The New Internet World: A Global Perspective on Freedom of Expression, Privacy, Trust and Security Online
35 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 24, 2011
Worldwide diffusion of the Internet is focusing debate around values and attitudes that are likely to vary across cultures, particularly around online freedom of expression, privacy, trust, and security. These are prominent topics of discussion amongst leading Internet stakeholders, such as private and public sector members, governments, policymakers, and the media. However, we know relatively little about the opinions of users around the world. How do users see these issues, and how do they experience the impact of the Internet in these areas?
This study reports the results of a survey of over 5,400 adult Internet users from 13 different countries. The online survey was conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and INSEAD, in collaboration with comScore. It was designed to better understand cross-cultural differences in user behaviour and attitudes, focusing on the core Internet values of freedom of expression, privacy, trust, and security.
Findings from this study show that a global Internet culture has emerged as users across countries often share similar viewpoints and habits related to these vital matters pertaining to the Internet. Users worldwide generally support and desire the core Internet values, without signalling a willingness for tradeoffs among these potentially conflicting values and priorities. However, users in nations that are more recently embracing the Internet, who are becoming the dominant online population, express even greater support for the most basic value underpinning the Internet – freedom of expression. In addition, these users also outpace users in older-adopting nations in their innovative uses of the Internet. We conclude that a new Internet world is emerging which may lead to many shifts in the Internet’s global centre of gravity – shifts that will have major implications for the future of the Internet.
Key Findings: (1.) There is a global culture developing around the Internet, in which users worldwide share similar values and attitudes related to online freedom of expression, privacy, trust, and security. (2.) The newly emerging nations online, primarily in the developing regions of Asia and Latin and South America, are becoming the dominant nations online, having the greatest number of users, despite lower levels of adoption. (3.) Users want it all: they desire freedom of expression, privacy, trust, and security without viewing these as mutually exclusive. (4.) Newly adopting countries are more liberal in attitudes, such as support for freedom of expression, and behaviours, such as use of social networking platforms, while older-adopting countries are more conservative, tied to more traditional Internet applications and content. These findings point to the beginning of a new Internet world in which the developing nations move into a leading role in shaping the use and governance of this global network of networks.
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