With the continuous development of contemporary digital culture, the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. It is not only a so-called virtual world but every day the content on the Internet is relevant to our daily lives. At the same time, due to the Internet’s relative anonymity, it seems to give everyone discourse power on social media easily. Social media platforms afford their users’ new opportunities to speak and interact with a wider range of people, organizing them into networked public (Gillespie, 2018). This may seem like a utopian ideal society on the Internet, but in reality, the Internet still lacks diversity. This lack of diversity is particularly evident in recent years when the Internet has been flooded with concepts such as content moderation, platform regulation and cancel culture. Hence, this article will analyze the harm of a lack of diversity for societies and individuals through race, gender, and politics.
Ethnic inequality and racial discrimination
Google, as a representational company in the internet industry, has always had the goal of hiring employees of diverse races, but in recent years reports have shown that their employees are still far from ‘ethnically diverse. Google’s diversity report in 2021 shows a jump in departures among women of color; Fifty percent of Google’s US workforce is white, compared to 42 percent Asian, 6.4 percent Latinx, 4.4 percent Black, and 0.8 percent Native American (Lyons, 2021). In 2016, PriceWaterhouseCoopers released a now much-cited report that found 82.7% of Australia’s media workers are monolingual and speak only English at home. Broadcast radio was even more homogeneous, with on-air talent being 75% male, white, and over 35 (Rogers, 2020).
The lack of diversity in the Internet and media field can directly lead to a cultural homogeneity in the content of the company’s product ideas and media reports; also when children or teenagers are exposed to the internet, they can easily accept only a single racial role and lack an understanding of diversity. For example, there is a controversy that black actress Halle Bailey plays Ariel in the new Little Mermaid. The viral tweet circulated days after the new Disney film’s trailer reportedly received over 1.5 million dislikes on YouTube from “racist” viewers who are upset that the previously white-skinned, red-headed Ariel is now a black woman, the NY Post reports (Keller, 2022). One Twitter user even changed the Little Mermaid’s face to white with AI. Meanwhile, on TikTok, videos of young Black kids are going viral as they realize that the new mermaid looks like them (Keller, 2022). The lack of diversity on the Internet can directly lead to colored children growing up with low self-esteem.
Gender inequality and Heterosexual hegemony
A survey conducted by the Web Foundation revealed that 50 percent of women respondents in rural areas and 45 percent of women in urban areas said they did not know how to use the internet. These figures come in contrast with other findings that show that globally, men are 21 percent more likely than women to be online and, once online, men are 29 percent are more likely than women to create content (United Nations, 2022). This data was generated from gender inequality and gender bias on the Internet. It is a common stereotype in the Internet world that women are less judgmental than men, and therefore women are more likely to suffer from cyberbullying and harassment. The Web Foundation’s research has also shown that women have greater concerns over their privacy than men, especially about having their data misused, including in relation to online harassment and abuse; fifty-four percent of women respondents said they would not allow companies to use any of their data, compared with 47 percent of men (Unites Nations, 2022). In this context, women become afraid to speak out or express their own opinions, exacerbating the dangers of the lack of gender diversity online. At the same time, not only online users but also the media that are closely related to the Internet world face the problem of lack of gender diversity. We also found differences in gender reporting since female journalists tend to include more women in the news they report than their male peers; these results provide evidence that online newspapers continue to perpetuate underrepresentation, stereotyping, and discrimination of women in web news thereby reinforcing gender inequality (Cabo, Gimeno, Martínez & Lopez, 2014).
At the same time, unnecessary content moderation on the Internet can lead to its transformation into a world of heteronormative hegemony. In February 2022, the classic sitcom Friends was re-released in China, but with all content related to LGBTQ removed from the sitcom. The act was met with an outcry from Chinese audiences and LGBTQ groups. They used the hashtag #FriendsCensored on Weibo ( the largest social media in China) to protest, but the hashtag was soon blocked. This situation where only heterosexuality exists in the online world would be fatal. Especially for teenagers who are confused about their sexual orientation, the heteronormative hegemony of the online environment can lead to even more severe inferiority complexes.
Politics and related information asymmetry
The lack of diversity in Australian politics has been apparent for years. 2018 Leading for Change report from the Australian Human Rights Commission showed that only 4% of federal MPs had non-European ancestry, compared to 19% of the Australian population (Chiu, 2021). Political representation is of great significance, for both network and social development. Australian society has always aimed for diversity, but in reality, the lack of political diversity has led to frequent incidents of racial discrimination in the country.
On the other hand, the information asymmetry caused by regulation is also a major cause of intensified political conflicts. The regulatory mechanism of the Internet sometimes ‘disappears’ the so-called opposing views, which tends to make netizens start Internet cursing wars.
If the diversity perspective is correct, then this suggests that people are exposed to, and interacting with, people who are different from themselves. Diversity is important because it introduces a broader range of opinions, needs, value, and perspectives, which foster more viewpoints on the problems and can produce better, more equitable solutions (Price, Cappella, & Nir, 2002). The Internet, from the diversity perspective, can offer multiple public spaces for such deliberative conversation ( Stomer-Galley, 2003).
In conclusion, diversity is a tremendous help to the development of the Internet, society, and individuals. The lack of diversity is a social problem that exposes disadvantaged groups in society to different levels of inequality, discrimination, and even bullying, whether in real life, the Internet, or the workplace. Addressing the lack of diversity is a necessary social issue that can make our world a more equal and inclusive place.
Chiu, O. (2021). Australian politics should be as diverse as its people. theinterpreter. https://doi.org/https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australian-politics-should-be-diverse-its-people
Gillespie, T. (2018). Governance by and through Platforms. In Burgess & ProQuest (Firm) (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of social media (pp. 254–278). SAGE Publications.
Keller, E. (2022). Twitter user slammed for whitewashing Ariel. news.com.au. https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/new-movies/twitter-user-slammed-for-whitewashing-ariel/news-story/2dfd555583ceaebf346275aac8db48e7
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The Recount. (2022, September 15). Black Kids’ Heartwarming Reactions to ‘The Little Mermaid’ [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsSJLK3WW54
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