A key theme of 2012 will be freedom and control on the internet. Social media can be the most disruptive of revolutionary tools – or a potent tool for state repression. The battle between digital liberation and autocratic limitation is playing out around the globe – in Syria, Cuba, China and Russia.
In the west, the conflict revolves around a different set of issues – piracy, privacy and monopoly. It pits the giants of technology against the creators of media, who are demanding stronger protections for their intellectual property.
Facebook will continue to push the boundary of acceptable snooping against the notion of a “right to be forgotten.” In Brussels, Google faces an antitrust investigation. The broader societal question is whether we are approaching media nirvana or filtering ourselves into solipsistic oblivion.
The three chief factions in this struggle are the digital utopians, the cyber-sceptics, and the techno-peasants. The first expect the Web to cure all society’s ills. The second see it making our familiar problems even worse.
The techno-peasants watch bemusedly as technology remakes our world in ways they cannot understand.