The open internet is under threat, according to a new report — and it needs your help – Business Insider


man on laptop at data center
Flickr/Leonardo
Rizzi


LONDON — The internet needs your help.

That’s the message being pushed by Mark Surman, executive
director of the Mozilla Foundation, as the
organization launches the first version of a big new report
into the health of the web.

“The last five years really started to erode some of the things
that made the internet so great,” Surman told Business Insider in
a phone interview.

Threats range from consolidation into near-monopoly control by
big companies to hostile governments and censorship, he said —
and he wants to raise awareness and encourage a mainstream
movement to help tackle these issues.

“[It] impacts our economies, our societies, our democracies …
if we screw it up, we screw everything up, for a very long time,”
he said.

“Living in the digital age is not about go go away. We’ve
unlocked something that will be with us for many centuries.”

‘The last 5 years really started to erode some of the things
made the internet so great’

On Thursday, Mozilla launched its new internet health report — a
document that attempts to gauge the relative health of the
internet on a range of factors, from security to censorship, from
openness to web literacy.

This project is also part of a larger rebranding for the Mozilla
Foundation, a non-profit organization best known for building the
Firefox web browser. After crowdfunding suggestions for a
redesign, it
unveiled its new logo on Wednesday
.

“If we’re being super simple,” Surman said, “we built an amazing
thing, one of the best human inventions ever, [that] unlocks
a huge amount of human potential, creativity, and wealth …
[but] the last five years really started to erode some of the
things that made the internet so great.”

There are also some highly positive aspects, the 47-year-old
Canadian said — pointing to access to the internet across the
world as continuing to improve.

Consolidation is getting worse


mark zuckerberg facebook ceo
Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Justin
Sullivan/Getty Images


A key concern of Surman about the modern web is consolidation —
the increasing way a few major players have monopolies or
near-monopolies in their sectors. Think Facebook, Google, Amazon,
and so on. This, he argues, cannot be a good thing.

He stressed he’s not against the commercialization of the
internet, per se — but against its centralization in the
hands of too few people. “Does the commercial growth fuel access,
and fuel the benefits we get from the internet as human and
individuals? Absolutely yes.”

“I think the commercialization of human communication has been an
enabler,” and centralization has some positive effects: “We can
find each other, network effects, more people on the network.”

But, he continued, “in the case of instant messaging and social
networks, there’s less and less competition, whether that’s
through Facebook buying apps, Instagram and WhatsApp … [it is]
by far the dominant majority controller of instant messaging in
the West.”

“You get that consolidation, and then there’s no competition,” he
argues. “Consolidation takes away opportunity for
entrepreneurship.”

So what?

So what’s the point of all this?

“Our individual actions shape the health of the Internet
ecosystem. Only by recognizing where the system is healthy can we
take positive steps to make it stronger. Only by understanding
where it’s at risk can we avoid actions that weaken it,” the
report reads.

“This prototype — a snapshot of a moment in time in the life of
the Internet — identifies five health markers that we believe are
worth paying attention to and offers an initial prognosis for
each.”


Trump
Donald
Trump.

REUTERS/Shannon
Stapleton


There are already plenty of organizations out there advocating
for the issues — privacy, security, decentralization, innovation,
and so on — that the report discusses, like the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF), or Open Rights Group (ORG) in the UK.
But Surman draws a parallel between these efforts and the early
environmental movement in the sixties and seventies.

At the time, it was “not seen as a movement at all, people didn’t
think about it all.” The Mozilla Foundation executive
director hopes that the Internet Health report, and others
like it, will help brings these issues “to the fore” in the
public consciousness — something that’s now more important than
ever.

“We are seeing governments coming to power in North American and
the European Union that have the wrong idea about the internet,
that want to do things that will undermine security … that will
further encourage the consolidation of power in a few hands,”
Surman said.

“[It’s] critical that people understand that the health of the
internet is an issue.”

The first version of the report published on Thursday is
being called “v0.1,” with a fuller version planned for
publication later in 2017. You can check out v0.1
online here »

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