According to the World Bank, forty people in every a hundred have access to the internet, which means they can read both public and private information of all governments and organizations across the globe. Fundamentally, the global internet offers social, political, and economic challenges and opportunities. Most countries have politically, economically, and socially benefitted from a secure, open, resilient, and global internet infrastructure. Some of the political advantages of global internet connectivity are strong military, open and efficient governments. On the economic aspect, there is increased access to information, a wider market reach, and business development aspects. Regarding social advantages, it can be used to empower and sensitize the masses, appreciate other people culture and access entertainment such as music and films (FTC Staff, 2015). However, the vast advantages of free global internet connection come with its drawbacks regarding protection of intellectual property, privacy, and national security. Given this, the paper will discuss how open global internet connectivity should be controlled to provide a balance between information privacy and its obvious advantages. Although an open cyberspace promotes innovation, enhance political and economic checks and balances, empowers different social groups, there is need to consider social negativity, propaganda generation, privacy and protection of intellectual property.
The rapid increase in the population accessing the internet is the biggest opportunities for innovators, political and social commentators. In the last five years, there has been a rapid growth in the number of people accessing the internet particularly in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America(FTC Staff, 2015). According to the Council on Foreign Relations (2013), in their report on defending an open cyberspace, it was predicated that the internet population would double by 2016 rising from two billion users in 2013 to eighteen billion in 2016. Interestingly, the annual global internet users report by the World Bank support the statistics showing the number of internet users per 100 people has risen from 35 in 2012 to 40 in 2016. Conversely, the World Bank report concludes that the most improved countries are those from Africa, Asia and South America, that had zero connectivity in 1990, but now has more than 60 per every 100 people internet users. Some of the countries in the most connected countries in the report include Algeria, Korea, Antigua and Barbuda, Kuwait, and Malaysia. In response to the growing internet population, governments have encouraged data service providers to provide cheap and reliable connectivity to the masses.
For innovators, the huge demand and use of the internet has boosted their market. More devices are getting connected to the internet, which has inspired the manufacture of smaller and powerful chips to enhance the functionality of the products. In the same respect, services have been improved to cash on the link between digital and physical systems. Currently, organizations can store voluminous information on secure and simple chips, the government keeps track of its expenditure from a central system, traffics are controlled by robots, medical and insurance services are stored on implants, and electricity distribution is controlled by the internet. Virtually, the world is made up of internet connected devices and services, with a projection of over fifty billion devices being connected by 2020 (Fok & Gerald, 2015). The results are evident with more smart cities, better public service provisions, reduced carbon print, and convenient communication among peers.
The use of mobile service is the leading internet platform that has penetrated major parts of the globe. According to the FTC Staff (2015) report, on the Internet of things, more than seventy-five percent of the world population has access to mobile phones, and the remaining twenty-five percent have a rough idea of the same technology. On the same report, a majority of the countries falling in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) source their internet from the wireless connection, which means the fix broadband services is gradually becoming infamous(Fok & Gerald, 2015). In fact, the developing countries are recording more mobile users than the developed countries, with the mobile market growing at an unprecedented speed in Africa and Asia. Notably, new mobile technologies such as mobile payments, low-value recharges, and multi-SIM-Card phones have originated from developing countries. The huge population accessing mobile phones installed with multi-function applications contributes to the creation of new services, markets precisely in the finance, healthcare, agriculture, and government. The trend also has inspired governments and multinationals to fund information technology based projects. Moreover, most countries have created special departments and organizations to develop and promote the adoption of information technology in major government agencies. As a result, there has been improved accountability, empowerment of minorities, economic development and social interaction between users. On the drawbacks, there have been privacy and intellectual property implications of the same resulting to dilemmas at government and community levels.
