Net Neutrality is sooo much more than access to the “tubes”…

danah boyd
Nov 11, 2014 · 4 min read

The Loss of Interoperability

All around us, I’m watching core principles of the internet sputter as key services crack. Consider email, the first “application” of the internet. In the 1960s, early incarnations of email weren’t interoperable across systems. With the rise of the ARPANET, email started to get standardized, making it possible to communicate across servers. By the time I got online, there was the closed AOL universe that didn’t talk to anyone and then there was the rest of the internet where anyone who could get access to a server, whether it be a university server or a prodigy account, could talk to anyone else via email. I took this for granted. Many of us still take this for granted, even as this reality is crumbling around us.

The Exclusion of a Continent

I can whine about this as a personal attack for my political decision to host independent email, but Jenna Burrell opened my eyes to a much more problematic element of this. Doing fieldwork in Ghana and Nigeria, she quickly discovered that the internet that many people she met look very different than what we saw in the United States. Unlike in China, where the government restricts its own people from accessing many non-Chinese sites, many West (and perhaps East?) Africans are restricted from accessing American sites by the American companies behind those sites. Whole populations are excluded from sending mail through certain webmail services because it’s assumed that they’re all spammers, scammers, phishers, and other “bad” internet users. Websites outright block country-level IP addresses because West Africans aren’t economically viable customers; the advertising ecosystem is not mature enough. Other sites block whole countries because they don’t trust “African fraudsters.”

The Message

A Pandaemonium Revolver Collection.

Thanks to Zeynep Tufekci

danah boyd

Written by

researcher of technology & society | Microsoft Research, Data & Society, NYU | zephoria@zephoria.org

The Message

A Pandaemonium Revolver Collection. Season 2 stars @anildash @alanalevinson @ftrain @hipstercrite @itsthebrandi @jamielaurenkeiles @vijithassar @yungrama @zeynep. Season 1 available on DVD shortly.

danah boyd

Written by

researcher of technology & society | Microsoft Research, Data & Society, NYU | zephoria@zephoria.org

The Message

A Pandaemonium Revolver Collection. Season 2 stars @anildash @alanalevinson @ftrain @hipstercrite @itsthebrandi @jamielaurenkeiles @vijithassar @yungrama @zeynep. Season 1 available on DVD shortly.

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