We’re in a very strange moment for the internet. We all know it’s broken. That’s not news. But there’s something in the air—a vibe shift, a sense that things are about to change. For the first time in years, it feels as though something truly new and different might be happening with the way we communicate online. The stranglehold that the big social platforms have had on us for the last decade is weakening. The question is: What do we want to come next?
There’s a sort of common wisdom that the internet is irredeemably bad, toxic, a rash of “hellsites” to be avoided. That social platforms, hungry to profit off your data, opened a Pandora’s box that cannot be closed. Indeed, there are truly awful things that happen on the internet, things that make it especially toxic for people from groups disproportionately targeted with online harassment and abuse. Profit motives led platforms to ignore abuse too often, and they also enabled the spread of misinformation, the decline of local news, the rise of hyperpartisanship, and entirely new forms of bullying and bad behavior. All of that is true, and it barely scratches the surface.
But the internet has also provided a haven for marginalized groups and a place for support, advocacy, and community. It offers information at times of crisis. It can connect you with long-lost friends. It can make you laugh. It can send you a pizza. It’s duality, good and bad, and I refuse to toss out the dancing-baby GIF with the tubgirl-dot-png bathwater. The internet is worth fighting for because despite all the misery, there’s still so much good to be found there. And yet, fixing online discourse is the definition of a hard problem. But look. Don’t worry. I have an idea.
What is the internet and why is it following me around?
To cure the patient, first we must identify the disease.
When we talk about fixing the internet, we’re not referring to the physical and digital network infrastructure: the protocols, the exchanges, the cables, and even the satellites themselves are mostly okay. (There are problems with some of that stuff, to be sure. But that’s an entirely other issue—even if both do involve Elon Musk.) “The internet” we’re talking about refers to the popular kinds of communication platforms that host discussions and that you probably engage with in some form on your phone.
Some of these are massive: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, X. You almost certainly have an account on at least one of these; maybe you’re an active poster, maybe you just flip through your friends’ vacation photos while on the john.
Seguir leyendo: MIT Tecnology Review