Start from the Web 2.0 era, platform model was integrated into the development of internet. As a virtual and extensive public sphere, the construction relies on the participation of users and the contribution of collective wisdom. The significant function of sharing information reduces the complexity of the process of interaction between various groups. Hence, the internet is expected to become a new, democratising force. (Dworak, Lovett & Baumgartner, 2014) Theoretically, the culture of openness, freedom and inclusion which symbolizes to internet facilitates the coexistence of diverse contents as well as characters. However, the diversity of sources is unable to generate the results of a utopian vision of the Internet absolutely. (Dworak, Lovett & Baumgartner, 2014)
- Firstly, the sharing model of the internet directly reduces the capabilities of the public to choose when consuming although it offers efficiency to users. In particular, based on technical algorithm, the sharing economy in platforms directly omit the step of selection by users. That is, the effective choices that the platform possesses are infinite, but the options that users actually have the ability to access are limited. The program sets the range of options that can be selected for individuals. Hence, the fixed trading model the reduces the diversity of consumption and selection available to users. “Peer-to-peer” technology applies the concepts of redundancy and idling capacity in collaborative consumption. (John, 2016) Take Uber for instance, the platform redistributes data after combination from drivers and customers. It completes a one-to-one transaction by offering excess vehicle resources to customers who need a car. Although the sharing economy allocates resources most efficiently, the active and passive choices of both groups are to some extent unidirectional rather than diverse. Meanwhile, the platform achieves the maximization of benefits according to the datafication. Traditional taxi businesses are also being suppressed by the new economy. The Uber would prefer private cars registered on the platform to distribute customers as much as possible. Traditional taxis have to operate with licences, and the prices are fixed by the company. The massive expansion of Uber has devalued taxis as the result. Thus, the sharing economy in internet platform which driven by technologies, it can be considered that the transactions are unequal because of the shortages of diverse selections.
Due to the sharing and rapid communication of information on the internet, the concentration of similar contents reflects in media coverages. Furthermore, the network effects are detrimental to individuals’ judgements of diverse contents. The internet provides a basis for a diversity of sources, since it is a multi-sided market. The public can both access into platform easily and have rights to publish various kinds of contents. Although it cannot be denied that the topics and material contained by the internet are more extensive than the traditional media, the phenomenon of imitation is common in the new media. In other words, if a topic becomes popular, then there is immediately a great number of medium, bloggers and users posting contents related to it. They may even draw on the same sources of information caused by contents in part of posts and videos are only different in superficial. New media cannot be driven without profits and economic goods. (Elangovan, 2022) Reaping greater traffic means more profit for bloggers, so they rely on contents that can easily attract the public. However, this aggravates the lack of content diversity on the Internet. Once the quantity of followers grows, it serves to help bloggers pushing out advertisements. In Facebook, 97% of revenue comes from advertising. It is noticed that there is often the same product promoted several times by multiple bloggers in one time period on Facebook and TikTok. Such scale economies monopolise the development of other products of the same type. Consumers are subconsciously guided in their consumptions of goods.
Besides, the progress of topic expansion in the internet is stagnant according to the personalised algorithms adopted by platforms to increase the user engagement. The contents that main media platforms push trend to be entertaining. In addition, internet algorithms control to distribute contents to users based on their browsing history, purchase data, etc. In this case, there is an uneven focus on social events and news. Particularly for the young group, who are highly engaged with internet platforms, the information they receive becomes less-informed. (Elangovan, 2022) As a result, the public views on events become lack of multiple perspectives. Meanwhile, it can be considered that the life cycle of news events becomes shorter, regardless of whether it reaches a suitable conclusion. Thus, as a democratic platform, the internet has deficiency of available solution in confronting public wills and opinions.