In the midst of promoting the use of the internet, there has been national or community level decision that has evoked a mixed reaction. Shutting or limiting the access of the internet is the most recent developments that have divided techno enthusiasts on the need to control the global cyberspace. The decision by the Egyptian government to shut down the internet in 2011 resulted in massive losses for companies using and supplying internet services for five days (Friedman, 2016). According to THE OECD report, the decision was highlighted by an over ninety million US dollar losses, with other bigger economic and social losses reported on the same. The decision was made with the idea that social media spawned and aggravated the economic revolution in the fight against the thirty years the power of Hosni Mubarak as president (Friedman, 2016). The aim was to prevent bloggers and political commentators from aggravating the situation and shutting the international community from knowing what was going on in the country. The 2011 Egyptian economic revolutions and other middle east have since been termed as Facebook and Twitter revolution, where activists used the platforms to gain international support and rally more people to join the movement.
Five years after the Arab Spring affecting Tunisia, Morocco, Libya a, and Egypt the discussion has narrowed into whether there has been a significant democratic achievement in the affected countries. According to Wael Ghonim, the man whose Facebook account was instrumental in the Tahir Square revolution that cumulated in the removal of Egyptian president the move created more polarization than unity (Clinton, 2011). Ghonim, now a Silicon Valley employee, created a Facebook group to in solidarity with an Egyptian civilian that was shot dead by the police. The group was later used to rally civilians to revolt against Hosni Mubarak regime. Though the international body was in praise of his actions and also condemned 2011, five-day internet closure, the ultimate goal of his work is yet to be realized. The use of social media amplified the polarization of the country on the basis of political opinions by spreading rumors and hate speech. After the revolution, the social media competition was turned into a fight between the Army and Islamist group, who used it to defame each other. In fact, the Egyptian Army created a Facebook group to defend itself from its critics and arrested activists on the same. Consequently, the liberation Ghonim intended to achieve has divided the country more, with less economic development. Notably, after the revolution, the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown by the military because of his decision to grant himself unlimited powers and sparking nationwide demonstrations. The military has subjected the same social media activists to long-term jail terms and the situation is worse than the Mubarak presidency. A similar trend was noted in most North Africa and Middle East countries which shows the fruitless impact of social media.
Based on the roles of Facebook and Twitter in the Arab revolution, it is evident that social media can act as a destroyer because we do not know how to control rumors, we only communicate with like-minded persons, online discussions are quickly implemented, and it is hard to change extreme opinions (Friedman, 2016). First, social media rumor is beyond the control of its users who can easily believe on biased opinions. Secondly, social media discussions mostly end with bitter feelings and disagreement between rivals because opinions are censored and uncontrollable. Thirdly, social media can allow individuals only to communicate with people they share the same view through controls such as unfollow, block and mute. Fourthly, it is difficult to alter opinions once they have been released to the masses. People can discuss sensitive international issues and jump into premature and unsubstantiated conclusion based on their biases(Friedman, 2016). Finally, the nature of social media platforms encourages discussions broadcasting over engagements characterized with shallow comments. Overall, social media seeks to aggravate the existing difference and needs regulations to avoid future failures such as the Arab spring.
The right to privacy and freedom has been an issue in the free cyberspace contributing to the need to balance the free global internet space. In 2011 remarks by the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she compared the internet with a public space. It can be a classroom, marketplace, nightclub, or coffeehouse that is protected by certain privacy and freedom rights. What is more, there are about eighteen billion people in this small space, which calls for the need of regulating how people co-exist concerning behaviors and conversations (Clinton, 2011). Given this, it is necessary to tell people how to conduct themselves in such platforms as they do in public spheres. Ideally, this can be done using constitutional regulations that prosecute individuals who violate peoples’ privacy and freedom on the internet. The initiative ought to guide the offline human rights protection policies such as allowing people to petition their leaders, worship, express their views, and freedom to assemble(Friedman, 2016). However, in the process of fostering such freedoms, there is a risk of losing certain public liberty(Clinton, 2011). Ideally, it is difficult to strike a balance between internet openness and upholding human rights and freedom. For instance, the openness policy on the internet has allowed extremist to recruit more people, hackers to steal from organizations, and child pornography getting a market place.
