A Glimpse Into How ‘Normals’ Read the Internet

I use the term ‘normals’ in an utterly positive sense: Vanity Fair’s recent piece, titled “World War 3.0,” scatters enough truth through the article that it possesses a veneer of credibility while obfuscating falsehoods and myths. The result is that unsavvy readers will be left with conceptions the everything is peachy with ICANN (false), that the ITU is coming to take over the ‘net (false), that the Internet is boundary-less (false), that there are honest-to-God “good guys” (the disorderly folks) and villains (orderly organizations like states), and that loosening arms exports related to encryption is significantly linked to the theft of IP (arguably very false).

Unfortunately, there is enough truth scattered throughout the article that someone who isn’t familiar with the terrains of Internet security, governance, and IP policies could be easily drawn into an appealing and accessible narrative. It is precisely narratives like this that those of us familiar with Internet policies have to fervently oppose and correct, with a recognition that not correcting the record can promote serious misinformation leading to disastrous (or, at best, misguided) policy responses by the “bad guys” of the Internet (i.e. state actors).

The article is worth a read, though it may bring your blood to a boil. Regardless of its factual accuracy, however, I suspect that the piece can be read as how non-experts perceive the past decade or so of Internet policies and practices. As such it’s incredibly valuable for those of us in the trenches to get a better perspective on how our conflicts are seen publicly, if only to make out actions and processes that much clearer for the general citizenry.