.[65] There are many arguments relating to a breach of privacy that can be made in relation to this. At what point does tracking for marketing purposes become a breach of privacy? How do we know our data isn't being used for things other than marketing? These questions are almost impossible to conclusively answer because, as it is such a new and modern development, the rules surrounding data tracking are very vague and the companies that collect the data are not vocal about how and what it is that they do.[66] What it does mean, however, is that our online experiences are being packaged up and sold back to us by companies. Data tracking is just the start of the consumerisation of the Internet.

Monetized Access

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While access to the internet had its origins in open-source technology, where the ethos of the internet revolved around the internet being open and free-to-use, attempts to commercialize and profit from people's access to the internet has been enormous. Net Neutrality and Copyright are two recent debates surrounding capitalist attempts to commercialize and monetize internet usage and information found online. These debates are current - none are less than four years old. Internet is the new frontier for economists and capitalists and they attempt to limit access in exchange for monetary subscriptions.

Net Neutrality

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Networks are a key part of access to the internet - in order to access information, one needs to be connected to the network. A debate currently is circulating about how the technical networks should be run and how they should be built. Who gets what access? Different perspectives come from many different groups - technology companies, established media corporations, and users themselves. Governments must take into account all these perspectives when considering who gets what access. Australia, for instance, directly funds the building of these networks as it regards them as a key part of "economic infrastructure".[67] When private companies own these networks, the next question becomes how these networks can be used... and how they can be monetized.

Net neutrality is the concept that all service providers should treat data the same and that all processing and transfer speeds should be the same across particular content. All data should be considered the same so it all has the same transfer speeds, which means one piece of data cannot be prioritized on top of another. This is the world we have right now - we all have equal access. It protects free speech and makes sure that the networks are open.[68] Net neutrality means that Internet Service Providers [ISP's] should not have discriminatory access to what the user says or posts online and how that content is transferred to others.[69] It protects the flow of data on the internet. Without it, ISPs can split the internet into "fast" and "slow" lanes. This means that some data would get prioritized and move over faster networks. An ISP could block political opinions it disagreed with, charge fees to companies that could prefer fast treatment, and put everyone else on the "slow" lane. It could, in essence, destroy the open internet as we know it.[69]

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt (cited in Media Convergence: Networked Media in Everyday Life) explains the issue like this:[68]

Today, the internet is like an information highway where anybody - no matter how large or small, how traditional or unconventional - has equal access. But then the phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block the on-ramps for those who can't pay.

Net neutrality - or open access to all levels of information on the web - is crucial to many. Small businesses, for example, rely on the internet to start up their companies. Business launches, customer contact, product distribution, etc. is all done via the web. Without open internet, people would not be able to find their websites or access would be slow and methodical. Net Neutrality keeps the playing field open for everyone, new or established. It's what makes new entrepreneurs able to start up without having to fight (as hard) for prominence. Without it, ISPs would act as gatekeepers, keeping new businesses from launching.[69] It is also important for people of color and other minorities. Without net neutrality, unpopular opinions could be silenced and people of minorities would lose a critical platform for them to be heard. Without many broadcast stations available to them on mainstream media, the Internet is an important platform where people can be heard and ideas and stories can be exchanged. Also, removing net neutrality would cause small businesses by minorities to suffer even more and could widen economic disparities in many first-world countries.[69]

Net Neutrality Debate

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The first FCC policy meant that Internet Service Providers had to treat all content equally because that was the foundation of the internet. People can run whatever they'd like and no one can be put in a "faster lane" than anyone else. In late 2014 and early 2015, however, ISPs started to question if they could charge faster internet rates to people who could pay for the privilege.[70]

Net Neutrality Protest

The concept of Net Neutrality was enshrined in the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)'s 2010 "Open Internet Order". But it faced major challenges by large companies and lost in a lawsuit against Verizon in September 2013. Verizon - and other big name companies against net neutrality - want more control over the networks they're providing. Some assert that the "net neutrality requirements are unconstitutional". Some argue their "elimination will bring more job opportunities".[70] The debate mainly hinges on the concept of control - companies that paid billions want to be able to regulate their investments.[71]

Supporters of net neutrality are fundamentally against the concept of regulating the internet's speeds - they see the internet "as a utility, essential for individual learning, working, civic participation and free expression, as well as economic competition and innovation".[71] In other words, the Internet is too critical for too many people across wealth and civic divides to have fast and slow lanes, dividing people by wealth and income.

When the FCC invited public comment on the issue, it received overwhelming backlash from grassroot supporting groups of Net Neutrality. It "elicited 3.7 million comments, as well as a storm of debate on Twitter and an avalanche of press coverage" and even President Obama supported the concept of net neutrality.[71]

The Knight Foundations' interactive graphic breaks down the net neutrality debate into a simple, easy to follow interactive presentation. It's main findings were that the overwhelming amount of public opinion was fundamentally pro-net neutrality - people did not want to break the internet into another capitalist divider of "have" and "have-nots". However, according to the study by the Knight Foundation, male and urban voices were heard almost entirely - local communities were not pressed for comment on this issue.[71]

In the US, this fight has found support in favor of pro-net neutrality supporters, but this may change in the imminent future.

Net Neutrality Laws (Outside the USA)

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The Global Net Neutrality Coalition has an interactive map where it breaks down net neutrality laws (both pro-and-against net neutrality) in different regions of the world. It also contains more in-depth information about the debate as it pertains across the world, proving access to the internet highway is still a contested, powerful issue.

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Copyright- or rather, the act of putting legal protection on an author's work - is a piece of legislation that makes the work "intellectual property that provides exclusive publication, distribution, and usage rights for the author".[72] Copyright has been part of the popular narrative since the invention of the printing press and the first books started being published and disseminated across the world. When the U.S. Constitution is ratified in 1788, Article I, Section 8 gave Congress the power to 'Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries".[73] This was put into law to protect the author (or creator's) labor. The original statute was created in order to balance the needs of the consumer and society with the interests of authors. In exchange for producing something which would increase the good of all society, authors were given possession of their work, like a form of property. This would, hopefully, motivate them to make more works.[74]

In his article, The Creative Destruction of Copyright: Napster and the New Economics of Digital Technology, Dr. Raymond Shih Ray Ku explains that copyright protected the rights of the author but also focused more heavily on the rights of the publisher/distributor of the product. While ideas are countless and free, distributing a product can be costly. Copyright allowed for a market to appear around works of authorship because it "artificially rendered these works scarce and exclusive".[75] Jessica Litman, author of The Exclusive Right to Read, argues that "by establishing a marketable right to use one's expression, copyright supplies the economic incentive to create and disseminate ideas".[76] Without copyright legislation, then, it would be much more difficult for an author to afford to spend their time creating works of authorship.

What happens, then, with the invention of new digital technology? Dr. Raymond Shih Ray Ku, mentioned previously, argues that copyright law quickly found itself in a "digital dilemma".[77] Technology created the ultimate access to copyrighted information without having to pay for the product. Able to make nearly unlimited copies of any form of digital creativity (music, books, videos, etc.) nearly at the "speed of light",[78] it became incredibly easy for online distributors to make nearly perfect copies of the original instantaneously. In a study in his article based in 2001, Dr. Shih Ray Ku argued that copying was so inexpensive and simple that it could be done by anyone. By "reducing information to binary digits"[79] and reproducing them, digital media can be transferred easily without the need for a physical form, able to be stored on hard drives, memory sticks, etc.[80] According to the study in 2001, home computers could make and distribute information at "a billion bits per second".[81] Take that and compare it to today, in 2016, and it's likely nearly double or triple that.

To officers who control copyright problems, this is dangerous, as anyone with a computer and an internet connection could be a potential distributor of pirated media. However, it opens the question of access versus restriction. Should digital works be covered under copyright at all? Copyright was created originally because distribution was costly and writers/producers needed to make money. While ideas can spread freely, tangible documents like books and albums have to come at a price. But when that cost moves to zero, as it does in the case of digital access to media, should we still have to pay copyright fees? In the end, it's laws and politics, not technology, that will determine the answer.

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There are two different sides in the Digital Copyright Debate, who Dr. Shih Ray Ku fondly titles the "Copyright Optimists" and the "Copyright Pessimists". The Optimists feel that the law should prevent digital technology from being used for free copying and should recognize author's rights to use technology to lock up digital content.[82] Paul Goldstein, author of Copyright Highway argues:[83]

The digital future is the next, and perhaps ultimate, phase in copyright's long trajectory, perfecting the law's early aim of connecting authors to their audiences, free from interference by political sovereigns or patrons. The main challenge will be to keep this trajectory [...] and to extend rights into every corner where consumers derive value from literary and artistic works.

Instead of completely forbidding the digital sharing of music and other forms of digital authorship, Copyright Optimists desire what Paul Goldstein calls a "celestial jutebox"[84] - an option online where many forms of digital media is available and consumers have to pay-per-use. Under this mentality, acts that have been historically considered "free" under copyright's "fair use" doctrine (recording a TV show, copying a newspaper to share with friends, or creating mix tapes/CDs) would be considered copyright infringement.

Also, it is the Copyright Optimists that understand that technology can also allow greater control over distribution of information. According to Mark Stefik, author of Shifting the Possible: How Trusted Systems and Digital Property Rights Challenge Us to Rethink Digital Publishing, "authors and publishers can have more, not less, control over their work" through computer code and encryption that can be used to prevent "unauthorized access to digital content".[85]

On the other side, there are the Copyright Pessimists, also known as the "Fair Use Response". They are not against copyright as a concept and a protection of intellectual property, but they do not wish for it to expand like "copyright optimists do".[86] They believe that copyright should be:

interpreted under a democratic paradigm that recognizes the need to maintain copyright as a means of supporting a system of self-reliant authorship, diversity, and the dissemination of information while still imposing limits consistent with copyright's democracy-enhancing function.

This means that copyright should be a way for authors to be supported and given rights to whatever they create but it should be limited in order to not restrict or repress any other citizen in a democratic civilization. They feel that copyright should move over "in lieu of a vibrant public domain" and that if expansion of copyright should happen, it should "reflect what the public considers to be legitimate uses of works of authorship".[87]

These two sides create what is known as the "Incentive-Access" Paradox, where " encouraging creativity comes at the expense of public access but allowing uncompensated access to works reduces the incentive to create future works". This paradox between public access and creativity is the hinge of this debate and an answer still hasn't been worked out on how exactly copyright and digital technology fits in. Cases over copyright misuse are rife in digital history, even down to quite recently. An answer still hasn't been located.