For the free internet space to accommodate everyday rights and freedom there is a need for major stakeholders to balance between the ethical use of the Internet and the protection of vulnerable population such as minors, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community (LGTB), and activists (Friedman, 2016). Given this, nations should invest more in cyber security to thwart away the threat of terrorist activities both online and offline(Friedman, 2016). There is a need to set punishments for persons who misuse the cyberspace to discriminate against certain individuals such lesbians and gays. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (2013), the government should create laws that ask all social media platforms host to remove defamatory messages as soon as they are published. Another issue that needs to be regulated in the free cyberspace is discrimination based on religion. Taking an example of the Islam uprising, insight stories have shown that religious battles contributed to the uprising- the fight to establish the real owners of the Muslim religion was a key factor and the propaganda was propagated through social media(Council on Foreign Relation, 2013). The same has been in the fight against terrorist, who have used online viral footages to divide people on a religious basis, which help them execute their heinous acts. In this sense, it is evident that ensuring online users have their liberty and freedom is arduous because the chances of abusing such as freedom are big.
Finally, there is the intellectual protection dilemma that poses confidentiality and transparency challenges to the free global internet connectivity. Ideally, the internet is an important marketing platform, but the function ability often benefits the end user only. According to the Atlantic Council (2016), protecting intellectual property is one of the economic challenges facing the free internet world where original owners of ideas are struggling to keep their original innovations and trademarks in the industry. For instance, music producers are finding it hard to keep their original music and get enough income from the same (Council on Foreign Relation, 2013). Currently, the Internet is used to sell illegal movies and music at a low price, which affect the amount of profit that the original composer of the music records in the end(Fok & Gerald, 2015). On the same issues, there have been instances when organizations or companies have lost some of their ideas that are on the incubation stage to online piracy which makes it difficult to launch substantial claims on the same. Similarly, there is a growing trend of online hackers assessing financial information of multinational and siphoning from the organization accounts. The best solution to such challenges is closing bank accounts associated to such fraudsters and pulling down their websites.
On the confidentiality and privacy issues, there are cases of high government and private organization assessing private information and using them for their own agendas. For instance, the recent asses to U.S presidential Candidate personal emails and the famous weak leaks exposure of government dealings illustrate how the global open internet can be used to infringe on o the privacy of individuals (Atlantic Council, 2016). Using the Clinton example, the disclosure increases the public doubt on major government institutions which are holding key security details of the country. If such information can be accessed by outsiders, it means the entire country is not secure because risky individuals can use the same information to create tension (Fok, & Gerald, 2015). On the private organization context, an open internet system means that the now digitalized banking and financial systems do not guarantee customers the safety of their money. An example is the Target corporation credit card scandal, where sensitive information of its users including their names and bank details were accessed by unauthorized persons. Concisely, that means that the card holders do not have control over their financial privacy which is a result of the open internet policy.
To sum up, despite the significance of open cyberspace such as promoting accountability, easy access of information, and the promoting social interactions, there is the need to put measures on the same to protect information privacy and infringement on freedoms. An open cyberspace has contributed to the leaking of confidential information of governments and organizations. For instance, the Target Corporation credit card hacks and leak of confidential FBI information. Similarly, it has been used by extremist and civil activists to create propaganda and create large scale unrest. The Islam Spring is an example of open media negativity that turn a noble idea a propaganda a campaign which results in more division than cooperation in the affected countries. Given this, it is important that information custodians implement better security measures such as data minimization, data notice and choice and legislation to protect online information.
Atlantic Council. (2016) Overcome by cyber risks? Economic benefits and costs of alternate cyber futures (pp. 1-34). Zurich.
Clinton, H. (2011). Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 16 November 2016,
Council on Foreign Relation. (2013). Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and www.cfr.org Resilient Internet (pp. 1-127). New York: Council on Foreign Relations.
Fok, W. & Gerald. (2015). The Internet Of Things: Making Cities — And The Way They Use Technology — Smarter. Forbes, p. N.P.
Friedman, T. (2016). Social Media: Destroyer or Creator? The New York Times, p. N.P.