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Opinion

Preventing the Balkanization of the Internet

By A. Michael Spence and Fred Hu

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Before the world adopts ineffective or counterproductive solutions, policymakers should think carefully about how best to approach regulation.

The recent revelation that more than 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested by app and given to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has produced a backlash against the platform. But it is just the latest example of the risks associated with the Internet, which forms the core of today’s digital revolution.

Most of the digital innovations that have reshaped the global economy over the last 25 years rely on network connectivity, which has transformed commerce, communication, education and training, supply chains, and much more. Connectivity also enables access to vast amounts of information, including information that underpins machine learning, which is essential to modern artificial intelligence.

Over the last 15 years or so, mobile Internet has reinforced this trend, by rapidly increasing not just the number of people who are connected to the Internet, and thus able to participate in the digital economy, but also the frequency and ease with which they can connect. From GPS navigation to ride-sharing platforms to mobile-payment systems, on-the-go connectivity has had a far-reaching impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Read the full article as published in Project Syndicate

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A. Michael Spence is a William R. Berkley Professor in Economics & Business.