Stop Online Piracy Act: A Debate

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A prominent example of the two sides of the copyright debate happened in 2012 in America. In this debate over the prospective law: the "Stop Online Piracy Act", American citizens and businesses fought against the government and large media corporations to try to protect their rights to access media. This bill was extremely controversial and created a large uproar.[88]

Labeled as a "proposed bill that aims to crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host or facilitate the trading of pirated content", the bill targeted overseas websites like torrentHub and PirateBay where users could access recent and past media sources for free and download it without paying copyright. The American government could not shut down these sites directly, as their servers are hosted in countries far beyond American jurisdiction. The "Stop Online Piracy Act" would instead shut down these sites where they reached American citizens - search engines wouldn't show their content, PayPal wouldn't submit payments, etc. Payment and advertising websites would also be notified if one of their customer sites was "dedicated to the theft of US property" and were forced to shut down services immediately to that site.[88]

Opponents of the bill argued it promoted censorship and was written to be full of unintended consequences. The wording was one point of contention - sites could potentially be in trouble if it "facilitated" copyright breaches. Under this, sites like YouTube would be immediately shut down if users posted copyrighted content, even if it in no way promoted this behavior. An Anti-SOPA group titled "NetCoalition" argued that "the legislation systematically favors a copyright owners intellectual property rights and strips the owners of accused websites of their rights in exchange".[88]

Wikipedia Stages Blackout to Protest SOPA Law

The bill created a large fight between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over rights of intellectual property versus the rights of online businesses. Supporters of the bill argued that "online piracy leads to US job losses because it deprives content creators of income". SOPA was meant to "revamp a broken copyright system" that "doesn't prevent criminal behavior". Opponents responded by accusing Hollywood and media corporations that they "didn't understand the Internet's architecture" and therefore "don't appreciate the implications of the legislation". SOPA would require websites to be constantly monitored and therefore risk censorship breach and the restriction of free speech.[88]

SOPA gathered many supporters from grassroots movements sponsored by technological corporations like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Google. Site blackouts, city protests in multiple big US cities (New York, San Francisco, etc.), and petitions drew over seven million protesters. 2.4 million negative tweets were sent on the day the bill was supposed to be signed.[88][89]

Due to the uproar of the American people and the pressure from big-budget corporations such as Google, the bill was tabled on January 20, 2013. Even the White House claimed that the bill "posed a real risk to cyber-security". Even today, new versions of the bill are being considered and passed, even if SOPA is not.[88]

While SOPA was defeated in the US, a version was released in Australia in 2015. The bill "will allow copyright holders of content like film and television to apply to the Federal Court for an injunction forcing ISPs [Internet Service Providers] to block foreign websites that facilitate piracy". European laws are also being stretched to incorporate similar laws to SOPA, as they are allowed to make companies take effective measures to "prevent a third party from using their services to infringe an intellectual property right".[89][90]

This bill debate is just one example of the ""Incentive-Access" Paradox mentioned earlier. Access to information must be balanced with the rights of the copyright holders. When does protecting the rights of a few overpower protecting the rights of the many? It's a question many governments are still debating.

Web 2.0

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Web 2.0 has developed from World Wide Web and is part of the Internet. The Internet is a collection of networks that link computers together enabling computers to send and receive data through globally agreed protocols.[91] World Wide Web is the collection of web pages hosted by the computers. It was invented in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The original purpose for World Wide Web was to make it easier for scientists to share their research results. But they were not just scientists who benefitted from World Wide Web, it made it easier for everyone to get information, share and communicate.[92] The bursting of the Dot-com bubble in the fall 2001 marked a turning point for the web making it more important than ever.[93]

Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty developed Web 2.0 in a brainstorm meeting in 2004. Later that year it was introduced to the public.[94] Web 2.0 does not have a precise definition, which is why some people consider it as a meaningless marketing buzzword while others accept it as a new conventional wisdom.[93] Web 2.0 has certain features which define it and make it different from Web 1.0. Those features can be listed as:

  1. Services with cost-effective scalability
  2. Control over unique data sources that get richer as more people use them
  3. Trusting users as co developers
  4. Harnessing collective intelligence
  5. Software above the level of a single device
  6. Lightweight user interfaces, development models and business models.[93]

Web 2.0 was based on the idea of a software that is constantly being upgraded and improved. It also was no longer to be limited to PC platforms; Web can now be accessed with multiple devices including phones and tablets. Google’s breakthrough in search using the link structure of the web made researching and use of the web even simpler. The web has enabled people to access the information fast and easily.[93]

The shift from Web 1.0 to 2.0 is characterised by co-creativity, participation and openness. The new software support social networking sites, blogging and tagging and make it possible for people without special technical skills to create content.[91] Web 2.0 changed the dynamics of content creation in a way that the former audience now decides what is important.[93] There is no external authority controlling the knowledge and data; the users have taken that role.[91] Co-creativity and the idea of equivalence in the power relationship in creation process define Web 2.0. The Web grows in response to user activity; Data sources get richer as more people use them. Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence, turning the web into a kind of global brain.[93]

The Creation of Knowledge

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The role of the audience has changed significantly during the era of the Internet. Traditionally people participated in media either as producers or audiences (also called consumers or receivers).[95] The audience discussed the texts and made use of them, but they did not produce media themselves.[96] When the public internet in 1990 made it possible for anyone to publish media content the distinction between consumers and producers collapsed.[95]

More and more people with access to an Internet started to publish Internet content. The previously passive audiences became active. Cycle of communication between producers and audiences emerged diminishing the line between the two. In the past decade when the social media and user-driven platforms have become popular even the distinction between audiences and the content have started to blur. The former audiences are actively creating data and sharing their knowledge. Now people can, not only publish media texts, but also take part in the design of the programs, software components and web services that can be used for media production.[95]

Collaboration in order to create new knowledge is part of the Internet. Wikipedia relies on collaboration and it is commonly considered that multiple contributions create a sum of knowledge greater than its parts .[94] Collaboration between academics and non-academics are needed when it comes to the production of new knowledge. It has been argued that the science today is post-academic.[96] This Mode 2 type of knowledge is generated within a context of application, is reflexive, and based on new forms of quality control.[96] Digital media plays a part in collaboration by helping to coordinate work and to distribute the results. It seems that the academics do not have a monopoly of knowledge anymore.[96]

User-Generated Content

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Each minute thousands of weblog posts, comments, video clips and pictures are created. New technologies have enabled users to publish content on the Internet. The content is increasingly “pulled by the users instead of “pushed” onto them. That content created by users is referred to as User-generated Content.[94]

Web 2.0 offers encouraging platform for user-generated content. Though its platform, almost everything can be done. It allows interaction. Information can be discovered and received through web and published instantly. Text, pictures and videos can be shared with a marginal costs close to zero, which encourages users to share what they have. Commenting, modifying and adding links to additional content, the original piece changes. Having multiple contributions is adding together knowledge of many, which is supposed to create sum of knowledge greater than its parts. Thus user generated content is also harnessing collective intelligence.[94]

One of the significant features of the Web 2.0 era is the rise of blogging. Mandiberg [97] considers blogging to play a part in knowledge creation:

"If an essential part of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence, turning the web into a kind of global brain, the blogosphere is the equivalent of constant mental chattering in the forebrain."


Blogging is not just users posting their thoughts and opinions on issues, it is shaping the Internet. Bloggers are the most voluminous and timely linkers on the web. The search engines use the link structure of the web to predict useful pages. Therefore, bloggers are shaping search-engine results and knowledge other users. Blogging is acting as a kind of a filter by harnessing collective intelligence of all the bloggers.[93]

User-generated content has been both praised and criticized. It has positive effects. It enables direct democracy and grassroot activism. It offers a field for creative expression and bypasses the existing media distribution monopolies. But it is also connected interpassivity, long-term detrimental effects on cognition and concentration. User generated content has been criticized for quantity taking the place of quality and how the demands on individual choice grow beyond limits.[96]

The boundaries separating professional and amateur publishers are vanishing when the user-generated content is getting more popular. It is now recognized as a powerful new information channel. Also remarkable economic value is often attributed to user-generated content <.[94] Operations like Wikipedia, MySpace and YouTube are model examples of user-generated content. During the new media era of user-generated content everyone is allowed to have a voice, a place and space in the new knowledge based digital economies.[91]

User-Generated Content in Professional Media
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The fading distinction between media audience and producers meant the end for traditional top-down journalism. Today the citizens are increasingly publishing and sharing their stories in online communities. Anyone can upload and publish content without editorial moderation or filtering. This participatory culture challenges traditional journalism. News organization have to adapt and embrace participatory qualities of the online environment. To maximise the value of user-generated content as a source news organizations have created different forms of participatory journalism.[98]

The BBC was a pioneer in using user-generated content. It established BBC News Online already in 1997 to allow their viewers to comment on topics or make story suggestions.

"Public service in this context meant serving that section of the public which wished to contribute to the BBC’s news content, and thus at the same time that segment of the public which wished to consume it as part of their news diet" - McNair, Rethinking Journalism, 2013, p.82.

Also other professional media organizations are combining their resources and practices with the readers who search newsworthy stories and angles. User generated content and Web 2.0 platforms have proved to be most useful and visible in the coverage of emergency or crisis events. When the journalists can not be where the action is the user-generated content can overcome time constraints and physical distances. One of the most popular forms of participatory journalism has been comment sections attached to news articles. They allow audiences the opportunity to react and comment as well as debate and discuss the news with each other and journalists.[98]

Journalists and editors have been nervous about the merging of journalistic content with audience content because of the concerns over the quality, newsworthiness, credibility and decency of user-generated content. User-generated content has also been seen as free labour which is threatening professional journalism. However others think that the globalized public sphere should be accessible to the content-generating users and professional journalist should pick up the role of supervisor and use their skills to bring order and meaning to information chaos. User-generated content can be useful to professional journalism.[98]

More about user-generated content can be found from here

Collaboration on the Web

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Nowadays there seems to be a confusion when it comes to terms 'share' and 'collaborate'.[99] That confusion is created by user-generated content and social media. Sharing a content does not directly lead to collaboration. Collaboration requires multiple people working together in order to achieve something. In blogs the content is the social object, and the author is directly attributed with it so it is not actually collaboration. It is individual piece of work. In other words: if the body of work can stand alone, it is not collaborative. Sites like Wikipedia that deemphasizes the tight content-author link are then strongly collaborative. They consists of small contributions which create the content. These sites have a many-to-many relationship, in which many different users can be associated with many different entries or projects.[99]

Social media platforms can become collaborative when they add an additional layer of coordination which aggregate the content into new social object. Then the content is connected to other similar units and together they form a bigger picture. Each shared individual unit is included in a cluster of shared units and a single blog post takes its place in a blogosphere discussion.[99]

Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer have introduced the term “Collaborative Media” to define the contemporary media.[96] “New media” is the most commonly used term for capturing contemporary media and contemporary media practices, but Löwgren and Reimer considered it to be an outdated term. Term “Collaborative Media” focuses on the action-oriented component of media. Collaborative media are open for interactions which lead to the creation of experiences that change people’s dispositions and worldviews. Collaborative medium is a form of mediated communication whereby people collaborate on messages, content and meaning. Some media forms are more suitable for collaboration than others but only when they are used collaboratively they become collaborative media. In this context Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are collaborative mediums although they might not always fit into the definition of collaboration given above.[96]

More about collaboration in everyday life is explained in the section Collaboration

Wiki World
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Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia created collectively by its users. Wikipedia is the prototypical model of an open source user-generated knowledge world. Its popularity and rapid growth is a demonstration of the way that users create value, which in Wikipedia is knowledge.[91] Wikipedia is based on the notion that an entry can be added by any web user and edited by any other.[93]

Single unit in Wikipedia is created to only function as a part of a larger social object. Outside the collaborative content it loses its integrity. Therefore, edits to Wiki page cannot exist outside the context they are made. Therefore, it is highly collaborative site. In order to work collaboration requires goals. There might be one or more goals and all edits advance those collaborative goals. In Wikipedia the goal is to make the article more accurate and factual. Without shared goals the collaboration changes to weaker, intentional practice.[93]

As collaborative work can have more than one intent it can also have several repercussions. A single action can imply different group associations and even incriminate or legitimize the other.[93] Collaboration also relies on trust. The trust on Wikipedia is based on unpaid work of the Wiki community to edit and check entries. This self policing community is an important feature of knowledge production environment. Because every edit in Wikipedia can be traced the knowledge produced is transparent. Therefore, attribution in Wikipedia is primarily used as a moderation and accountability, not to claim credit for the content.[91]

Concept of Wisdom of the crowd suggests that information aggregation from many individuals creates superior outcome than information from one individual. Collective intelligence is shared wisdom that emerges from collaboration.

