Gated communities in cyberspace

Internet providers offer filters for certain value communities: Does the Web disintegrate into closed communities?

It is strange to observe how the Internet gradually adapts to real life again, or at least was able to do so. The fundamental characteristic of the Web is the possibility of setting hyperlinks or, by typing in URLs, of being able to access a page directly from a "place" to jump to another. Unlike in the real world, where places are characterized by different distances defined by space and time, virtual places in cyberspace are, at least in theory, all equidistant from each other and all equally accessible from any location. Huts are next to palaces, glittering and busy shopping malls are next to dingy alleys, government buildings are next to places where criminals hang out, children’s websites are next to red-light districts, offices are next to casinos. The space is replaced by the infrastructure, which determines, for example, how and with what capacity data is transmitted.

Another characteristic of the web is that the "Places" or "Building" is a "architecture" that determines, for example, the hierarchy of pages on a website, but that, in turn, in principle every page within a website can be reached directly without having to go through a specific path, which, for example, is "Entrance" over "aisle" and "floors" to a certain "Room" leads. If the URL of a certain page is known, i.e. it has been found by a search engine or "Deep Link" is given, then one can jump with the browser immediately from any place to another like with a teleporter.

This openness of the Web, however, is now perceived by many sites as storend and dangerous. Of course, it is by no means the case that the migratory streams of surfers on the web are evenly distributed, which is why condensations and concentrations arise of their own accord, from which, as in the case of the so-called "web portals", a certain number of pages can be accessed "portals", usually built around a search engine, profit can be made from it. Such "Locations" in the virtual world city are worth many billions of dollars, and for commercial interests the visitors are registered and identified as much as possible, for example by setting cookies when they enter the city. While portals or other virtual places where passersby or interested people concentrate try to keep people within their "neighborhoods" which includes the policy of linking, states, companies, groups and individuals also try to limit the openness of the Web to exclude regions and thus to exclude secure neighborhoods "clean" exclude secure neighborhoods. The result could be fragmentation of the Web through the formation of ethnic, cultural, political, and commercial enclaves.

The means for the fragmentation of the web are mainly the filters that can be used to restrict the movement of browsers in order to maintain the metaphorical language, because some accesses remain closed this way. Whatever the motives for installing filters, they are usually justified by the need to protect others – citizens of a state, members of a company, members of a religious community and, of course, innocent children. Only in the rarest cases a user will install a filter for his own protection, however, such communities are now beginning to emerge more and more.

The focus is on companies, of course, but also on Internet providers that enable family-oriented or religiously motivated blocking for their customers by means of filters. One example is The Kosher Net, which provides Orthodox Jews with a "safe and kosher" offers access to the web:

"The seeming magic advancements has its pitfalls… adult entertainment, missionaries, cults, offensive, illegal or violent subject matter (and depraved individuals lurking behind sites and chat lines for the unsuspecting innocents). How do we protect ourselves from the stuff that’s totally unsuitable for children and adults as well?… while still reaping the benefits? Is it possible? These concerns are universal; the media is ripe with articles and stories on the dangers of the Internet. Therefore, until recently, it looked like we either stayed off the web entirely or surfed at our own risk… That is… until now."

In the U.S., according to the New York Times, there are already about 30 Internet providers that offer filtered access to the Web, so far mainly from evangelical religious groups, such as American Family Online, where in addition to filters for clean content, for example, access to chat rooms is generally blocked. In addition, there are a number of Internet providers that offer portals and "secured" Providing access to the Internet. The American union AFL-CIO is opening such a portal with the internet provider iBelong (Workers, network!), while the Catholic Families Network wants to provide a Catholic censored web access with the newly founded Internet provider iConnect. However, allegedly only the access to pornography and hate sites should be blocked here. Catholic Online also plans to offer filtered Internet access with X-Stop.

Many Americans are in favor of filters or other access restrictions, according to a survey by Freedom Forum. Three-quarters of respondents believe that "people should not be allowed to post sexually explicit content on the Internet", and 58 percent believe that libraries should filter access to the Internet and that the U.S. government should develop a rating system for content on the Internet. In any case, the business of blocked Internet access, which can be targeted according to the values and desires of certain communities, is becoming attractive. Thus, FreedomISP also offers a "real protection" from pornographic and other abhorrent content with a filter supposedly based on artificial intelligence: "Finally Peace of Mind on the Internet." The Internet provider FamilyClick, which cooperates with Catholic Online, is geared toward families and the protection of children and also wants to establish a general family portal by filtering content:

"You want a haven on the Internet where you can find fun, inspiration, how-to advice, and shopping links — all in a family-friendly, easy-to-navigate place. Whether you’re looking for safe and reliable Internet access, filtered email, home and family how-to advice, or entertainment options, FamilyClick is an electronic link to your family’s future."

Through such cut-offs, which are now offered by Internet providers for certain groups, the Internet could become more and more fragmented for the users, even if not in fact, through the homogenization of communities and repeat that trend in cyberspace, which, for example, led to guarded and closed settlements, "cleaned" business districts and family-friendly amusement parks or malls. While less democratically minded countries may focus on disagreeable political information or value communities on pornography, the apparently growing market of Internet providers offering filters for specific groups or organizations is likely to offer increasingly sophisticated products tailored to all needs in order to prevent the people they claim to care for and act on behalf of from unwanted influences and excursions in cyberspace. The ethnic cleansing of territories, that is, the staking out of territories, is spilling over from real life into cyberspace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *