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Sleepwalking Toward a Control Society? Ten Must-Know Trends



7. Privatization of the control on the net

Occupation of electronic space is part of expanding network capitalism - and there are constant different kinds of power battles between the major players on the Internet (Manjikian McEvoy 2010). During the Internet period, large international companies, like vendors of network technologies, hardware and software vendors, search engine and social media providers, data vendors and marketing companies have become as major players around networked information. The growing impact of these new stakeholders is also based on the obvious trend of convergence, which has taken place as a fusion of contents, media and networked technologies, but also as a convergence of companies which have merged and consolidated their capacities.

All these parties may regulate access on information, alongside the traditional publishing companies and media. However, the surplus of their controlling capacities goes beyond the dimensions of earlier phases of Internet censorship: these parties may not only involve in contents, but they may control communications and data flows or involve in users activities and communications through data surveillance and their access on person related data. Their wide scale opportunities for surveillance are also taken into account by states; In Europe and USA, governments pressure increasingly internet intermediaries, like ISPs, to directly or indirectly control and monitor network traffic for a variety of reasons from network security to copyright and license violations (EDRI 2011).

A setting of privatized management of contents also provides opportunities to economic censorship. Dominating companies may try to take over the market place, define terms and conditions and functional models for users; or they can impact on users' rights by defining how much users will be able to manage their data or regulate their data flows. These fears are not philosophical, since e.g. Apple is currently accused of e-book cartel (Whittaker 2012).

The market dominance has also effected on business models like distribution policies. E-journals may be sold in costly packages and there may not be other alternative models available. Availability of articles may be guaranteed only for a certain period and after that already paid issues may be taken away from use (McDermott, 2012). Overall, the price of scientific information has risen steadily, which already threatens researchers', educational institutions' and universities' access to information (Panitch & Machalak 2005, White & Creaser 2007). When access to information is hindered because of the price of the information, high-quality research may diverge into elite universities and colleges, concurrently lowering the quality of education and research at other universities and colleges (Lessig 2011).

Media convergence and concentration of the commerce also put consumers and intermediary organizations, such as libraries, in a less favorable position. Optional contents and bargaining power will diminish. Lawyers of the biggest actors on the market sent smaller individual actors into a corner.