Some of us have long been suspicious of government attempts to police the Internet.
For one thing, the Internet is not a technology that privileges ethnicity or nationality. It only identifies and directs personal interests.
A recent Pew survey of teen Internet use shows that more than half of teens go on line daily, mainly due to cell phone access. The more important item is that use is not related to claims about privilege:
Much of this frenzy of access is facilitated by mobile devices. Nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access1 to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type. African-American teens are the most likely of any group of teens to have a smartphone, with 85% having access to one, compared with 71% of both white and Hispanic teens. These phones and other mobile devices have become a primary driver of teen internet use: Fully 91% of teens go online from mobile devices at least occasionally. Among these “mobile teens,” 94% go online daily or more often. By comparison, teens who don’t access the internet via mobile devices tend to go online less frequently. Some 68% go online at least daily.
Traditional social justice claims would suggest that African American teens would be the least privileged (and I am not necessarily disputing that in unrelated areas). But they clearly have the most access to the Internet.
So it is not clear how a general rule (as opposed to rules enforced by parents or schools) about Internet access would benefit social justice.
Keep in mind that the arguments made for net neutrality (regulate the Internet as if it were a public utility) depend on assumptions from a century ago about who would or wouldn’t benefit from free mail delivery, clean running water, or electrification. None of this is obviously relevant to the Internet today where Internet access really does not depend on social status. Sometimes, the opposite.
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.