The Internet and related technology has grown to the point where it is arguably one the largest and most prevalent source of information on Earth. The question of ownership of this medium, and therefore who holds the power of this information, is a point not so easily clarified.
When it comes to media, it is easy to take for granted just how much more power the Internet and similar revolutions in electronic information distribution has placed in the hands of the public.
Disseminating information or news of breaking events has never been faster, or more widespread. With a little bit of experience, one can home in on the key points of a report or event, and in the rare event of certain details being cloudy or vague, people can communicate with many, many others at a time, even across the globe, to speak directly with those experiencing an event in many cases.
In this way, the balance of power has shifted fundamentally from the traditional sources of media. It has long been a point of speculation as to how biased or accurate any media source is, whether it be swayed in its methods by the pressures of big business or corporate influence, or more insidiously, government pressures and/or censorship.
Such concerns are being rendered moot by the sheer availability of information in the Internet age. It becomes far harder for anyone, whether they be a single misbehaving celebrity or a governmental body, to do anything without it being recorded, disseminated and analysed by hundreds, thousands or millions of people, depending on public interest.
Naturally, you’d expect all any parties that stood to gain anything by it to want to exercise as much control as possible over such a medium. It seems unlikely that we’d be seeing any coverage of Rupert Murdoch’s latest difficulties if all media were under his exclusive control!
But with the Internet, such matters become complicated for any one party. While it is possible for them to buy popular news sites and control the flow of information that way, the Internet is so nebulous, and the methods of communication so varied, it is simply not possible to own or balance it in any sense of the word. For every ten news sites you control, there are many, many more, not even counting the unregulated discussion between individuals that can take place just about everywhere over international distances. It is simply too easy for people to communicate with eachother for the flow of information to be regulated.
It is one of the reasons home study courses are so popular – thanks to the ease of discussion and information sharing, people can get the information they need firsthand from other experienced parties.
One wonders if there was a point, early in the Internet’s life, where someone realised what was happening, and just how much the balance would shift. Of course, by then, it was already too late.