The Internet's Lost Promise and How America Can Restore It
In the United States, Russia sought to help one presidential candidate over another in the 2016 election—not only through hacking and the release of e-mails but also through an extensive information operation that included paid ads, fake social media accounts, and divisive content. In China, authorities are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to perfect an Orwellian system of online and real-world surveillance to track citizens’ every move. In Myanmar, a UN rapporteur found that Facebook had helped spread hate speech, contributing to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. At a time when fully half of the world’s population is connected to the Internet, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the technology that promised to give power to the powerless has ended up also hurting the very people it was supposed to help.
Openness allowed the Internet to become a global network that has fostered extraordinary innovation and empowered entrepreneurs, consumers, and political organizers. But along the way, some of the openness was lost, and darker forces took root.