It is indisputable that diverse segments are rising during the Internet blossom. Considerable further concepts are brought up or used online, such as renewed varieties of gender, artificial intelligence, and inclusive culture. These increasing diversities are generally concentrated from the width perspective, which leads to the introspection of whether the expanding amount of information on the Internet could represent diversity advancing or merely indicate the arising of several concepts. That is, it could be argued that online audiences might misconceive diversity as the newly added topics online but overlook how these notions have been utilised or engaged in online spaces. This blog aims to discuss to what degree that lack of diversity could impact Internet development and how it could harm individuals and society from three perspectives: culturally, technically, and balancing.
“Website as Graphs” by Buthaina AlOthman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The lack of diversity on the Internet could be recognised in the cultural aspect that one of the most representative factors is the lack of online linguistic diversity. Linguistic diversity is an essential development factor of globalisation that strengthens the sense of interconnectedness and interdependence of the world (Wasserman, 2002, as cited in Paolillo et al., 2005). The world’s top three most-spoken languages are English, Mandarin, and Hindi (Klappenbach, 2022). Nonetheless, the use of English on the Internet is up to 60%, while it is used by 16% of the global population. In contrast, Mandarin is only 1.4% used on the Internet, while it shares up to 14.3% of the world-speaking population (Bhutada, 2021).
“Talking in Languages 2.0” by Markus Koljonen under the license of CC BY-NC 2.0
It is worth pondering whether it reflects a linguistic bias since English has always been the dominant language on the Internet, while other languages are less frequently appearing in comparison (Paolillo et al., 2005). The English language is of Latin origin, which is used three times more frequently on the Web than Latin. It leads to the disappearance of considerable old scientific words, which could be recognised as a step backwards in the humanities’ cultural history (Paolillo et al., 2005). The lack of linguistic diversity on the Internet could also drag to an easier monopoly of the web in English. For example, the programming languages — well-known programming languages: Java, C++, and Python are only available in English, which discourages numerous non-native English speakers. The following video was posted by a programming developer from India who talks about why English is so important in programming. He tells the audience that they have no choice but to work hard to learn English if they want to be better programmers or get higher pay, although it is unfair.
“Is English important for programming？” by Hitesh Choudhary from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHqZ0M8bddE
In order to get rid of the monopoly of English programming, the Chinese company Huawei designed a Chinese-based programming system two years ago: Cangjie Language. It is worth noticing whether extreme imbalances in programming languages can lead to prejudiced results; for example, non-native programmers may program based on misconceptions or biases (Paolillo et al., 2005).
As mentioned above, the lack of diversity in programming languages could lead to bias in the Internet’s output. Similarly, the overly monotonous characteristics of online algorithms could also cause contradiction. By the end of the day, algorithmic discrimination is a common phrase on the Internet found in numerous aspects, such as search engines, advertisement launching, and various web tools. For example, Google Chrome is known to dominate web pages, which is currently the world’s most giant private data keeper and advertiser, which is worrying. Google Chrome has few substitutes in all critical areas among competitors and users (Paal, 2016), while algorithm issues are noteworthy due to its dominant position. Since algorithms were developed by humans, it is worth pondering whether one algorithm’s design aims for profit for the company or users’ interest. A former Google employee reveals significant bias in Google’s algorithm for black people’s face recognition after her departure, and Google tries to stop her from spreading these comments. Moreover, Russia used to buy numerous advertisements on Google Chrome during the election. Although their purpose is unclear, this information on the Internet will likely influence society’s attitude towards politics due to the level of trust that the audience has consistently placed in Google Chorm’s information. In the video below, Andreas Ekström (2015) expresses his praise for Google Chrome’s humanises algorithm through two different cases in his speech from a critically perspective.
“The moral bias behind your search results” by TED from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vBggxCNNno
In addition to illustrating the relationships among users, search engines and developers, this video also implies the importance of algorithmic diversity, especially for a browser as the size of Google Chrome that could genuinely impact society and individuals from numerous aspects. Hence, how the algorithms in search engines are designed and operated is crucial since it is how most individuals access information. The monopoly of search engines is one of the main reasons for the lack of diversity on the Internet, bringing opportunities and challenges for media and society (Paal, 2016).
