The politics of paywalls

Jul 15, 2019

When I grew up I was allowed to use the family computer at about age 10 and I remember being told about Google. My dad explained how it was able to answer any questions I had, as long as I used the right search terms. It got my mind racing for a couple of weeks - I looked up tons of stuff, mostly history and world war 2 related - and with my curiosity quenched I shrugged it off as a really handy tool to do homework and spend more time at the computer (I’d tell my parents I was looking stuff up). Well, almost 20 years later I’ve realized how crucial it was for my education and for the way of acquiring knowledge since I can remember. More importantly, we seem to be headed towards a particularly nasty future in which newer generations will not be able depend on Google the same way I did. Let me try to explain.

Google always had the business model of offering ads based on the content that you searched and at some point (possibly with their extension into the mobile phone industry) started generating concern from their own users regarding the amount of information that was being shared with Google the company. Despite Google never once selling data to third-parties, people seem to distrust the free services they so eagerly use everyday, and at what cost?

This paradigm shift – where you are in the majority if you use an ad-blocker extension for your browser – is changing the Internet, who we trust, and is going to disrupt our society in the next coming decades.

My parent’s generation find themselves in their 50s now, with more than half of their life gaining knowledge from family wisdom, word of mouth, books and other traditional means. The internet was available for a while before they started to rely on it, and they adapted to it. Today they are able to find content online independently, but lack the skepticism and dexterity needed to identify questionable information and look for proper alternatives.

News outlets behind “paywalls”