“Internet Access Here Sign” by Steve Rhode is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .
When scientists in the early stage created the internet, it was regarded as an open-mind and participatory community for everyone. People can receive more clear information than before. However, with broad access to the internet worldwide, the internet does not present more diversities as people expected early. This essay will analyse a general lack of diversity during the development of the internet. It consequently explores from different influences of three realms through culture, politics, and economy.
In the cultural aspect, algorithm bias decreases cultural diversity and Inclusiveness and virtually intensifies gender and racial discrimination. As the most influential search engine in the world, Google occupied 91.43% of the market share in the worldwide search engine in 2020, and Google is the most users’ initial internet information source. To this extent, when users receive the information through Google’s algorithm-recommended rank, this means Google’s algorithm can reshape a set of values it identifies to their users. However, Google’s algorithm is not objective and unbiased. If people search the critical terms ‘engineer’ and ‘cleaner’ in Google, the webpage will return several male engineer images and female cleaner images. This search result shows the stereotype in gender occupations, and it will unconsciously cause passive impacts on employment decisions and increase gender inequality in hiring. The algorithm takes for granted that male can master technologies and has qualities in intellectual occupations rather than female. The lack of gender diversity is spared from reality to virtual reality. It is harmful to building an equal-gender society and protecting female rights under the social order created by male dominance.
In addition, algorithm bias not only indicates gender stereotypes but also shows racial discrimination. Recently, an experiment showed that Google labelled a thermometer held by a dark-skinned person as a ‘gun’ in an image, while the same item in the hands of a light-skinned person was marked as an electronic device. Google has learnt that racism in the real world supposes dark-skinned people are more dangerous than light-skinned people. Its algorithm bias significantly deepens misunderstandings and promotes harmful racism from the internet to the physical world. Thus, the algorithm is not simply data and a cognitive tool (Curtis, 2018). It also has a decisive role in shaping human thoughts and building a harmonious internet community. Because the algorithm reflects the social value in reality (Noble, 2018), lack of gender and race diversity produces social neglect that stereotypes and biases are reasonable to treat in the disadvantaged group, so the struggle for equality of disadvantaged groups will be more challenging and cannot be supported or understood by mainstream society. Simultaneously, this long-term lack of gender and race diversity will also widely trigger and intensify racial hatred and misogyny online and induce more serious racism and sexism to harm the safety of reality. Hence, in the cultural aspect, algorithm bias is a significant lack of diversity to a large extent, and it is not beneficial for individual life without discrimination and realising disadvantaged group equality and internet diversity development.
How biased are our algorithms? | Safiya Umoja Noble | TEDxUIUC
Internet development produces a digital economy, but this new online economical form is exclusive and expands the lack of economic diversity during internet development. With the development of the internet, the digital economy has the advantage that the platform can effectively provide more types of productions and services to more customers at optimal prices than the traditional economy (Armstrong, 2020). Although the digital economy creates more cost-efficient consumption, it similarly leads to a platform monopoly. The giant company will exploit small-scale companies due to its large market share and mature commercial system. For example, according to Mansell & Steinmueller (2020), the market price directly results from the supplier’s pursuit of profit maximization while meeting the customer’s needs. Amazon has a dominant position in the whole industry segment. The company pursues more profits by forcing its suppliers to provide lower selling prices and take more risks of loss. This lack of economic diversity causes platform monopoly and significantly decreases free market composition, especially for newborn or small-scale companies. Tech giants, which master abundant sources, including technologies and market share, intensify monopoly, and it is negative that newborn companies survive and redistribute market share successfully.
Furthermore, the lack of economic diversity also widens the gap between the rich and the poor. Undeniably, the digital economy creates significant wealth for the company and provides convenience to customers. Nevertheless, when the economy primarily relies on internet platforms to decrease costs, the traditional economy suffers substantial harmful effects. The conventional economy will tend to adopt this digital economy business operation model of lower prices and higher profits. Most workers are gradually fired because of the low cost of the digital economy. Hence, it leads to a dilemma: the unemployment rate remarkably increases, and the social economy form becomes single. Lack of economic diversity during the internet development will decline employment for individuals and decrease multiple market compression and economic form for society.
Internet regulation plays an essential role in national governance. Nationalising the regulation and lack of governance diversity will inevitably cause a closed and blocked internet environment. For instance, the Chinese government effectively controls the internet by monitoring and blocking some speech which is not beneficial for the government depending on its unique censorship (Lemley, 2021). The lack of diversity of internet regulation approaches causes the public to check the information that has been filtered by the government and cannot receive multiple information sources. Some minority groups, such as the LGBT group, do not have the platform to deliver their thoughts. In addition, the Chinese government implemented a policy that the personal IP address is revealed where a person is located. This internet policy reinforces online regulation and links with nationalism. Since people suppose the motives of others according to their IP addresses, and it causes nationalism affects public conversations increasingly difficult (Dong, 2022). Thus, because of the lack of diversity of political regulations during the internet development, multiple social thoughts will be hidden and ignored. It is not beneficial for a country to build an open, free, and comprehensive internet environment to create multiple cultures.
In conclusion, despite rapid internet development creating many conveniences for individual and social progress, the internet does not become more open and cooperative as people expected in the early stage. Internet development intensifies the lack of diversity. For the cultural aspect, lack of diversity presents as algorithm bias. This digital bias increases gender stereotypes and race discrimination and expands the harm to disadvantaged groups from reality to the virtual internet. From an economic aspect, lack of diversity embodies that platform economy produces tech giants companies’ monopoly, and the market loses fair competition. The decrease of the traditional economy in the market share causes significant unemployment. For political, lack of diversity is strict nationalising regulation, and this action will lead to restraint of speech freedom and build an open internet environment. Thus, lack of diversity during internet development significantly severely affects different aspects. It will not only influence the guarantee of an individual’s rights but also affects social civilisation progress. Internet diversity is critical in modifying discrimination and promoting a positive value.
Armstrong, B. (2020, January 24). The digital economy is becoming ordinary. Best we understand it. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-digital-economy-is-becoming-ordinary-best-we-understand-it-130398
Curtis, B. (2018, September 3). Google at 20: How a search engine became a literal extension of our mind. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/google-at-20-how-a-search-engine-became-a-literal-extension-of-our-mind-102510
Dong, J. (2022, May 18). China’s internet censors try a new trick: Revealing users’ locations. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/18/business/china-internet-censors-ip-address.html
Lemley, M. A. (2021). THE SPLINTERNET. Duke Law Journal, 70(6). https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3664027
Mansell, R., & Steinmueller, W. E. (2020). Economic Analysis of Platforms. In Advanced Introduction to Platform Economics (pp. 35–54). Edward Elgar Publishing.
Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. In A society, searching (pp. 15–63). NYU Press.
Talks, Ted. (2014). How biased are our algorithms? [Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXuJ8yQf6dI