There is no doubt that Internet diversity is curial for society and individuals. Meanwhile, the complicated Internet sphere needs to be balanced between diversity and monotonicity that it is not beneficial to have one side overreaching. Diversity on the Internet is a sensitive case that often comes up alongside sexist and racist topics. Diversity should be promoted just like gender equality. Nevertheless, these positive actions lose their value when the topic is deliberately brought up by someone to cause conflict or seek value from it. An engineer was fired by Google for his “controversial sexist comments”. He claimed that women are underrepresented in the internet and tech industry compared to men not only because of sexism in the workplace but also because of the biological differences between men and women that lead women to prefer non-technology jobs. Below is a video of him defending himself after his dismissal:
“Fired Google engineer defends diversity memo” by CNN from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFaghE2a8OA
The video reveals that James Damore is not against women working in the internet industry; by contrast, he even proposes solutions in his memo on how to get more women involved in the internet industry. What he was attacking is how Google claims to promote diversity in the workplace that actually sees no difference between men and women, which he believed could lead to anti-diversity. Nevertheless, numerous people radically attacked him for different reasons (not fully understanding James Damore’s memo or deliberate misinterpretation of the memo for the gimmicks’ interest). To outward seeming, this incident appears to be an act of solidarity by audiences to defend diversity and gender equality in the Internet industry against a “sexist”. However, critically thinking, the fact is that these seemingly righteous actions will deter more people from standing out, which instead weaken the diversity of the Internet. Thus, it is necessary for audiences to think independently to judge information on the Internet since both extreme diversity and monopoly can have an adverse impact on society or individuals.
In conclusion, the lack of diversity could cause several adverse effects on the Internet industry’s evolution, such as linguistic and technical monopoly. Although diversity is an indispensable factor in internet development, it still matters for audiences and related practitioners to regard how to balance Internet diversity and monopoly. The increase of diversity on the Internet depends not only on the web developers or software engineers but also on the audience’s attitude, which determines whether the diversity survives or not.
Non-hyperlink Reference List:
Bhutada, G. (2021, July 29). Visualizing the most used languages on the internet. Visual Capitalist. Retrieved October 8, 2022, from https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-most-used-languages-on-the-internet/
Klappenbach, A. (2022, August 25). Most spoken languages in the world 2022. Busuu Blog. Retrieved October 8, 2022, from https://blog.busuu.com/most-spoken-languages-in-the-world/
Paal, B. P. (2016). Internet search engines and Antitrust Law. Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice, 11(4), 298–306. https://doi.org/10.1093/jiplp/jpw019
Paolillo, J. C., Prado, D., & Pimienta, D. (2005). Language Diversity on the Internet. In Measuring linguistic diversity on the internet: A collection of papers (pp. 43–89). essay, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
Hyperlink Reference List:
Choudhary, M. (2018, January 18). Is English important for programming [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHqZ0M8bddE
Chuck, E. (2017, August 8). Google employee’s Anti-Diversity Manifesto on women’s ‘neuroticism’ goes viral. NBCNews.com. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/google-employee-s-anti-diversity-manifesto-women-s-neuroticism-goes-n790401
CNN. (2017, August 15). Fired google engineer defends diversity memo [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFaghE2a8OA
Ekström, A. (2015, December 7). The moral bias behind your search results | Andreas Ekström [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vBggxCNNno
Hardesty , L. (2018, February 11). Study finds gender and skin-type bias in commercial artificial-intelligence systems. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://news.mit.edu/2018/study-finds-gender-skin-type-bias-artificial-intelligence-systems-0212
Li, D. (2021, February 25). Huawei’s own programming language? new patent application reveals similar plans. Huawei Central. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.huaweicentral.com/huaweis-own-programming-language-new-patent-application-reveals-similar-plans/
Reeves, B. (2019, August 20). The browser monopoly. Blair Reeves. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://blairreeves.me/2019/08/20/the-browser-monopoly/
Wakabayashi, D. (2017, October 9). Google finds accounts connected to Russia bought election ads. The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/09/technology/google-russian-ads.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=FB004BFD1F884CA5FB8F79B9B5E811BB&gwt=pay