"No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity. There is no transcendent store of knowledge and knowledge is simply the sum of what we know." -Lévy, Collective intelligence: mankind's emerging world in cyberspace, 1997, pp.13-14

Pierre Lévy came to a conclusion in 1997 that the real time coordination of intelligence has to involve digital communication methods.[100] These new communication systems would provide members of community access to the same virtual universe of knowledge. Members of different communities would be able to interact within that cyberspace sharing what they have. Cyberspace represented a space of interaction among knowledge and knowers in deterritorialized intelligent communities. He considered the time to be the age of knowledge, where failure to recognize others as intelligent beings was same as denying their social identity. He supposed that the he Internet would be harnessing collective intelligence.[100]

The concept of Web 2.0 acts as a new communication platform in the Internet. It enables individuals to combine and generate knowledge. According to the theory of wisdom of the crowd multiple contributions are supposed to create a sum of knowledge that is greater than its parts. Internet is constantly changing. Web 2.0 has enabled users to constantly modify and add information to the sites as well as interact with each other, which changes the nature of the knowledge of the Web. Web does not have an editorial control but the control of content is distributed between the users. Therefore, it is representing participatory democracy. Now, Web 2.0 has the potential to harness collective intelligence.[94]

Mark Elsner argues that the information propagation process in the Internet is not that impartial.[94] His research has indicated that the propagation process is largely affected by aspects of the submitter’s network. Based on those networks some user-generated content aquair high level of visibility, while others dissolve without attaining any significant public notice. There is inefficiency in information propagation on the Web 2.0 in general but it is especially biased on user controlled social news sites. That might make it more difficult for user-generated content to have appropriate impact on a broader social scale. Elsner argues that the concept of wisdom of the crowd and the collective intelligence are therefore not working on the web as well as they are often claimed to do.[94]

Digital Divide

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The digital divide consists of a range of many different factors that contribute to many different factor contributing to the differences in access across the world. A quote that sums up the divisive nature and crux of this section is that 'Technology excludes people as well as uniting them.' This central argument can be found in the following sub-sections as we examine the extent and consequences of only some of these issues raised and explored below.

The Gender Divide

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The idea of technology is to use it to use it to solve age old problems with the new technology at our disposal. However old world problems are still present. The way technology is presented is that it is easy to use and easily accessible. If there are any problems, it is not with the technology it is with the user of the technology. This is the general viewpoint adopted by many. This viewpoint has created a fear of needing help from users. It has also channelled a gender argument, with a view created that it is women, who have this fear of technology. Judy Wajcman “argues that western societies construct technological competence as a masculine culture” (Wajcman 1991, pp. 137–61). This is saying that it is a western society’s viewpoint that technology is viewed upon as a masculine culture, despite there being many technologies that women excel at using. Wajcman’s argument is that women are constructed, and construct themselves, as ‘other’ to men and that this creates a ‘Calculated ignorance’. As Gray states, ‘although women routinely operate extremely sophisticated pieces of domestic technology...they often feel alienated from operating the VCR’ (Gray, 1987, p. 43).

Statistics show the effect of society’s view on gender in technological companies. Women are a low part of massive social network sights workforce, a big part of the new wave of technology.

• Yelp - only 1 in every 10 tech employee is a woman

• Google - women comprise 18 percent of the company's tech employees

• Facebook's - 16 percent

• Twitter - 10 percent

This shows the low amount at which these companies have women In their workforce.

Gender Divide Begins Early

Research into this subject shows that gender technological divide can start from an early age. The way that boys and girls are socially developed from first learning allows these gender stereotypes to begin to take effect. One of the first way’s in which children interact with technology is through video games, however this more suited to male’s, down to competitive nature involved. So this makes video games to be marketed towards males rather than females. This can be a start of Males becoming more confident with the use of technology. On the flipside of this females start to not feel as confident and stressed they will not interact with the technology as well as males. As the age group’s increase Males become even more and more confident with technological use, while female’s confidence and ability levels decrease.

Barriers to technological Access for Women

Cultural: The cultural views of most societies on women as subordinates compared to male counterparts seems to be a main barrier of access. As long as women are seen across different cultures in this subordinate view they are always going to struggle to get a space in technological jobs. Evans and King notice that they are "almost insuperable obstacles to women's participation in education" (Evans and King 1991).

Perceived attitudes: The pre conceived attitude’s that many have of the difference in the roles in which males and females can succeed based on pre -set assumptions on which sex is better at. This creates barriers for women such as lack of self-esteem in roles in which others do not deem them acceptable enough to work in based on their gender.

Gender roles: Women who do want to attend classes that would allow for them to become more knowledgeable in technological aspects generally struggle due to roles assigned to them. A main example of this is family commitments, the conceived roles assigned is that the women stays at home and looks after the family, while the man goes out to work or learn. These thought patterns are another example of barriers for women.

Institutional: These barriers can arise because of a lack of support from companies and teaching programmes based on gender roles, which affect women. For example, no child care services, hours that are fixed so affect women with children, lack of female teachers, male orientated teaching, and overall a more male look from the companies.

The Generational Divide

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The millennials, otherwise known as the 'Internet generation' were first generation that had access to internet. This generation uses the internet more frequently and opt for using the web for a large amount of purposes than their previous generation. Their more advanced usage of the internet creates a generational digital divide between the different generations. [5]

The use of technology amongst the millennials and generations coming after have been incorporated in their life at such a young age they hold are superior in knowledge of how to use it. Technology is such a major part of today's society, and one would not think it affects people but there is a generational divide that sets older generation apart from the millennials skills. The elderly is one subsection that is affected by this, they grew up in a different time, a time which did not always have access to the internet so they had to learn much later in life than, say the millennials did. As today's society, a major part of it is based on using technology, and navigating online this affects some people. When not as skilled with internet and technology they are often seen as untrusted to work with technology, even in the simplest forms and this often causes difficulty in finding jobs for them. This problem does not as often occur in younger generations as they in fact were raised with technology and internet incorporated in their life.

The older generations still uses the internet though; this drops of however at age 75. The elderly just find themselves with technological obstacles. Generations are influenced by their adolescent technology attitudes. The elderly did not have a technological attitude in their adolescence as they grew up within a different culture one in which technology was not a part of. Gidden's (1991) noted that "a generation is a distinct kinship cohort or order which sets the individual’s life within a sequence of collective transitions". Another obstacle for the elderly is a lack of motivation. IT sectors are aware of the higher users of technological use, and use this to their advantage. They target younger groups, for sales and for easier access to their technological devices. There is a lack of care to the elderly’s disadvantages, for example visual impairment. Phones, a major part of the technological generation, are already very small, and being designed to look smaller constantly. This lack of care from product developers creates a lack of motivation to get involved from the elderly, and decide to just not get involved. This lack of motivation creates a bigger gap between the youth and elderly in technological terms.

The Class Divide

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The idea of a class system when it comes to the differences in accessibility of technology may seem archaic but it is relevant in today's society that it may have ever been before. This idea of poverty in relation to access of informational technologies has overarching implications for issues such as 'gender, age, social class, cultural grouping, education, disposable income, ethnicity and indigeneity, and geographical location.' (Green, 2001)

One of the barriers to access for people who are the least well of in society is disposable income. This means that the less money that a group of people have the more they become neglected by the companies and those that do have. This results in less well off people becoming neglected and so 'not targeted consumers of information, communication and up-market products.' (Green, 2001)

Therefore, with limited access to consumer technology they have little control over the discourse formed around them. With no or little access they may become less involved in wider issues such as politics in general for example. As a consequence this could also factor or fuel ideas of economic disparity leading to the misrepresentation of large groups of people; 'Most of the information within consumer societies are ignorant of the lives and aspirations of people they class as information poor.' (Green, 2001) There is no visible demand for equity in terms of access here following from the Marxist idea of alienation in the subaltern classes. This creates a vicious status-quo in which the higher 'wealthy' classes or 'information wealthy' can impress representations and discourses upon the 'information poor' who are not able to effect change or participate at least due to their ignorance on these ideas set upon them.

The Western Divide

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In relation to access to informational technologies the idea of Western Dominance has been a constant presence since the colonial era. This vein of dominance has continued into the information era and creates a disparity between Western society and the developing world. This difference in access to information therefore has a direct influence on the developing countries and the information that they possess.

In the past developing countries have made serious attempts to effect change in respect to these inequalities in terms of access. During the early informational age, developing nations appealed to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to 'demand greater equity in terms of access to, and distribution of information and communication resources.' (Green, 2001) The result of this demand led to the cessation of funding and the withdrawal of the US and the UK from the programme due to the accusation that the claim or issue had been 'politicised.'

Without this basic ability to achieve access to basic communication services then the people of the developing world cannot therefore contribute to the discourse formed around them. This means that in terms of representation and information is set and lead by those in the West that do have access; 'oppressed people the world over know this discourse to their bitter cost... What is important is that the Celt (or African, or Polynesian, etc.) is allocated his/her place, is constructed, in a discourse enunciated elsewhere.' (Green, 2001)

If we then examine the access to information particularly within the education system and compare the UK and a developing country such as Egypt, we can then reinforce the idea of a difference in access and subsequently technological literacy. A study conducted in 2012 found that the ratio of computers to students in primary schools was at its lowest at 6.78 students per computer and similarly found a low figure in relation to high schools with 4.22 students per computers. The educational system is paramount to the idea of access as it not only allows for the ability to access a computer but also to increase an individual's literacy and ability to actually use the technology furthermore.

In contrast to these figures if we look at Egypt, a UNESCO report found that the ratio of primary school students to a computers sat at 41:1 with the ratio for high school students at 25:1. However the disparity is further highlighted if we add the factor that the computers must be connected to the internet then the figure falls to 441 primary students to a single computer and one computer to a maximum of 208 secondary students. This means that there is an extreme dysfunction within the education system that stops people from being an active member of the informational age due to the inability to access computers and increase their technological literacy.

This could be in part down to their economic situation as a whole as they have 'less access to information technologies, and the technology they can buy (with 'soft' loans and an increasing debt) is western technology and benefits the key elites that create it.' (Green, 2001) Therefore, what is cheap and readily available to us does not mean that this applies to the developing world. Another factor could be that there is no alternative to the West's technology due to the hegemonic nature of the technological industry.

