Is this the end of the internet as we know it?

Posted on 13/01/2013 by Emma Dadswell


This week Google announced an ‘alarming’ rise in censorship by governments and Nike has become the first UK Company to have a Twitter campaign banned by the ASA. The internet is changing forever and we’re lucky enough to witness the transformation.

Once upon a time, cyberspace was unregulated, uncensored and unashamed. Users were faceless avatars who could not be held accountable for the content they provided. Today the advancement of Web 2.0 and the associated connectivity this enables, has transformed the internet into a sophisticated community of virtual citizens who rely on the accuracy of the information they access online.

It’s been well publicised that governments in the east, particularly China, control their subjects’ surfing. But Google have revealed that western democracies, not usually associated with censorship are increasingly requesting content to be removed. Their latest report finds that during the last six months they were asked by Canadian officials to take down a YouTube video of a citizen urinating on his passport, Spanish regulators asked for links to newspaper articles criticising public figures to be removed and UK police asked for YouTube accounts which were said to be promoting terrorism to be deleted. Does this trend mark the end of free expression? Or is this regulation inevitable as the virtual world matures?

Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire have been forced to delete postings on Twitter after the ASA found they failed to declare their sponsorship by Nike – The complaint is the first to be upheld against Twitter activity since the authority assumed new powers to regulate social media last year. Will this benchmark case change the face of social marketing permanently?

The web is no longer the Wild West it once was. And those working in digital fields must take on fresh responsibilities when creating, delivering and distributing content. Will we look back on the days when the net was unregulated with nostalgia? Or does authoritative intervention increase the respectability of the medium?