The Internet has been touted as an egalitarian space which provides a level playing ground for all users to access information, express themselves and find a voice. It is a powerful platform that fosters free speech, healthy dissent and transformative action, and can be a launch pad for innovative thought, design and ideas.
However, the transformative potential of the Internet can only be realised when the Internet is allowed to function in a free, open and democratic fashion. For the Internet to serve as an inclusive space which encourages the diversity of voices, some core principles of the Internet need to be protected. These are a few ways in which neutrality has been defined, for the Internet to remain an open space:
Net neutrality: Net neutrality requires that the ‘Internet be maintained as an open platform, on which network providers treat all content, applications and services equally, without discrimination.’
Device neutrality: Device neutrality argues against preferential policies and pricing mechanism adopted by platform makers or content providers based on the device that people use. For example, being charged for accessing content on a tablet when it is freely available on a computer, or being barred from accessing content on certain devices due to preferential deals made between device manufacturers.
Search neutrality: Search neutrality refers to the idea that search engines should provide available results that comprehensive and based solely on relevance without interference, manipulation or elimination.
Platform neutrality: The diffusion of the Internet into every sphere of human life has resulted in the creation of new intermediaries to direct users’ online activity. The idea of platform neutrality springs from the immense influence that platforms hold in the current information society, and the need to prevent monopolies and preserve online diversity.
Here, the two main concepts that we will address are:
- The importance of net neutrality in preserving the open Internet
- The emerging power of platforms and their role in upholding neutrality online