The issue: Finding a balance between the benefits of the digital information revolution and keeping digital spaces and experiences safe might be even more important in the future.
As new digital spaces emerge, they could give rise to more powerful forms of mis/disinformation and more effective distribution methods.
Continuing advances in natural language processing, generative AI, and deepfake technology paired with the arrival of metaverses could mean new and more effective kinds of mis/disinformation. For example, the light and sound in these spaces could be manipulated to make people more susceptible to false content by making them anxious or upset. Or such spaces could be filled with digital artifacts such as holographic ads or 3D memes designed to convey disinformation. Disinformation actors, hidden behind avatars, could move freely through virtual or augmented spaces distributing false information through personal interactions. As a result, today’s technical solutions to mis/disinformation may soon prove obsolete. Rampant disinformation might also limit the potential of those spaces to support innovation and improve access to experiences and information.
As new online spaces within the information ecosystem become even more important portals for all kinds of opportunities, people may consider access to them a fundamental right.
Emerging metaverses could become the primary places for information activities such as acquiring and distributing knowledge, political speech, and artistic interventions. This could make unequal access to the best version of the Internet an even more serious problem. The loss of opportunity caused by poor access to high-speed connections, devices, and even some platforms could provoke backlash against telecom giants, Big Tech, and governments. Anger could be especially strong among people in rural and remote areas, and those whose economic circumstances limit their access to the Internet. Beyond reduced trust in governments and corporations, such circumstances could also challenge social cohesion. The experiences of digital haves and have-nots could be locked into diverging streams—one largely restricted to “the real world” and one incorporating digital spaces. This could produce a belief that full access to the richest and most vibrant version of the Internet is a basic right. If so, governments may find their zone of responsibility expanding dramatically in the minds of the public.