A direct consequence of this disparity in access could be that Western societies have a profound influence over the ideas of representation over developing countries. This is an example of one of the ways that the West remains dominant. Post-colonial power's have the ability to create information based on the portrayed representation of developing society, these could include the bestowed ideas such as 'passive,' 'helpless,' 'needy' images of the developing world, which represents one western conception of the information provided.' (Green, 2001) This binary attitude is directly created due to the ineffectual access within the developing world allowing for the West to become hegemonic in the way it spreads information.

The Language Divide

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Language is an intrinsic component of any communicative technology and it's uses within this field have far reaching divisive effects in terms of the ability to access said technology. A striking fact. although very difficult to verify due a complete lack in concrete figures, is that half of the websites on the internet are written in English. Typically large western companies target English literate countries as these tend to be focused on people that are more affluent than others, perhaps based on the prejudiced account of their education.

If we then take a developing country such as India for example just 30% of the people are regarded as having the ability to speak English and this does not necessarily mean fluently. And of this figure of English speaking Indians only 10% of them can practice reading and writing the language to a certain extent. Even in India's post-colonial era English remained the preferred language of the elite caste in society with governmental services and records falling predominantly in the English language.[101]

But what does this all mean for access? An example of language being used as an exclusion mechanism can be found in numerous accounts throughout history; 'Female illiteracy was used for centuries as a means of locking women out of power and decision-making, analogous to the way in which the medieval church used ecclesial Latin as a stranglehold on the state, and to oppress the vernacular.' (Green, 2001) Here we can see that language has been used as a tool of division across many different social issues such as gender, class and also in the divide between the west and the developing countries. The main point being that illiteracy in the dominant languages of the informational age is a huge barrier onto itself for huge swathes of people across the globe.

If a person cannot adapt and learn then they fail in becoming involved with this technology, a factor in this is also the availability of western technology which may not cater to a native language. One of the highlighted issues here is that there is no proportional representation of languages that are subaltern and not universally recognized. And so many people in foreign countries might fail to find and access a website that has not created a page in their native tongue.

Youth Protection

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In the Internet children and teenagers are confronted with much age inappropriate content (see offensive and risky content). In 2014 the Scottish government published the “National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland”[102] in which the government states that the internet is an integral part of kid’s lives and that the new technologies bring some risks such as “exposure to obscene, violent or distressing material”. To protect young people of any harm there are a lot of organisations tools concerning youth protection in the internet.

Parental Controls

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Parental controls are technical features. Those features can be included in digital television services, mobile devices, software, video games and computer. Through parental controls parents can direct their children’s use of technology and the internet. In the UK the four biggest internet providers (Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and BT) offer their customers these features for free, they provide instructions about how to start the feature on their websites.[103] There are four different tools to control the kid’s technology usage. Parental controls allow parents to adjust when and how long the children and teenagers have access to the internet and its data. Through filtering and blocking parents can limit the access to certain websites with e.g. age inappropriate content (see disadvantages: offensive and risky content). They can also block outgoing content to prevent children from sharing too much personal information e.g. via e-mails. The monitoring tools give the parents a report about their kid’s online activities or alarm them when they visit certain websites. Video games systems with a parental controls feature are among others PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii and Nintendo 3DS. The operating systems that use parental controls are Mac OS X, Android operating system, Windows and iOS. Of course there are more ways for parents to make their children’s internet usage safer. There are e.g. special search engines for kids or kid-oriented browsers which automatically filter inappropriate words, images or websites.[104] Also many websites have their own control features e.g. YouTube has one called Restricted Mode which hides content you do not want family members to see by using different methods such as age-restrictions (see below). Other websites that have control tools are for instance ITV, Sky Go and BBC iPlayer.

Minimum Age Requirements

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Minimum age requirements mean the declassification of media to different age groups. Most of today’s social media platforms have got age restrictions. The most common limit is 13 years and is set down by e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. LinkedIn’s minimum age is at 14, WhatsApp’s at 16 and Tinder’s at 17. The only social networks where users have to be of full age to register is Path. But there are a few platforms, such as YouTube and Flickr, where you have to be 18 but can register with 13 if you have got your parent’s permission.[105] Even though they have these age limits some of the platforms, e.g. Snapchat and Twitter, don't ask for the user’s age at the registration. But how do social networks react if someone too young signs up on their platform? A survey for CBBC Newsround suggest that “more than three-quarters of children aged 10 to 12 in the UK have social media accounts, even though they are below the age limit”.[106] Some websites, like Yahoo, allow children to register but do not gibe access to subsidiary services e.g. Flickr’s photo pages. Others, like Twitter and Instagram, ask users to tell them if they become aware that a child under 13 has got an account and then delete them. And at some others, including and Facebook, refusal messages pop up if an underage person wants to join the network. Of course young people always have the possibility to state a wrong birth date and it is hard to control it. But not only social media platforms have got or will have age limitations. In 2015 the British prime minister announced that he will ban all hardcore pornography websites without age-restriction controls, both UK-based and overseas websites.[107]

The Free WiFi logo.
The Free WiFi logo.


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  • UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS): More than 200 organisations from law, academia, industry, charity and government sectors founded together the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to protect children and young people from the risks of the internet and the new technologies.[108] It was established in 2010. One of their aims is to set age verification for the access to pornographic websites and online material. Furthermore, they want to make social media platforms safer and teach a conscious dealing with it. The council also established the “Friendly WiFi”. Whenever you come across the logo it marks public places where the public WiFi has been checked and where pornography or child abuse websites are automatically blocked. The three Executive Board members of the council are Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, Karen Bradley MP, Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation and Baroness Joanna Shields, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Internet Safety and Security. Their main responsibility is to identify the priority areas of work for UKCCIS.
  • UK Safer Internet Centre: The UK Safer Internet Centre is a collective project of three leading organisations, the South West Grid for Learning, the Internet Watch Foundation and Childnet International, and is one of the 31 Safer Internet Centres of the Insafe network.[109] The patroniser of it is the European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme. Its three main functions are an Awareness Centre, a Helpline and a Hotline. One of its most important and popular projects is the Safer Internet Day which took place on the 9th February 2016.

Mediated Access

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Web Search Engines

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There is a lot of data and knowledge out their in the world. The Internet is home to many websites, URL's, and an abundant amount of information. One of the most productive ways to find specific information on the World Wide Web is through a Web Search Engine. Web search engines work by storing information and organizing information taken from many webpages. The first search engine created was created in 1990 by Alan Emtage, and was named Archie, short for archives.[110] Archie was created before the World Wide Web, and kept an index of the file lists of all public servers it could find so users would be able to find publicly available files and download them.[111]

Web search engine share chart

Since then, web search engines have evolved into what is used today. Today's web search engines work by searching an Index of the World Wide Web for keywords they are given, and then displays the keywords in a specific order.[112] The index analysis information that is created by Web Crawlers, that follow links from page to page to send a copy to the search engine. Key words are used to search, and then the relevant information that is being looked for can be pulled from the index. Results are then ranked and displayed. Information can be ranked things such as how much the information is updated, and how many views the web page gets, or the number of times a key word/phrase is used on the web page.[113]

There are hundreds of search engines in the United States, and thousands in the world. The top major search engines in the United States in 2016 are Google, Bing, Yahoo! Search, Ask, and AOL Search.[114] Along with major general search engines, there are specific search engines for different topics of search. From medical reasons, to job searches, search engines can be targeted. Bing is the second most popular general search engine, but under Bing is Bing Health, Bing News, and Bing Finance just to name a few. Web search engine results should be relevant, uncluttered, and helpful options to broaden or tighten a search.

History of Google

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Google is the number one web search engine in both the United States and the world. Google and its affiliated websites comprise 67.6% [115] of the search engine market share in the United States, and 66.4% worldwide.[116]

Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and became a public company on August 19, 2004. Like other search engines, it uses automated software agents that crawl the World Wide Web. It counts links to specific sites and analyzes their results. It then uses an algorithm called PageRank that orders results of a search based on how many links lead to each result page. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "to Google" as "search for information about (someone or something) on the Internet, typically using the search engine Google.[117]

The book Social Media: a critical introduction by Christian Fuchs takes the time to evaluate Google as a search engine. According to their data source, 45.8% of worldwide Internet users accessed Google in a three-month period in 2012-2013.[118] Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media and the person responsible for popularizing the terms open source and Web 2.0, argues

Google is "the standard bearer" for web 2.0 and social media because it is not sold in different versions as traditional software products, but is "delivered as a service" with "continuous improvement" and "context-sensitive" advertising.

Google has become a company that has taken over the access to knowledge in today’s world.

Googlization and the Hierarchy of Information

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Cyberspace as a Contested Space

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"Part of cyberspace contestation involves the spotlighting of the conditions by which these companies mediate our experiences with it" [119]


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Google uses a system called PageRank to organise the results page, in an attempt to put the most relevant webpages on the top. PageRank recognizes how many times a website was linked on other pages, and how important those are according to how often they were linked and so forth. This means that newer websites might get very little attention and popularity is the crucial factor rather than accuracy of information.[120]

There is however some companies specialized in rigging this system and private people and companies can pay these for their website being moved further to the top. This leads to a hierarchy of information based on money: those who can afford it will pay in order for you to be more prone to clicking on their page.

Choice Architecture

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"the structure and order of the choices offered to us profoundly influence the decisions we make" [121]

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein have described the concept of "choice architecture".[120] On the Google results page, for example, one is more likely to click on certain results than others, simply by the way they are organised and presented. While it looks like we have a free choice of which results we click on, Google can, and does, deliberately organise the page in a way so we choose the result they want us to choose. By tracking almost every step we make on the web, Google can get an idea of our interests and our rough personality and as a result they can, organise the result page according to our preferences. This can, benefit certain companies which seem to chime with our personalities, and who pay a lot to appear on our screen. It has been shown that people will go for the option that was chosen for them, although they are not aware of these processes.

Infrastructural Imperialism

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Vaidhyanathan [120] takes a technologically deterministic perspective in arguing that Google shapes society.There is a debate about why people across cultures show similar interests on the web, and while there is some that argue that this is simply because we are all similar, Vaidhyanathan states that it is the workings of the internet that shape the individual.

"Google's defaults and ways of doing spread and structure ways of seeking, finding, exploring, buying, and presenting that influence [...] habits of thought and action." [122]

With the globalisation of the internet, Western patterns of consumer culture can spread to different cultures across the globe. Using the algorithms described above, Google influences everyone's choices, interests and knowledge, regardless where they are from.

Western, Consumerist Ideology

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"where once Google specialized in delivering information to satiate curiosity, it now does so to facilitate consumption" [123]

It is a known fact that Google's profit mainly comes from advertisement. The paragraphs above illustrate how advertised companies receive a lot of power through search engines. Deibert and Rohozinsky argue that companies have more and more power in cyberspace. They refer to these as "private authorities".[124] This can include private actors which have the power to mediate our experience on the web, as well as those who own eavesdropping facilities and can carry out surveillance. After all Google does not only provide data, it also, has access to our data.

