In the early 21st century, the internet—and the social internet, in particular—has enabled a more connected world. But it’s also enabled and amplified some of humanity’s worst behaviors. Fringy, toxic opinions and outright disinformation proliferate. Antisocial behavior is normalized. Facts—when they can be recognized—are used to bolster preexisting opinions, not to challenge assumptions. Kids (and adults) measure their self-worth by their Instagram comments and follower count. Expecting the huge tech companies that operate the platforms to proactively fix the problems gets more unworkable as online communities grow into the billions.
When the Pew Research Center reached out to numerous tech opinion leaders to ask them to envision the internet of 2035–which might end up being called the metaverse, or Web3, or yet something completely else–many of them seized on the problems of poor online governance, lax content moderation, misaligned incentives, and a lack of trust as key challenges. Their ideas on how to fix these problems, and the progress that might be made over the next 12 years, are downright illuminating. In the interest of TL;DR, I extracted nuggets from these experts’ sometimes lengthy comments.