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Experts worry governments, 'commercial pressures' will undermine online freedom

Internet experts hope the Internet has plenty of good days ahead of it, but are still worried that various factors will put a damper on the open Internet we know today. That’s the takeaway of a new study from the Pew Research Center, which polled 1400 experts to gauge their views on the future of online freedom.

The poll, which consists of a single question and an open-ended response, indicates that 65 percent of those polled are hopeful that there will not be “significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online” between now and 2025. 

However, Pew notes that, for many of those who answered optimistically, “their answer was their ‘hope’ and not necessarily their prediction.” 

According to the study, respondents are most concerned that more governments will employ content blocking and filtering “to maintain security and political control,” that online surveillance programs will erode users’ trust in the services they use, and that “commercial pressures...will endanger the open structure of online life.”

In addition, respondents also worry that attempts to keep oversharing in check—such as Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm—may go too far and “actually thwart content sharing.” Just something to keep in mind the next time you want to share photos of your brunch on Instagram.

The poll was an opt-in canvassing of Internet experts and not a randomized survey, so it doesn’t represent the opinions of the Internet-using masses as a whole. Still, it’s a fascinating peek into what the experts think. 

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