9.7. Other Social Impacts
Despite the internet being founded on the basis of openness, internet censorship is widespread. Internet censorship is the control of information accessible on the internet by governments and businesses. The primary reasons for government-mandated censorship are political, religious or cultural. A censor might take a range of steps to stop the publication of information, to prevent access to that information by disrupting the link between the user and the publisher, or to directly prevent users from accessing that information. The key point is to stop information from being disseminated.
Internet censorship takes two main forms: user-side and publisher-side. In user-side censorship, the censor disrupts the link between the user and the publisher. The interruption can be made at various points in the process between a user typing an address into their browser and being served a site on their screen. Users may see a variety of different error messages, depending on what the censor wants them to know.
Publisher-side censorship is where websites refuse to offer services to a certain class of users. There is increasing use of publisher-side censorship from site owners who want to block users of anonymizing systems (like Tor-see more below). Individuals using anonymized software prevents a website owner from knowing where their visitors are coming from and basic information about them.
Tor Web Browser
Tor, short for The Onion Router is a free internet browser software that allows users to be anonymous while using the web. The intention of the software is to protect the privacy of the user. In some countries the use of Tor is blocked. Tor has been known to be used by individuals engaged in criminal activities as well as people looking for privacy.
Telecommuting & Remote Work
Technology is becoming ubiquitous and in many cases it is allowing individuals the opportunity to work from anywhere removing the boundary between work and life. Telecommuting (or telework) and remote work refer to work performed at a remote location (home or other space) by virtue of an electronic connection and can encompass a variety of employment types, from gig assignments to part-time contract work to traditional full-time employment. The terms telecommuting and remote work are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference. Telecommuting might assume that an employee may be required to come to an office some of the time, where remote work assumes the employee does not reside close to the business.
Today’s businesses have a toolkit of technical solutions to set up working relationships with employees far and wide through voice, computer, video connections, and offsite work-sharing spaces. Coworkers can share files on a remote network server or on the cloud, and managers can use nontraditional methods to monitor activity and performance. Many employers and employees had to make significant changes to their workforce operations and pivot to remote work environments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although there were tremendous challenges at first, many employees became comfortable with their new work spaces away from their traditional offices. It is likely that some form of remote work will continue in many industries as it has been seen to provide many benefits.
First, it is a powerful recruiting tool for people who want to balance their work and personal lives. It allows employees to work a more flexible schedule to care for children or older relatives while maintaining a career and earning income. Individuals with ability challenges also prefer the flexibility that telecommuting affords them. Telecommuting also reduces the hours that employees spend traveling to and from the job. Remote workers can continue to do their jobs despite weather conditions that impede travel, as well they are not exposed to sick coworkers and may take fewer sick days. Lastly, workers may enjoy higher productivity without the distractions of a traditional office setting, like water-cooler gossip and long lunches.
Despite the benefits of remote work, there are some concerns as well. One major disadvantages of remote work is related to loneliness and feelings of isolation. Corporate culture is not easy to convey over distance, and it is harder to collaborate. The likelihood of miscommunication increases when everything must be transmitted electronically or virtually. It is also more difficult for employers to monitor some kinds of work-related progress when an employee is working remotely. As well, some employees have found negative impacts to their productivity due to distractions in their home, or do to the lack of a proper home office with which to work from. The remote worker may also have qualms about privacy when his or her personal life inevitably intersects with the workday (as when a family member walks into the room or the dog barks during a conference call). To learn more about the future of work check out this paper by the Information and Communications Technology Council.