Illegal Access

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As established previously, the access to information is one of the key factors of a successful democracy. With its unprecedented degree of anonymity, speed and outreach, the internet allowed for the emergence of various different forms of digital information distribution and established a reputation as the ultimate democratic sphere. Nonetheless, governments and other bodies online have erected various barriers to certain types of information considered secret, as discussed in detail in the section Access to the Internet in Different Countries. In 2000, the Freedom of Information Act was adopted to allow the public to access information held by public bodies, yet even this access is restricted with several exceptions.[125] Additionally, private individuals and organisations cannot be asked for information at all, unless on a voluntary basis. It is unsurprising then that certain individuals and groups have taken advantage of the internet's full potential and started using it to access and/or distribute previously inaccessible information, both for their own gain, and for the public good.

This chapter will outline the main areas of illegal access to information, firstly touching on the idea of hacking as means to access systems, and its various uses, both in regards to legality and public interest. It will then move on to the practice of whistle-blowing, and how platforms such as WikiLeaks have enabled whistleblowers to operate more anonymously and effectively. Lastly, this chapter will touch on the aspects of cyber-terrorism as one particular aspect of hacking, and how the internet gives rise to a new type of terrorism. We will conclude with a few assorted cases of accessing and publicising secret or restricted information which drew particular media attention. As well as looking into the issues and consequences of identity fraud online.


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Hacking, although commonly referred to as “activities involved in attempting or gaining unauthorised access to IT systems.",[126] is a very broad term which can have several underlying ideas. While early hackers focused on playfully redefining rules imposed on them, hacking is most strongly associated with computer technology. In popular culture, a 'hack' can also refer to simple solutions to annoying everyday problems, also called 'life hacks'.

Early Hacker Culture

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Hacker culture can be seen as one of the main influences of early Internet development.[3] Early hacker culture had very little to do with what is considered 'hacking' nowadays, themselves defining it as “exploring the limits of what is possible, in a spirit of playful cleverness. Activities that display playful cleverness have "hack value"”.[127] Hacking, thus, was the display of one’s technical ability, and to 'do things differently'. Early hacker culture placed its emphasis on freely accessible information and technology, which is why they have increasingly become associated with security breaches in recent times.[128] The exact idea of early hacking values can be found in the section The Hacker Ethic. This particular section of the chapter will focus more on the currently accepted definition outlined above.

Hacking as Crime

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Although laws vary in different countries (such as the Computer Misuse Act in the UK and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the US), accessing a computer system without the system owner’s permission is generally considered a criminal offense, which can lead from fines to a prison sentence. The terms “black hat” and “white hat” are commonly used to distinguish between legal and ill-meaning hackers. For cases in which the individual’s motivation is unclear, “grey hat” is used.[128]

The actual nature of hacking varies with the motifs of the hacker, and the skills he/she possesses. Hacking attacks can be generally divided into the following categories:

  • denial of service
  • unauthorised access
  • system penetration
  • abuse of wireless network
  • website defacement

Hacking is not restricted to technical abilities: Social engineering is a form of hacking in which hackers attempt to access sensible or private data through relying on weaknesses of human psychology, e.g. the desire to be helpful leads to giving out information without sufficient authorisation. This can actually be a lot more dangerous for business security, as software is regularly penetration checked, but employees are not explicitly trained to spot and counteract social engineering attacks.[128]

Some computer hacking can be entirely invisible to the system owner, with a large number of users unaware that their computer is infected by malicious software or controlled externally.

Justified Hacking?

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Is there an actual form of “acceptable” hacking that is unrelated to hackers as actual employees of a company? Hackers often argue from a moral point of view when it comes to acceptability of their practices. A main argument is that through their technical expertise, they can identify weaknesses within systems and notify the system operator before those are misused by other parties. Yet a lot of hackers do so publicly, heightening the risk of actual misuse by exposing the weakness to everyone, rather than just the system owner.[128]

Another justification is that of not actually causing any damage while entering a system. Hackers argue that they only penetrate systems in order to practice their skills, or explore the web and different systems. Yet, this argument doesn't hold when Furnell compares this to a real-life situation of entering someone’s home just to ‘explore’, which is a major breach in the right to privacy and secrecy.[128]

Lastly, one can argue that major leaks, such as the exposure of the joint conspiracy of HBGary Federal security firm and various other major companies by Anonymous[129] can be seen as contributors to democracy by informing the public of covered-up wrongdoings or censored conspiracies against a country’s citizens. As this might be very true, it remains a grey area of acceptability, most importantly since most hacker attacks are based on very thin grounds of suspicion, but also through the fact that official law enforcers might already be on a particular case. In this case, early exposure of an issue which is being investigated might even sabotage police efforts and lead to non-conviction of perpetrators.[128]

The fact that Hacking is a criminal offence is a well-considered notion, as most hacking activity can be seen to cause harm to those affected through the lack of consent when entering other people’s systems. Hacking is sometimes socially accepted when used to expose major wrongdoings in the public interest (also called whistle-blowing), however, whistle-blower protection is not valid when the information is obtained through criminal means (which includes hacking).

Hacking as Profession

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Hacking, when used in a productive way, can actually be very beneficial. Large companies are known to hire professional hackers to ensure their online security is airtight. These hackers will attempt to hack into a system and steal any information they can to highlight to their clients any security vulnerabilities in their network. They look for sensitive areas that malicious hackers may manipulate, and report these faults back to the company.

According to Erickson hacker is a term which describe a person who has the ability to write the code but at the same time someone able to exploit or abuse it. The difference between them is the goal of their activity.[130] The frequency of occurrence of serious hacking scandals is respectable limited by those hackers who are true to the Hacker Ethics and work on preventing of possible data theft or fraud. The Hacker Ethics is differentiating factor between those who work within the Law and those hackers who act as black hat hackers.

Wikileaks and Whistle-blowing

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What is Whistle-blowing?

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In the UK, Whistle-blowing falls under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), which is “An Act to protect individuals who make certain disclosures of information in the public interest; to allow such individuals to bring action in respect of victimisation; and for connected purposes.”,[131] This means that employees who expose failure and unlawful behaviour in their organisation, and the exposure of which is in the public interest, are being protected by law and cannot, amongst other possible consequences, be made redundant for their exposures.

In the US, such practices fall under the Whistle-Blower Protecion Act (1989) which allows the same protection. However, it is only reserved for government employees and has various restrictions. Private employees do not have specific protection, but need to find an appropriate law under which their statements can be protected, such as the False Claims Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or others.

Whistle-blowing has entered the public eye primarily through the exposure of government or corporate secrets which entailed major wrongdoings such as Human Rights abuses, war crimes, mass surveillance or jeopardising the health and safety of individuals.

What is Wikileaks?

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Wikileaks logo

WikiLeaks self-defines itself as “[specializing] in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption”.[132] It is an online platform that takes advantage of the reach, speed and anonymity of the internet to collect and distribute leaked secret or censored documents that are considered in the public interest. WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by Julien Assange,[5] leaking over 10 million documents since then,[132] most famously the “Collateral Murder” video and Cablegate messages in 2010.

The importance of WikiLeaks is apparent when considering the fundamental idea of the internet as an idealised public sphere with total freedom of expression. As McCurdy, Brevini and Hintz note, if this total freedom was given, there would be no need for a specialised platform such as WikiLeaks.[5]

Importance for Democracy

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Rooted in hacktivism and in ethics of radical transparency, exploiting technological expertise and opportunities, and carrying the “wiki” concept of open publishing and collaborative work in its name, WikiLeaks connects with both an alternative countercultural and a digital citizen media model, similar to Indymedia, which had introduced easy participatory content production (what later came to be called “Web 2.0”) at the turn of the millennium.[133]

2010 was for many the year in which WikiLeaks established itself as vital part of challenging traditional power structures globally, with two major reveals. The leaked video “Collateral Murder” depicts original, uncensored footage of the Iraq war from the perspective of a war helicopter and exposes the scope of war crimes and unnecessary killings in the Iraq war. The second release that year is now dubbed “Cablegate” and consisted of the leaking of classified diplomatic cables between the US and other countries,[5] until then considered the “largest leak of classified documents in American history”.[134] The subsequent media attention and the fact that the US government proceeded to declare all important contributors of WikiLeaks as “enemies of the State” served as indicator of the platform’s international importance in exposing government wrongdoing.[5]

Manuel Castells coined the term “Network Society”, which is characterised, amongst others, by horizontal networks and interactive communication. It has also brought with it new challenges, such as the alteration of existing power structures, which is primarily aided through the infinite and instant replicability of information. Therefore, platforms which support the leaking, disclosing, and publicising of information that others want to control is considered the dominant way of challenging traditional power structures, which is most apparent when considering the wide reaching censorship in certain countries ruled by authoritative governments.[135]

As a reflection on this, some academics note that the current legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act in the UK, needs to be revised and reformed to reflect the changes the internet age has brought with it. Nonetheless, as Banisar and Fanucci note, since there is no public call for reforms until a scandal causes a shift in public values towards censored information.[136] A scandal which can only be exposed through whistle-blowing activity.

Changing practices of whistle-blowing

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With the rise of the internet and platforms such as WikiLeaks, the practice of whistle-blowing has significantly changed in nature. Comparing to previous famous cases, such as the Pentagon Papers in 1971,[5] new technology has made information leaking in every instance of the process. Access to information has become easier even for lower-security employees, especially since 9/11. Digital technology has made data more portable, replicable and instantaneous. The famous Pentagon Papers which at the time included over 7000 printed pages would easily fit into an email attachment now.[5] Digital copying can be done within minutes, as opposed to days of photocopy labour and therefore a higher risk of detection. Equally, distribution of this data can be done instantly through emails, and sent to an infinite number of recipients.

Nonetheless, the high volumes of data that can now be leaked have come with their own issues. Data that is leaked nowadays is usually very large and raw, which calls for sophisticated journalistic practices to analyse and pick out relevant information. Distributing information over the Internet also implies that once uploaded, the data is completely outwith the whistle-blower’s control, and cannot be removed.[5]

Issues with WikiLeaks

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Julian Assange August 2014

Of course, leaking secret, inaccessible information bears significant potential for problems, not at least those of national security, e.g. with the release of strategic government papers. Governments, such as the US, have declared major WikiLeaks supporters as “enemies of the state”,[137] and it is to be assumed that most WikiLeaks contributors might be under state surveillance. Major whistle-blowers, such as Bradley Manning, the person responsible for the Cablegate leaks, have been arrested, charged, and treated with unexpectedly harsh detention treatments, which have been under domestic and international criticism.[135] This drastic government reaction towards whistle-blowers of public shaming and alienation is potentially supposed to defer future dissidents from publicising their concerns, but is also produces freedom of expression concerns.

Other issues include the methods of access for whistle-blowers, which are assumed to be illegal at least in some cases. The Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), for example, does not protect individuals who leak information that has been acquired by illegal means.[136] Even if criminal acts such as hacktivism may be conducted in good faith, e.g. in order to expose crime, the actual intrusion and exposure might actually interfere with genuine police investigations and obstruct the advancement of such.[128] Therefore, whistle-blowers have to exercise a degree of caution considering the potential power their revelation has.

It can be argued that media attention can be a potential issue for the works of WikiLeaks, in terms of a disproportionate media attention towards personalities, rather than the actual exposed information.[138] After 2010, Julian Assange has gained significant celebrity status, despite his role as simple facilitator. This can distract from the real, exposed information of wrongdoing by diverting public attention to those figureheads.

