The Many Sides of the Internet


I’ve noticed that recently a lot of people have started to wonder about the possible downsides of various aspects of the internet, and I understand why. It can seem like every single website is tracking what you do. However, I feel like we can often blame aspects of the internet for problems that are not inherent to the internet itself. While bad practices are done with the internet, that’s the fault of the people and companies that commit those actions, not the internet itself. The internet is not evil, but it can be abused by evil hands. This means that with proper legislation and regulations, the internet can become a better and more private place. However, we are not at that point in time yet and, because of that, many web companies will break whatever sense of privacy you thought that you had. 


Initially, some practices may seem pretty tame, but they can often branch into very malicious systems. For example, a website recommending you videos because you watched similar videos is obviously not a breach of privacy. However, a website recommending ads based on what videos you’ve watched is a little bit less innocent. Then the next step would be a website selling your data to advertisers so they know what to recommend to you. At this point it must be asked, “How much does the website actually know about you?”. A website that knows you like to watch videos about shoes, for example, will tell shoe advertisers that you are a potential customer, resulting in you getting many ads about shoes. This process seems harmless in this situation but it’s not as innocent as it seems. A website that knows you like to watch videos about dangerous conspiracy theories will show promotions for even more dangerous conspiracy theories because they know that you are in a vulnerable position and are willing to believe, and more importantly pay, the people promoting that conspiracy theory. 


Despite these concerns, however, I don’t think that the internet is trying to doom us all, I just believe that some companies have realized how powerful the internet is and are now trying to abuse that power to make a profit. In fact, I think I should stray away from the gloom for a little bit and mention some of the positive changes that have occurred due to the advent of many modern technologies. One of the most obvious benefits is a massive increase in access to information. Before the internet, if someone wanted to find out, for example, the airspeed of an unladen swallow, they would first ask the people around them who would obviously not know the answer, and they would head to the local library. After around two hours of skimming through all of the bird-related books, they would realize that they are not going to be able to find the answer to their query and they would head back home answerless. However, if you wanted to find the airspeed of an unladen swallow you could just look it up and get the answer after two seconds. By the way, it’s 24 miles per hour. 


What I’m trying to say is that the internet does not have any inherently negative qualities. Any technology can be used for malice. The design of the information does not necessarily promote more misinformation than older forms of media, but it does promote more information in general. Because the internet can do so many things so efficiently, that means it can also do more malicious things efficiently. However, the actions of the internet itself are entirely neutral and action can be taken to prevent negative use of the technologies in question. The internet provides a lot of information, some true, some false, some entirely irrelevant. Our modern society has the ability to be more informed than ever before because we have access to the world’s largest library at the touch of a finger. And despite the prevalence of online misinformation, we have the resources to sort through what is real and fake. 


Ultimately, the internet is a public tool, a tool that can be used by anyone for whatever purpose they’d like, which can result in a dangerous or helpful product. But these products are not the fault of the internet, but the fault of the people who created them using the internet. The internet, like the modes of communication used before it, can be used for some ill-natured purposes, but that is because some people have bad intentions. The problem isn’t the internet, the problem is that there will always be some people trying to abuse it.