Cyber-Democracy or Cyber-Hegemony? Exploring the Political and Economic Structures of the Internet as an Alternative Source of Information
Although government regulation of the Internet has been decried as undercutting free speech,the control of Internet content through capitalist gateways--namely, profit-driven software companies--has gone largely uncriticized. The author argues that this discursive trend manufactures consent through a hegemonic force neglecting to confront the invasion of online advertising or marketing strategies directed at children. This study suggests that "inappropriate content" (that is, nudity, pornography, obscenities) constitutes a cultural currency through which concerns and responses to the Internet have been articulated within the mainstream. By examining the rhetorical and financial investments of the telecommunications business sector, the author contends that the rhetorical elements creating "cyber-safety" concerns within the mainstream attempt to reach the consent of parents and educators by asking them to see some Internet content as value laden (sexuality, trigger words, or adult content), while disguising the interests and authority of profitable computer software and hardware industries (advertising and marketing). Although most online "safety measures" neglect to confront the emerging invasion of advertising/marketing directed at children and youth, the author argues that media literacy in cyberspace demands such scrutiny. Unlike measures to block or filter online information, students need an empowerment approach that will enable them to analyze, evaluate, and judge the information they receive.