Corporatisation of the public sphere
The public sphere used to be our territory, but we are failing to protect it online.
The difficulties experienced by Wikileaks last year were the most visible demonstration yet of just how far the corporatisation of the public sphere has become. Some people described it as the beginning of the first Internet war. They’re just being over-dramatic of course, but it was one fight in a whole series of turf wars over who controls online spaces.
We are thankful that our printing presses are not shut down without due process. But from Mastercard and Visa to Apple, Paypal, Amazon and even data visualisation tool Tableau – company after company pulled out of the production chain without a court order in sight.
In that case national security was given as the reason. In other – less publicised – examples relating to other content producers and distributors it has been copyright, where the mere accusation of infringement can lead to legitimate content being taken down.
But the issue that should most concern journalists is the net neutrality debate.
Net neutrality refers to the fact that the internet does not privilege one type of content over another.
Many internet providers would like to charge to give priority to particular sources of content – or charge users to access certain services.
The possibility of regaining a former oligopoly may have some appeal to journalists, but we should again ask ourselves the question: do we want to be Journalists with a capital J and bathe in the glory of our guild, or do we want to help journalism happen?
What role do we have in a democracy?
If Apple can remove the Wikileaks app from their store without appeal, or pull a newspaper from the app store because of minor nudity, do we want to give that power to telecomms providers?
The public sphere was our territory, we should be defending it.