- Secondly, the issues of Internet governance are focused on because of the low barriers to entry and the increasing influx of individuals from all aspects of classes and interest groups. The Yahoo incident in 2000 is a famous case of Internet management. UEJF and LICRA filed a lawsuit against the auction site operated by Yahoo in France for violating French criminal law. Since the site was found to selling illegal items, including Nazi memorabilia. The case ended with a payout to UEJF and LICRA by Yahoo. In order to avoid similar events, Yahoo’s website changed its auction guidelines to forbid users trading prohibited goods and information.
Some may argue that whether the governance imposed by the Internet, as a relatively neutral platform, is combating the existence of niche cultures and contradicting the democratic culture of the Internet. Principles with clear interpretations and boundaries are vital to policy-making process. (Napoli & Karppinen, 2013) All content moderations execute by internet platforms need to be based on regulations. Despite of these regulations protect the rights of users from criminal information to a certain extent. However, to be an agent for a multiplicity of interests, the internet has not only a huge volume of sources but also a complexity of contradictions and conflicts. In this case, the difficulties of moderation lead to the reduction in the precision of the judgement, although there are various of regulations. In order to avoid controversies as much as possible, content moderation may easily screen out information that is ambiguous for the regulations, especially for automated moderating algorithm. Thus, part of controversial information including niche cultures, etc., is less likely to be distributed and communicated, as well as less value space of cultural existence. The lack of cultural diversity is inevitably disadvantage to all aspects of society. Diverse culture promotes social cohesion as well as the main condition for the development of any knowledge economy. (Musiani, 2007)
As John Perry Barlow says, the value of the internet is that it enables the public to express their beliefs, whatever how unique these are, instead of being forced to be conformable. (Barlow, 1996) As a democratic and transparent platform, it may not have the capacity to constrain and to make judgements. (Musiani, 2007) The decentralised structure of the Internet also reflects this point. Thus, there are ongoing debates on the governance of the Internet. As mentioned above, the final decision from Yahoo played a role in protecting internet environment but restricted the freedom of interaction of products and sources. Besides, governance makes it difficult to ensure the security of user privacies. Therefore, the public have to resolve current contradictions. To find the balance between the internet culture of freedom and the reality of the internet need to be managed. Meanwhile, preserving the diversity of the Internet should be the pre-condition for all regulations.
Barlow, J. P. (1996, February 8). A declaration of the independence of cyberspace. Electronic Frontier Foundation. https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence
Dworak, B. J., Lovett, J., & Baumgartner, F. R. (2014). The diversity of Internet media: Utopia or dystopia. Midwest Political Science Association, 1(6), 42-65.
Elangovan, N. (2022, October 3). The Big Read: Is society becoming less informed as social media platforms shun hard news? CNA. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/news-social-media-tiktok-informed-societies-2979261
Internet. (n.d.). https://www.freetimelearning.com/basics-of-computer-science/what-is-internet.php
John, N. A. (2016). Sharing Economies. In The Age of Sharing (p. lviii-lxxvii). https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.sydney.edu.au/lib/usyd/reader.action?docID=4770940&ppg=13
Musiani, F. (2007, April 12). Learning online: Openness, diversity and access debates at the internet governance forum’s second meeting. Ideas for Peace. https://www.ideasforpeace.org/content/learning-online-openness-diversity-and-access-debates-at-the-internet-governance-forums-second-meeting/
Napoli, P. M., & Karppinen, K. (2013). Translating diversity to Internet governance. First Monday, 18(12). https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v18i12.4307
Nudelman, M. (2016). Revenue Streams of The Big 5 Tech Companies. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-google-apple-facebook-amazon-microsoft-make-money-chart-2017-5
Petropoulos, Georgios. (2016, February 22). Uber and the economic impact of sharing economy platforms. Bruegel. https://www.bruegel.org/blog-post/uber-and-economic-impact-sharing-economy-platforms
UEJF and Licra v Yahoo! Inc and Yahoo France. (n.d.). Sherloc. https://sherloc.unodc.org/cld/en/case-law-doc/cybercrimecrimetype/fra/2000/uejf_and_licra_v_yahoo_inc_and_yahoo_france.html