Technology giants have been met with a great deal of hostility in the Internet 2.0 era. There are many factors that contribute to the negative sentiment toward tech giants, and one important point is that people are strongly opposed to tech monopolies. (Mitroff & Storesund, 2020) This reflects a concern about the lack of diversity. Indeed, the lack of diversity does have a significant impact on the development of the Internet and can be detrimental to society and individuals. The following will focus on what diversity is, how lack of diversity affects the development of the Internet, and how it harms society and individuals to explain this point.
What is Internet Diversity? Understand internet diversity
Most individuals understand diversity in superficial terms, such as race, gender, and age. However, the definition of diversity also represents a wide range of experiences such as social background, education, and life experiences. (Allaya, 2021a) Besides, from a technical point of view, the Internet is defined as a combination of hardware and software and is seen as a worldwide computer network system. (Abbate, 2018) Literally, the technological diversity of the Internet is reflected in the fact that the Internet has different technologies or platforms, for example, there are professional and social networks. More importantly, diversity is reflected in the cultural aspect of the Internet. As Brügger et al. (2017) suggest that with the development of the Internet, it has become a communication and media environment in many countries, and even an indispensable element in daily life, culture, and society. Cultural diversity on the Internet is a broad concept that can include the diversity of languages, races, gender, and religions. It can also include disability and other identities and experiences. (III, 2022) Consequently, it could be argued that the diversity of the Internet is not limited to technology or platform diversity, it also involves cultural diversity in the Internet.
Impact of Lack of Diversity on Internet Development
A study of the factors that facilitate or hinder the development of the Internet found that, in addition to technology and funding, the diversity of the Internet also affects its development. (Xiaoming & Kay, 2004) In fact, as mentioned in the video there is a lack of diversity in the tech industry and lacking diversity has many bad effects on the development of the Internet. These influences include limiting Internet innovation and affecting fair competition among Internet companies.
Lack of diversity limits creativity and innovation
The diversity and plurality of the Internet can help industry innovation and development. Specifically, when a company has a diverse team of employees, it means that the company is able to have a variety of opinions, backgrounds, and perspectives, and the company will gain more creativity and a wider range of skills. (Wooll, 2021) Unfortunately, there are still many large Internet companies that choose to hire in traditionally large metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco or New York. Racial and gender diversity in the technology industry is also problematic. For example, studies show that only 15 percent of entry-level positions are held by women of color compared to 35 percent for white men. (Wooll, 2021) Furthermore, according to Facebook data, only 2.1% of tech jobs at Facebook are held by black employees. (Meta, 2021) These are examples of the lack of diversity in the Internet industry which make it likely that companies will miss out on some talented employees. Thus, companies should expand their recruitment to get a more diverse workforce to promote the development of the industry.
- Techlash undermine fair competition in the Internet industry.
Not only does diversity within technology companies affect industry growth, but a lack of diversity in the industry can also limit growth. In the case of techlash, tech giants are destroying the diversity of the industry and breaking the equity of competition between companies. For example, Google search accounts for 92% of all web searches worldwide. (Search Engine Market Share Worldwide, 2022) Its browser, Chrome, uses Google Search by default, which results in nearly two-thirds of users worldwide using it. In other words, Google has a monopoly on the search engine industry, which makes other companies in the industry uncompetitive. When the industry loses the normal competition, it is difficult to improve the economic operation efficiency of the whole industry, which will hinder the progress of the industry. Moreover, studies show that monopolies tend to have less incentive to research and develop new or improved technologies because they already have a dominant market share and are usually highly profitable. (Monopoly and Technological Stagnation, by The Linux Information Project, 2006) For example, Media investment analysis firm Ebiquity found that Google, Meta, and Amazon collect nearly three-quarters of global digital advertising revenue in 2021. (McCarthy, 2022) Consequently, the emergence of technology giants can easily cause the industry to lose a fair competition, thus hindering the progress of the Internet industry.
How does lack of diversity affect society and individuals?
The Internet serves as a unique communication channel that can connect people who share the same hobbies, values, and beliefs, influencing all aspects of the community including communication and social capital. (Katz et al., 2001) As Melendez（2021) points out in his article, the technology industry will face a significant regression if it lacks diversity. Lack of diversity can lead to harm and serious consequences, which can be reflected at the social and individual levels.
A lack of diversity on the Internet will exacerbate social inequality and inhibit societal productivity. Taking technology hiring as an example, the lack of diversity leaves women and black people unequally treated. A report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) shows that 75 percent of American technology jobs are held by men. Besides, the average wage for black workers is 4% lower than their peers. (Nicholson, 2022) Gender and racial bias are so pervasive in the tech industry that it forces talented women and minority employees to stay out of the industry. Simultaneously, the entire technology industry will lose creativity. Furthermore, if all content on the Internet is only available to white men or elite groups, this will undoubtedly reinforce gender stereotypes. Thus, lacking diversity on the Internet will exacerbate stereotypes and discourage social innovation.
From the individual level, the lack of diversity on the Internet will affect the ability of users to judge and select information. Many works of literature have indicated the benefits of online diversity on the mental and physical health of individuals, on their ability to think, and on their ability to acquire knowledge. (Hampton et al., 2011) In other words, if the Internet lacks diversity, many aspects of the individual would suffer. For example, the excessive use of beauty filters on social media causes the problem of aesthetic homogeneity. Too many young girls have changed the way they look at themselves because the pictures on social media are all about big eyes and high noses. A single style of the picture seems to tell the public that only such appearance is beautiful and everyone looks like this. Moreover, the monopoly of knowledge by technology companies will also affect the ability of individuals to access information. Specifically, technology companies are able to control the information presented to the public, so that users can only focus on the information presented to them by the technology companies. (Riera, 2018) When there is only one opinion on the Internet, it is difficult for users to discern whether that opinion is correct or not, because there is no other reference and ultimately users are left to absorb inaccurate and irrelevant information.
The evolution of the Internet has brought convenience and influenced the daily life and cultural values of the public. The lack of diversity is indeed a problem that cannot be ignored. Lack of diversity will limit the innovation and development of the Internet, exacerbate social inequalities and affect the ability of users to access and judge information. Therefore, increasing the diversity of the Internet is something that Internet companies as well as the general public should endeavor to do.
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