Lastly, it remains unclear what democratic value WikiLeaks actually bears. Despite major leaks of government and corporate misdemeanour, no actual actions have been done on a legal level to hold perpetrators accountable. Rather, publishers of these materials have been prosecuted and imprisoned. WikiLeaks itself therefore bears only limited power in influencing democracies and is in need of public outcry and protest.[137]


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Anonymous is a loosely organized “hacktivist” collective created to promote free speech, unimpeded access to information, and transparency in government and corporate activities.  The collective's slogan "We are Legion" refers to both the group's numbers and the anonymity of its members. Anonymous comprises a diverse group of individuals connecting through social networking sites, forums and blogs scattered all over the world. Although the group was initially known for online pranks, it has become more serious and political in recent years.


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The group of Anonymous started their actions form a forum, and since the start the true philosophy was the freedom of speech in the real world and on internet; and even if they don't have a clear philosophy statement of actions, Anonymous usually stand against strong political organizations that try to stop the freedom of actions and thought of the web; and since 4chan these are the most famous attacks that the group Anonymous have done during these years:


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An image-based bulletin board website, was publicly launched on October 1. The site was inspired by 2channel, a massive Internet forum, with seemingly random content, which is especially popular in Japan; 4chan allows people to post anonymously as well. Unlike 2channel, the vast majority of 4chan is mainly in English and slang based on various Internet memes. Any poster who doesn't post text in the name field automatically gets credited as "Anonymous"; and thanks to this features the group of the forum came with the idea of actions behind the name of Anonymous, where nobody had a name and an identity, but as in a legion they were all in same positions and important, fighting together for their ideas and against their enemy.

Project Chanology

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On January 14, a video from the Church of Scientology was leaked onto YouTube. It was a propaganda video featuring Tom Cruise laughing hysterically; the cult tried to get YouTube to remove the video due to ‘copyright infringement’. In response, on January 21, a video was posted on YouTube credited to Anonymous titled ‘Message to Scientology’. Thus began Project Chanology. The release covers why Scientology is a dangerous organization, and how the cult’s attempt to have the Tom Cruise video removed from YouTube was a violation of freedom of speech. On January 28, the video ‘Call to Action’ was posted on YouTube, also credited to Anonymous, calling for protests outside of Church of Scientology centres around the world on February 10. At some point in January, a DDoS attack was launched on the cult’s website. During the various Anonymous protests against Scientology that year, many protestors wore Guy Fawkes masks, in the spirit of the popular film V for Vendetta, and also to protect their identities from the cult, which is known for attacking dissenters Scientology calls ‘Suppressive Persons’.

Project Skynet

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In June 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in Iran, which triggered protests across the country. In response, Anonymous Iran was formed, an online project between Anonymous and The Pirate Bay. Anonymous Iran offered Iranians a forum to the world which was kept safe amidst the Iranian government’s crackdowns on online news about the riots. Project Skynet was launched by Anonymous the same month, to fight Internet censorship worldwide.

Operation Payback and WikiLeaks

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On February 2010 the Australian government was in the process of passing legislation that would make pornography featuring female ejaculation and small breasted women illegal. That a porn star with small breasts must be underage was implied in this motion. In response, on the 10th, Anonymous engaged in Operation Titstorm, using DDoS attacks to bring down various Australian government websites.

In reply, the MPAA and the RIAA, starting the Operation Payback, hired Indian software firm AIPLEX to launch DDoS attacks on The Pirate Bay and other websites related to file sharing. Anonymous continued executing DDoS attacks of their own, targeting websites linked to all three organizations, the MPAA, the RIAA and AIPLEX. Operation Payback continued in December, but this time the targets were Mastercard, Visa PayPal, the Bank of America and Amazon. Those corporations were targeted for blocking charitable donations for the WikiLeaks website. WikiLeaks is a website for whistle-blowers to post insider information about corrupt government activities around the world. By the 8th, websites for Mastercard and Visa were brought down, once again by DDoS attacks.

Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street

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Starting on January 2, websites for the Tunisian Stock Exchange and the Tunisian Ministry of Industry were brought down by more Anonymous DDoS attacks. It was a reaction to Tunisian government censorship. After that, the Egyptian government became the next target. Efforts started with the intention of removing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power. Once the government blocked their citizens from accessing Twitter, Anonymous brought down Egyptian government websites with DDoS attacks. On August 23 of the same year, Anonymous expressed support of the Occupy Wall Street; many thousands of people have been involved in the protest, which continues to be ongoing. Anonymous and Anonymous supporters have been covering the movement on Anonymous related blogs. Throughout September and into October, many cities around the world have joined the Occupy movement, such as Chicago, Toronto, London, Tokyo and other places; "Hacktivism" is now a major phenomenon, and Anonymous is far from the only ‘hacktivist’ group. Networks, servers and databases which may become targets must audit for security. Harden networks from DDoS attacks, use virtualization and proxy servers when possible, and assure that passwords and hashes are difficult to crack. Special care must be applied to servers which contain encryption keys.[139]

Operation Darknet

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In 2011, the hacktivist group attacked a hidden website called Lolita City which hosted images of child pornography. This was called Operation Darknet, and not only did Anonymous publish the names of over 1000 paedophiles using the website, they carried out numerous denial-of-service attacks which eventually led to the website becoming inaccessible.

Combatting ISIS

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Following the attacks on Paris in 2015, Anonymous began to hack into ISIS support websites and replaced the content. With the help of Ghost Sec, a hacking group related to Anonymous, the two units worked to take down a number of ISIS websites. They included messages advising readers to ‘calm down’, as well as adverts for pharmaceuticals such as Viagra and Prozac. Anonymous believed the key to destroying ISIS is by belittling the group and their beliefs, and the cyber-attacks they carried out did just this. As well as this, they carefully searched for ISIS supporters on social media such as Twitter, and managed to get the accounts disabled. Their aim is to remove all terrorist content from the internet so that it becomes increasingly harder for groups like ISIS to spread their message and recruit new members. Since launching these attacks, the group have managed to remove one of the most prominent websites ISIS members use to spread their message.

Cyber Terrorism

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With the birth of the electronic and digital era, and with Internet and the cyberspace afterwards as a normal place to work, communicate and live; and with the possibility of an easy access Knowledge and Data in the everyday life group of terrorist have begun to exploit this new space creating panic and terror without the using of any kind of weapon or bomb, but just using different form of actions of the cyberspace including acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to the Internet.


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The term Cyber terrorism being a relative new word in our world and dictionary can assume different interpretation of his meaning and nature; depending on the situation, the scholar or the constitution in witch you are reading the term.

The more general definition of the word and the acting of Cyber terrorism consist in attacks against information systems for the primary purpose of creating alarm and panic, and can be also defined as the intentional use of computer, networks, and public internet to cause destruction and harm for personal objectives.[140]

But for example we can give another definition and according NATO (2008), cyber terrorism is “a cyber attack using or exploiting computer or communication networks to cause sufficient destruction to generate fear or intimidate a society into an ideological goal.”

Another definition of cyber terrorism is provided by the US National Infrastructure Protection Centre, a part of the Department for Homeland Security: “a criminal act perpetrated through computers resulting in violence, death and/or destruction, and creating terror for the purpose of coercing a government to change its policies.[141]

Summarizing all these definitions we can include the term of Cyber terrorism as a “convergence of terrorism and cyberspace.[142]” that in a general meaning can cover any form of attack done by any organization with the purpose of creating terror and panic inside a group of people or more largely a nation or the world through the only use of cyberspace, digital and electronic device.

History of Cyber Terrorism

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After Barry C. Collin created the term Cyber terrorism in the late 80s public interest on the argument has grown radically,[143] taking part of the everyday life and some of the most important events of the recent history; these are some of most important cyber attack and act of terrorism that influenced and changed the vision on the argument, achieving a wide public recognition.

In December 2002 NASA was forced to block emails with attachments before shuttle launches out of fear they would be hacked, and the Business Week reported that the plans for the latest US space launch vehicles were obtained by unknown foreign intruders. In April 2007 Estonian government networks were harassed by a denial of service attack by unknown foreign intruders, following the country's spat with Russia over the removal of a war memorial. Some government online services were temporarily disrupted and online banking was halted. In August 2008 Computer networks in Georgia were hacked by unknown foreign intruders around the time that the country was in conflict with Russia. Graffiti appeared on Georgian government websites. In January 2009 hackers attacked Israel’s internet infrastructure during the January 2009 military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The attack, which focused on government websites, was executed by at least 5,000,000 computers. In October The Russian firm Kaspersky discovered a worldwide cyber-attack dubbed “Red October,” that had been operating since at least 2007. Hackers gathered information through vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Word and Excel programmes. The primary targets of the attack appear to be countries in Eastern Europe, the former USSR and Central Asia, although Western Europe and North America reported victims as well. In October 2013 he NATO Computer Incident Response Capability upgrade project, a 58 Million euro enhancement of NATO cyber defences, is on track for completion by the end of October 2013. This major capability milestone will help NATO to better protect its networks from the increasing number of cyber attacks against the Alliance's information systems.[144]

Forms of Cyber Terrorism

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The action of Cyber terrorism can have different kinds and forms, different organization use different form of cyber terrorism to achieve the best of what they want to install panic and terror inside their enemy's mind, we can divide in five big groups:

  1. Privacy Violation: Invading the privacy of an individual and sharing his information without his permission.
  2. Secret information appropriation and data theft: appropation of secrets data or information that for example can contain defence and other top secrets, which the Government will not wish to share otherwise
  3. Demolition of e-governance base: The aim of e-governance is to make the interaction of the citizens with the government offices hassle free and to share information in a free and transparent manner
  4. Distributed denial of services attack: Use the method of distributed denial of services (DDOS) to overburden the Government and its agencies electronic bases; this can cause pecuniary and strategic loss to the agencies and its government
  5. Network damage and disruptions: causing major damage or distributions to networks or websites; This process may involve a combination of computer tampering, virus attacks, hacking.[145]

Estonia 2007

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What happen in Estonia it is one of the most famous case of Cyber terrorism in the modern History, considered the largest coordinated cyberattacks. By the end of the waves of DDoS attacks, which lasted for several days, many Estonian banks, news agencies, and government websites had been hacked and defaced. In Estonia, the targets of the DDoS attacks were both government agencies and private Estonian companies. In order to maintain some functionality, the government resorted to blocking requests from IP addresses outside of Estonia for several days. Many financial institutions and news agencies coped with offline servers for several hours until the attacks ceased. In terms of economic damage, the 2007 cyberattacks had only a minimal impact on the Estonian economy, but were thought by some to be a clear attempt at intimidating Estonia or retaliating for the statue’s relocation. Without clear attribution, the political implications of the attacks remained unclear.[146]
The cyberattacks in Estonia have reinforced the severity of threats posed by cyberwarfare to the United States and the international community at large. However, the scale of attacks that crippled Estonia’s information infrastructure would incur limited damage to the United States, whose bandwidth capability dwarfs that of Estonia by a large measure. Nonetheless, an attack launched at a great enough magnitude could conceivably cripple the United States’ information technology and critical infrastructure, especially if such an attack were undertaken by a foreign government such as China or Russia.[147]
The result of the attack in Estonia during the 2007 had a huge influence on the world and on the argument of Cyber terrorism making different nation and the people more aware of this new kind of actions by groups of terrorist, bringing out new debates about the security of the internet and his easy access for some person to private and important documents and files.

