The old saying “freedom isn’t free” comes to mind when I contemplate the meaning of internet freedom in today’s modern world. The past two decades have seen an incredible growth in technology and the ability for people to connect thanks to the creation and expansion of the World Wide Web. Popular sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to create profiles at no cost to them, though they may be targeted with eerily specific advertisements. Is the price we pay for the freedom to use the internet with little cost this barrage of advertising? That certainly seems like the case right now according to an article featured on the New York Times detailing the increasing sophistication of advertisements on social media sites.
Aside from the stream of advertisements many internet users face, the United States has a very liberal policy towards internet freedom. The U.S. Department of State’s internet policy (which can be found here) states:
“Our goal is to ensure that any child, born anywhere in the world, has access to the global Internet as an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize, and express herself free from undue interference or censorship.”
While many Americans take their internet freedom for granted, not all citizens of the world have the same luxury. Internet users in China are experiencing a crackdown on their ability to anonymously surf the web, facing a government that wishes to control all aspects of their internet usage. Though it is difficult for many of us, Americans should strive to pause; to take a moment; to stop hastily scrolling through news feeds, and looking up videos of cats playing the piano, and googling every disease they think they might have contracted. Take some time to appreciate the vast scope of information the internet presents us with and our ability to access it without harsh restrictions.
To help appreciate our freedom to surf the web, please enjoy this video of the Beach Boys’ song “Surfin’ U.S.A.”