European Academic Views of Twitter

This is a summary of the book “Misunderstanding the Internet” being lauched in Canada. Some interesting arguments being made about Social media…..


Twitter, it argues, does not enable ordinary people to gain a powerful voice. Most users have only tweeted once. Ninety-seven percent of twitterers have fewer than 100 followers, while the likes of Britney Spears attract 4.7 million. Twitter is largely about eavesdropping on celebrities.

Citizen journalists and independent websites have not displaced the old media Leviathans. The most visited news and information websites in the US, and elsewhere, are dominated by leading news organizations from the pre-internet era.

Deep-seated grievances, rather than the internet, gave rise to the Arab Spring. In 2001, only 24% of Egyptians were internet users compared to 41% in Morocco, 44% in Saudi Arabia, and 69% in UAE – all countries that did not turn on their dictators.

While in general the internet facilitates protest, research shows that digital activists tend to come from the better off and better educated section of society.

The internet has not created an economy where small is beautiful. On the contrary, leading corporations have strengthened their stranglehold over major manufacturing and service sectors of the US economy.

Meanwhile online concentration is beginning to resemble offline concentration. In the US, iTunes controls 70% of the music download market, Google 70% of search, YouTube 73% of online video, while Facebook accounts for 52% of social network traffic.

The internet reflects a world divided by different economic interests, values, languages and group identities. These divisions are more in evidence in cyberspace than global harmony.

Yet, argues the authors of Misunderstanding the Internet, the internet has in some ways democratized culture, strengthened democracy, reinforced social connection and changed the nerve system of the economy. A battle is now taking place for the soul of the internet in which its many positive features are being subverted. A legacy shaped by the academic values of science, counter-culture and European public service is now being subverted by authoritarian state censorship and restrictive market forces. What is needed, argue its authors, is positive intervention to protect the internet, and extend its benefits.



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