Famous Cases

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The recent cases of hacking are famous from varies of reasons. The most spectacular are those that affect thousands of people, or break security systems previously considered as unbreakable, or simply reveal secrets related to the celebrities.


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The telecommunications company was targeted in October 2015. According to BBC 156,959 consumers ware affected. The hackers stole credit card numbers along with the other sensitive data such as names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and email addresses. Nearly 28 000 credit and debit cards were recognised as a “obscured” and advised to not use in financial transactions.[148] For a few days following the attack the Chief Executive of TalkTalk Dido Harding was a frequent guest of various information programmes where she was confronted with journalists concerned the existing situation. The TalkTalk website and helpline did not work for several days offering only short notice that the company was targeted by the malicious hacking attack and information about cooperation with the Police. After the attack TalkTalk was criticised for leaving their customers without any specific information about the scale of the attack and storing sensitive data without any protection in form of encryption.

Apple 'ransom' attack

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On March 4, 2016 Apple was hit by hackers for the very first time. The company famous for its security was defeated by the malicious software known as KeRanger. KeRanger works as a ransomware stealing more than 300 types of files and data from attacked Macs. Then it encrypts them and demands the ransom to release stolen data. Files are locked until the victim does pay. The price is one Bitcoin. Virtual currency is used by savvy internet users because it is difficult to trace. According to the attack was possible because the malware was embedded in popular file-sharing application called TransMission which was accepted by Apple’s Gatekeeper software verification system.[149] Apple has not commented this incident yet.

Sony Pictures hack

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In October 2014 group of hackers identify themselves as a Guardians of Peace broke into computer system of Sony Pictures Entertainment and one month later released huge amount of confidential data. Most of stolen information involved personal details about Sony Pictures employees such as addresses and emails but also medical records and salaries. Hackers also published unreleased films and scripts (e.g. Spectre). One of the goals of the hackers was to force Sony to stop the release of the film The Interview. The plot of the movie is focused on assassination of the North Korean leader. It helped to link the perpetrators to the attack. Accusations have never been confirmed. The company declared they would postpone the release of the movie but eventually the film was realised to selected theatres on 25 December. Despite the magnitude and seriousness of the attack the media was focused on the gossipy aspect of the case.[150]

Online Identity Fraud

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The internet is one of the most prevalent ways in which identity theft and fraud occurs in the modern era, now with over 1.6 billion social network users,[151] there is a vastly expanding amount of personal data, easily accessible online, spanning from our names and date of birth, to our addresses, phone numbers and personal photos. All easily accessible online, and yes, although profiles can be private, is there any real way to know how visible we are online? Firstly we have to consider what ‘identity fraud’ actually is, and what is the difference between theft and fraud? To begin with pretending to be someone you are not is not technically fraud, it only becomes fraud when that individual’s identity is used for deception for example to obtain documents or credit cards under a false identity.[152] Identity theft could be as simple as using someone else’s name and photos to deceive others online interacting under a false alias. The television series ‘Catfish’ which is a documentary program which addresses just this very matter, focusing on online interactions between social network users and the show tries to unite them. The program uncovers a large amount of identity theft on a smaller scale, whereby false identities or photos are used to deceive the person on the other end. ‘73% of catfishes passed off photos of another person (or of multiple people) as themselves’ [153] This example really emphasizes how common it actually is, to have your identity stolen, even on a smaller scale.

‘It has been suggested that the proliferation of the Internet into the daily lives of so many around the world may be fuelling some of the growth of identity theft.'[154] By accessing a stolen identity, criminals can use this alias to commit any number of crimes spanning from ordering and buying goods to ‘obtaining credit cards loans and state benefits’ [152] this can have serious implications on the person whose identity has been stolen. ‘If you’re a victim of identity theft, it can lead to fraud that can have a direct impact on your personal finances and could also make it difficult for you to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved’ [155] Although initially it may not seem as if useful information can be accessed on social media, fraudsters are able to link information provided over several different social media accounts and can actually find out in depth information which is vital to setting up official accounts, such as bank accounts. A lot of the time, security questions have answers which can be found online for example, mother’s maiden name or first primary school, is often all information which could potentially be found via social media. ‘26% say they use easy to remember passwords such as birthdays or names’,[156] which is also all information which could be accessed online through social media. ‘Criminals are becoming adept at hacking through weak passwords or taking advantage of consumers over the internet.’[157] This makes us question, should we really be making all this information so readily available online?

‘routine activity theory, suggests that particular online victim routines facilitate opportunities for identity theft victimization.’[154] This suggests that people who regularly shop online, for example, or have a regular online routine are more likely to become victim to identity theft. The fact that something as simple as our online routines would make us more likely to become victim’s, makes it questionable as to how we can take steps to prevent this. Having strong passwords and private account settings on social media is a key starting point. ‘Up to one in five of us have lost money as a result of cyber criminals and the average loss per online attack is a staggering £247 per person.’ [156] this figure demonstrates just how often internet fraud takes place, and often goes unnoticed checking up on your banking and finances if you are heavily active online is key in protecting against fraud.

Although identity theft is not necessarily a crime in itself, ‘Fraud is a crime in which some kind of deception is used for personal gain. As technology advances, fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated and many types of fraud exist.’ [158] Online and internet fraud is only one of the many types of fraud out there and is a problem that is only getting worse with the growth in social media and online activity.

Access to the internet in different countries - an Introduction

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Access in the US

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Internet in the United States is considered to be a widely available resource, due to the extent of citizens who has access. American households have reported having access to a number of different devices, which enable access the Internet. According to the American Census Bureau 83.85% of American Households reported computer ownership.[159] Alongside this 63.6% reported ownership of a handheld computer device, such a Smartphone.

A map showing the diversity of Internet access around the world.

A number of different Broadband provides ensure that American households easily access the Internet. The top providers in the US each deliver well over 1 million households with easy access to the Internet. Top Broadband provider Comcast currently has 22,868,000 subscribers, with AT&T following behind with 15,832,000.[160] These figures are a clear demonstration of the high numbers of individuals who access the Internet in the US on a regular basis.

It can be seen that an individual’s level of education affects their ability to access the Internet. In the US figures show that the higher education level an individual reaches the more inclined they are to pay for a connection to the Internet. From those who have achieved less than a High School Diploma, only 43.8% reported having access to the Internet.[160] In contrast to this those who had achieved a bachelor's degree of higher reported a significantly higher number of individuals accessing the Internet, with 90.1% doing so.[160] American society makes it more difficult for those with a lower intelligence to access the Internet, due to the extensive cost of a Broadband connection. The average citizen will pay $90 a month for access to the Internet.[161] This creates a barrier for those with a lower level of education, as these individuals are likely to hold a lower paying job, making these costs unmanageable.

Internet Taxation in the US

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The Internet Tax Freedom Act came into affect in 1998. This piece of legislation ceased the expansion of direct taxation on the Internet, which began in the late 1990s.[162] The Act prevents federal, state and local governments from imposing tax on Internet access as well as prohibiting discriminatory Internet-only taxes such as bit taxes, bandwidth taxes, and email taxes.[162] This Act does not, however, affect sales tax on items bought online, as these items are taxed at the same State or local level as sales outwith the Internet.[162]

Internet Censorship in the US

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Very little legislation exists in the US in terms of Internet censorship. This is due to Freedom of speech being grounded within the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This gives US citizens the right to express their views and ideas freely in everyday life, but this also extends to the online environment.

Despite this there are still a few pieces of legislation put in place by the United States Government, which censor access to the Internet for many different reasons.

Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

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The Children's Internet Protection Act was signed into law on December 21, 2000.[163] This legislation requires all K-12 schools and libraries receiving federal Universal funds or grants for Internet access or internal connection to adopt certain measures in order to protect young Internet users.[163]

Under this Law these establishments must adopt and implement an Internet security policy. This policy must address access by minors to inappropriate content on the Internet, the safety of minors when using forms of direct electronic communications, unauthorised access and other unlawful activities by minors online, the unauthorised disclosure and usage of a minors personal details and measures restricting minors’ access to harmful material.[163] These establishments must also install Internet filters or blocking software in order to prevent minors from accessing pictures, which are deemed to be inappropriate, for example child pornography.[163] A final measure under this Act requires these institutions to adopt and enforce a policy to monitor the online activities of minors <.[163]

Child Online Protection Act (COPA)

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The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was a piece of law in the United States passed in 1998.[164] The purpose of this law was to restrict access by minors to any material, on the Internet, deemed as harmful to such minors.[164] Under the Child Online Protection Act all commercial distributors of “material harmful to minors” were required to restrict their sites from access by minors.[164] Under this law “material harmful to minors” was defined as material, which by “contemporary community standards”, was judged to appeal to the “prurient interest and show sexual acts or nudity.[164]

This act was however struck down by Judge Reed in 2007. He claimed that this piece of legislation was in violation of the First and Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.[165] This led to a permanent injunction on the law in 2009, due it having been found unconstitutional.[166]

Trading with the Enemy Act

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Logo of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Trading with the Enemy Act (1917) created the Office of Foreign Assets Control.[167] This agency released a blacklist in 2008, which outlined a number of websites which American companies were prohibited from doing business with.[168] The blacklist has the effect that all domains based in the US must block these websites.

This piece of legislation censors a number of websites in the US and prevents access to them. This therefore means that American citizens do not necessarily have the same access to the Internet as other nations, due to this law.

Access in Turkey

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Turkey has a significant number of individuals with access to the Internet in their households. The country is currently ranked 17th for Internet usage, with a penetration rate of 46.62%.[169] Despite this large proportion of citizens having access to the web, the Turkish government still imposes a great deal of restrictions and censorships to the Internet.

Social Media in Turkey

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The Turkish Government has, at times, put bans and restrictions on social media platforms within the nation. In the run up to local election in 2014 Turkey seen sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This was due to leaked audio files, supposing to reveal corruption within the inner circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was the President at this time.[170]

The same ban occurred, along with 166 other websites, in 2015 after an image of a Turkish prosecutor being held at gunpoint, after being taken hostage in March of that year, began circulating the web.[170] Turkish courts stated that the ban was necessary due to images being “propaganda for an armed terrorist organisation and distressing for the prosecutor's family"[170]

Access in China

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China currently has the highest proportion of citizens online, having surpassed 649 Million users as of 2015.[171] The number of Internet users in China now surpasses the entire population of the US, giving the nation the largest and fastest growing online community.[171] The Internet is most commonly accessed on mobile devices, with 80% of users connecting through devices such as smartphones and tablets.[172]

Urban/Rural Divide

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Region is very significant in terms of ability to access the Internet in China, with there being a very clear divide between citizens in rural areas and those living in urban areas. In 2012 the penetration rate for those living in urban regions was 50%.[173] This was however a significantly larger proportion of the population than those living in rural areas of China, with the penetration rate being only 18.5%.[173] Households in rural areas account for only a quarter of Internet usage throughout the whole nation.[174] This demonstrates that there is a significant imbalance in China, with many individuals having fewer opportunities to access the Internet as others. This may be due to the fact that rural citizens tend to have lower incomes, therefore being unable to afford Internet connection, but may also be due to the significantly less stable infrastructure in these areas.

