New Technologies Disrupting the Public Sphere: Information, Democracy and New Media

La Libre Belgique published an article on Wednesday 26 April 2017 entitled “Have we “broken” the internet?”

Cyril Fievet, Journalist and author specialising in new technologies, interviewed by Baptiste Erpicum, thinks this is the case:

“These days, the dream of a universal, open and free Web has almost disappeared. Little by little, what began life as an alluring promise has been transformed into an Orwellian nightmare. It all boils down to two things: first, just four or five companies control the vast majority of all communication, content and data.”

“…users have immersed themselves in services that are objectively well done, practical and useful. But in doing so, they have sacrificed part of their private lives and individual freedom. If the Web truly is broken, or badly damaged in any event, it is us, the users of the Internet, who are responsible for it.”

“…the emblematic figure behind this unfortunate development is Facebook. For many people, alas, “going online” today simply means going on Facebook, which, after all, is only a website and one that is purely commercial.”

“…we need to restore power to users and give them back control over their personal data.

We need to offer alternatives that are more open and free to sales departments (whether it’s Facebook, Dropbox or YouTube). And we need to get away from a model that is purely advertising-driven and which couldn’t be more alienating.”

Yves Baudechon, President Ogilvy & Social Lab, interviewed by Thierry Boutte, doesn’t think the internet is “broken” yet:

“No, the Internet has given – and continues to give – a voice to ordinary citizens, people on their own and consumers. Certainly Google for searches and Facebook for social networks control a part of it, but the Internet remains an extremely open ecosystem that is constant renewing itself. “

“Yes, there are five major players involved, but lots of little ones can also prosper on it. Look at platforms such as millions of craftsmen and artists are able to find a market and an audience without having to jump through the hoops placed by the major players.”

“The Internet is also an amazing tool that makes it so much easier to access knowledge. I am thinking in particular about MOOC, those online courses open to everyone all over the world and presented by teachers and professors of the highest calibre.”

“Above all, the social networks put forward a virtuous side, with the creation of links and exchanges between people. In business, LinkedIn has enabled many people to breathe new life into their careers.” 

“I know that there are bad sides to the social networks, such as bullying, which certain young people indulge in, but that should not hide the networks’ extraordinary ability to mobilise and provide help and support to people or causes.”

“The amount of time that people spend on social platforms is growing all the time. It is an effective tool for companies looking to be in contact with the end-user without having to go through intermediaries. They can answer people’s questions or seek their approval before introducing a new product.”

Read the entire article on La Libre Belgique online and participate to the survey from REIsearch

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