Law in the Internet Society

Will We Take Our Freedom Back from the Internet?

In the era of the Internet, we are all pets fed by those Internet Giants. We trade the convenience, illusive relief, and instant pleasure with our privacy, attention and wisdom. This is the best of times also the worst of times. Will this change in the future and how long will it take?

1. Freedom is easier to lose

Stealing away our freedom can be such an easy thing when we are treated like pets instead of slaves. Slaves take the fight against the cruel deprivation since they don’t have much to lose, but pets enjoy the confinement without knowing what has been taken away.

On the one hand, we are provided with all kinds of information and contents that are everywhere and have strong sensory stimulation. When our attention as a limited resource is caught or kidnapped by unexpected Pop-ups, eye-catching headings, and all those popular but superficial topics and contents, it is more unlikely for us to notice what we are losing when enjoying these additive services.

Also, our freedom (including privacy and our self-development) is such an intangible thing with almost no hints or warnings of losing them that it can be easily ignored and forgotten. People may think or hesitate for a moment before they turn themselves to the instant Internet fast food, but it’s just a moment.

2. Try making a change on your own?

It’s even harder for us to confront Internet giants’ power after giving away freedom.

Even if some people are conscious of the potential loss and would like to take more time to contemplate whether this trade is worthwhile and to what extent it will be in their best interest, this trade-off problem is so confusing that they can’t figure out a certain answer.

On a social basis, people with different backgrounds, social or financial status, intelligence, and personalities take different values about what we get and lose from the Internet service.

On an individual basis, it’s difficult for a person to assess the value of freedom compared with the value of the “benefits” get from the Internet fast food especially when the loss caused by giving them away is indefinite, latent, and chronic. The fear about the invasion of privacy is mitigated by the convenience of getting a personalized exercise plan instantly; the annoyance with the targeted pop-up ads is eased by the excitement of the discount information; the frustration about being unable to focus is comforted by the sense of belonging when her online post gets liked. However, the loneliness of the failure to join her friends’ chat about online topics, the disappointment of missing the online sales, and the anxiety about body image won’t be easily offset by the effects of resisting those attracting service, since the effects won’t show immediately, but the “benefits” you will lose by refusing their service will constantly be reminded in all kinds of ways(either from the online pop-ups, highlighted hints or from your friends’ happy sharing). A definite and obvious loss versus an uncertain and unnoticed gain? Unless someone can prove in a convincing way that the latter overweighs the former, most people will hold their steps. Why bother leaving the familiar and comfortable environment when there is no obvious and imminent threat?

What’s more, those “smart” Internet giants which captivate us with their service and our ignorance have built our model of behaviors and created an ecosystem supported by their service. Even if people may acknowledge the importance of freedom, attempts of an individual or small groups to leave this ecosystem are risky since people need to abandon what they have been fed and gotten used to in exchange for the threatened freedom which doesn't attract their friends, family, and colleagues. It takes more courage to be the minority without the feeling of security(even if it may be illusory, I tend to believe it’s in the human nature of most people) given by conformity.

3. Our governments? No way

What about our governments or some conscionable Internet companies taking some measure to return some freedom to us?

For governments whose main focuses are political interests, I can’t see an attractive incentive for them to solve this issue. This ecosystem helps achieve a highly efficient manipulation that is so inducive to the ruling. They may fight with those Internet giants under the name of protecting freedom, but sharing or taking the magic power from Internet giants and keeping the pets under their own surveillance and manipulation is what they truly crave. Relying on governments to help take back freedom is just a dream in my perspective.

Back to the question I pose, it’s a hard battle against those freedom takers which may take much time to fight( as we fight for global warming) and it may not win from my conservative perspective.

This is an essentially personal essay, premised on an individual decision whether to be in or out of a way of life that offers benefits and harms in apparently more or less balanced measure. But the missing person is you.

If this is an essay about a thought process that might be yours, why isn't it about yours? If balancing risks and benefits is what you consider this inquiry to be about, where is your proposal for learning how to interrogate that balance in your life?

There are reasons to doubt the extent of the choice. If you want the curriculum of the school to stop surveilling you, your teachers must agree to make that possible, instead of forcing you to use a surveillance system that has a side-hustle in curricular delivery. If you don't want the market to be surveilling your every purchase and movement, you have to use cash in daily life, and the State has to make sure your right to use cash isn't undermined or eliminated.

But if you want to emphasize the aspects of the situation that can be fairly characterized as matters of personal choice, it's not enough to show that choice is hard, or that every choice involves loss, or that distant benefits or harms tend to way less in human decision-making than harms or benefits that are immediate in their occurrence. These are all true, all of them the staples of maturation and the growing of wisdom in every human generation. Even philosophers could not rest quiet with such cliches, for in their presence still we must choose. And as a friend of mine once pointed out, the philosophers have only studied the world, while the point is to change it.

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r2 - 30 Nov 2021 - 13:21:06 - EbenMoglen
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