Internet Censorship in China

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The Internet in China is severely censored by the Government, with many website domains being blocked in the nation, earning the name ‘’“The Great Firewall of China”’’. A Harvard study found that around 18,000 websites are blocked from Mainland China, with there potentially being a lot more than this figure [175]

”Superstitious, pornographic, violence-related, gambling and harmful information”

Despite this viewpoint it can be seen that this may not be accurate due to many blocked websites not falling into these categories. For example email provider Gmail is blocked, and this domain does not intrude into any of the stated classifications.[176]

The Chinese Government has also censored a number of topics online, which can be seen as being highly political. For example Falun Gong is a censored topic due to the Government considering the group to be a political threat to the Communist Party in China.[175] As well as this, terms such as "democracy", "police brutality" and "freedom of speech" are highly censored in order to protect the current regime upheld in China.[177]

Censorship in China often does not occur if doing so is considered to cause a significant economic consequence. For example, a block on the website GitHub was reversed the Chinese software development community made a significant number of complaints about the decision.[178]

Tiananmen Square Protests

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The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 are a famous example of Internet censorship in China. A Government white paper in 2010 stated that the government protects:[179]

”the safe flow of internet information and actively guides people to manage websites in accordance with the law and use the internet in a wholesome and correct way”

This therefore means that the government prevents people from divulging state secrets online, and stating any information which will be damaging to the state.[179]

Law-abiding search engines in China censor information about Tiananmen Square, with phrases such as Tank Man being censored.[180] This is due to ‘’Tank Man’’ being a significant icon from these protests, gaining a great deal of publicity, despite being unknown. The government also censors phrases, which have similar pronunciation to “June 4”, as this was the date in which the government intervened in the protests.[180]

Previously searches relating to the protests would come up with a blank result, however the government has now enabled “carefully selected” results to come up in a search.[181] This is however not always a successful strategy as it is still the case that a search will result in a blank page with a statement saying “relevant laws, regulations and policies” prevent the display of results related to the searches.[182]

Social Media Sites

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Social media sites are also a censored aspect of the web in China. Site Facebook and Twitter are blocked by the government. The reasoning behind this censorship is to prevent social and political commentary from taking place, as well as to prevent activists from starting online communities on such domains.[183]

The government and media use microblogging service Sina Weibo in order to distribute ideas and monitor corruption. This is a service that is considered to be similar to that of Facebook and Twitter, and currently in use by around 30% of Internet users in China.[184] This service is, however, also monitored, with 700 Sina censors supervising content.[185]

Whilst it is unclear when the first ever social networking sites were created, the dominance of several companies spearheaded the industry for the last decade. This can be attributed to the levels of usage and the number of users on the sites. The main social networking sites include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram e.t.c However, something that has not been included in this bracket is possibly the most popular of them all, YouTube.

With the levels of information gathered by YouTube, when creating an account, it is certainly clear that they have minimum restriction to whom can and cannot use the website, outside of political influence. The content which can be published is also becoming more relaxed in recent years through different innitatives by YouTube, an example of this would be creating over 18 access levels and more recently introducing a paid service named YouTube Red.

YouTube hosts many different genres which range from Comedy to Music and How to and Blogging. However content that has reached the site has still been provocative and extremely conservative. The death of Sadaam Hussien is one of the videos that has been widely criticised for being on the platform and has been called to be removed, however because the exact nature of the video does not contain explicit images that users could not handle, YouTube allowed the video to remain their.

YouTube is very popular amongst the 13-19 demographic and is mainly due to the introduction of video blogging, Internet personalities share their life and thoughts with the world and upload them onto YouTube, these types of videos have a cult like following amongst younger audiences partly because of the ability to relate to similar real life problems. This is however, a very difficult position for some of the people on the personalities because their thoughts and traits are available to the rest of the world, as well as this, the users who subscribe to them, can in apart feel as though they are a part of their life breaking down barriers that were once seemingly non existent!

YouTube is clearly a very popular site amongst certain people and has very much a following and usage in the most popular websites, but it has its limitations and it also has boundaries that it is willing to adhere to, but the one thing out of YouTube's control, is their ability to censorship content to entire audiences as they themselves are limited in this front, as opposed to a nation like North Korea!

Access in North Korea

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Internet access in North Korea is heavily censored and monitored by their government. Not only are citizens unable to browse the internet at their leisure, they do not receive instant news stories or updates from around the world. This means their access to information is more limited than the West’s, and any information they find online has been carefully filtered by the government.

The internet is something that people in Western society take for granted, however in North Korea it is seen as a luxury. Their version of the internet – Kwangmyong – is a limited and censored network which is not available to the whole public, and allows access to between 1000 – 5500 websites; an insignificant amount when compared to the 1 billion websites available on the World Wide Web. These websites allow users to check their email, keep up with national news and browse to an extent.[186]

Finding a way to access the internet was made a lot more difficult in 2014, when North Korea banned WiFi throughout the country.[187] This ban was quickly introduced after a number of foreign embassies across North Korea ignored the government’s wishes to password protect their internet connection. Citizens discovered they could use this unprotected WiFi to gain access to otherwise forbidden content online, and many even moved house so that they could live closer to the connection.

It is estimated that out of the 25 million people that live in North Korea, only a few thousand actually have access to the internet. WiFi, although difficult to gain access to, is still available to use as long as government permission is granted. Only a handful of people such as politicians and cyber warfare units are allowed access to the whole internet without any restrictions.

Many journalists risk their lives on a daily basis in order to circulate information throughout North Korea. With help from intermediaries based in China, a number of secret radio stations run by North Korean refugees have been set up in the past in an attempt to spread information coming from other countries as well as to communicate with the outside world. Operations like this are incredibly dangerous, however, and the control of the regime over practically every aspect of day-to-day life means that when information does get in, the effects are limited to the few who are able to access it, and by word of mouth. Journalists operating in neighbouring countries must be incredibly careful, as the are risking the life's of those on the inside by smuggling information to them. The penalty of being caught as a citizen journalist can be as severe as on-the-spot execution.[188]

Control of information in North Korea is one of the factors preventing an uprising against the regime. The state media is used as a means of propaganda to unify the country in favour of Kim Jong Un, and to stir disapproval towards the outside world: USA, and South Korea, in particular. North Korea is the only totalitarian regime of its kind in the world. No other government has managed to keep such tight controls of its population, however recent studies show that this could be changing, as the younger generation of citizens grows discontented and more informed about life outside the state. Smuggling of information from neighbouring countries is a vital part of this process despite its dangers.[189]


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In telecommunications, Broadband is a wide bandwidth data transmission with an ability to transport multiple signals and traffic types.[190] However, in the context of Internet access Broadband is defined more liberally, as any high-speed Internet access, which is faster than the traditional dial-up method. Broadband also refers to a form of Internet access which is always on and available for use[191]


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Collaboration is the action of a group of people working together on a project. There are many forms of collaboration. Some users collaborate through social media. This is called collaborative medium. This is a form of facilitated communicating when users collaborate on social media with messages and content. For example ‘sharing, commenting’. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are called Collaborative media. This is done by non-professional, and is done in digital form. This is orientated towards action that is how the collaborating comes about. People’s opinions can be put out, and people’s views can be changed.

Collective Intelligence

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Collective Intelligence is a term created by French philosopher Pierre Levy. In his eyes, he saw intelligence firstly, as a resource, that while it sometimes can be used accordingly, it is usually squandered. His argument is that intelligence is being wasted, by looking at such scenarios as old management methods, unemployment, and shared job profiles. As stated, "No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity. There is no transcendent store of knowledge and knowledge is simply the sum of what we know.". Levy thought that individual projects were relegated to a group psychology. He wanted individuals to realize how their actions would integrate with others, to create collective intelligence.

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Copyright is a term that means the act of putting legal protection on piece of intellectual property. It's a piece of legislation that makes the work "intellectual property that provides exclusive publication, distribution, and usage rights for the author".[72] This means that the object under copyright cannot be distributed or recreated without permission or payment by the original owner of the copyright. It limits access to information but protects creators.

Internet Censorship

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Internet censorship is the control or suppression of material, which can be accessed, published or viewed on the Internet. This can be carried out as a result of government action or legislation.This can be carried out as a result of government action or legislation.

Mode 2 Type Knowledge

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Mode 2 type knowledge is seen as a different approach to matters, able to do something in an easier manner, in a shortcut rather than a traditional method. Usually done in small groups, this type of Knowledge allows for more flexibility. This type of knowledge usually involves breaking down the original information, and looking at it in a different manner.


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By Googlization, Siva Vaidhyanathan means the process by which Google increasingly influences all areas of our culture. This happens because firstly, Google owns many other programs such as YouTube and Gmail, and secondly, because the majority of internet searches is done through Google, allowing it to mediate a lot of information.


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Hacking is the act of attempting or succeeding in gaining (illegal) access to IT systems. It is considered as one of the most feared threats in cyberspace. Nonetheless, hacking in itself is a very broad term including various different disciplines, such as denial of service, unauthorised access, system penetration, abuse of wireless network, or website defacement. Various tools are currently available which enable even inexperienced users to automate certain processes and launch minor attacks.

Hacker Culture

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Hacker culture has emerged as a subculture with the rise of the early internet. At first referring to positive values of freedom of information, and the display of one's technical ability (refer to The Hacker Ethic for detail), it is now commonly associated with negative ideas of intrusion and disruption. Hackers can be referred to in terms of their intentions, such as "black hat" for malevolent users, "white hat" for those who use their skills to a system provider's benefit, and "grey hat" with questionable intentions. Some hackers, such as the group Anonymous, defend their attacks from a moral and/or political perspective.

Net Neutrality

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Net neutrality is the concept that all service providers should treat data the same and that all processing and transfer speeds should be the same across particular content. All data should be considered the same so it all has the same transfer speeds, which means one piece of data cannot be prioritized on top of another. With it, Internet Service Providers [ISP's] can not have discriminatory access to what the user posts online and how that content is transferred to others. It protects the flow of data on the internet.

Participatory Journalism

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Participatory journalism, or otherwise known as citizen journalism, is a form of journalism in which all the content is gathered by independent media outlets, citizens, or freelance journalists. This content is then attained by the mainstream media and put into use. This type of journalism is very pragmatic in this day and age considering how much citizens are constantly publishing, sharing, debating, chatting, blogging and tweeting in this online society.

User-generated content (UGC) refers to any digital content that is produced and shared by end users of an online service or website. This includes any content that is shared or produced by users that are members or subscribers of the service, but it is not produced by the website or service itself. Forms of UGC are tweets, blogs, ads, comments, updates, videos, pictures.

Web 2.0

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Web 2.0 is a term used to describe websites that highlight user-generated content. In these websites the knowledge or data are not controlled by external authority, those that run the website, or bots, but by its own users. The main ideas of Web 2.0 is its co-creativity, participation and openness it allows the users. The difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is the software that allows for this creativity from its users, for example; wiki based ways of creating and accessing knowledge, social net-working sites, blogging, tagging and ‘mash ups’.


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Whistle-blowing is, in legal terms, when an individual makes a disclosure of information over a company or government body which is in the public interest, e.g. when certain organisation has committed a crime or other type of misdemeanour which is affecting the public.


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