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CO2 footprint

Every minute 38 million WhatsApp messages are sent, 266,000 hours of Netflix and 4.3 million videos on YouTube are viewed, and 3.7 million searches are carried out on Google, according to the data analytics company Cumulus Media.

Uploading your daily post to Instagram, storing files in the cloud or having your email inbox full, generates an ecological footprint that demands 7% of the world's energy.

If the Internet were a country, it would be the sixth most polluting in the world according to data from the Greenpeace organization.

Soon, the number of global CO2 emissions from this frenzied digital traffic will grow exponentially due to the greater access of the world's population to new technologies and the increasingly large data centers.

In addition to this, we have a population with severe educational deficiencies in digital matter and exposed to involuntary campaigns to attract attention, undercover marketing, and political and social manipulation, and an inequality in the quality and access to a fundamental tool in our lives as it is the internet, which consequently carries a cost and social gap.

Source: SolarNET.HuB [2021]

Other links: Visualization of global CO₂ emissions per capita and total population [2023]

Video streaming footprint

Just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming, emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide (a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams), requires 2-12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini.

But leaving your camera off during a web call can reduce these footprints by 96%. Streaming content in standard definition rather than in high definition while using apps such as Netflix or Hulu also could bring an 86% reduction, the researchers estimated.

How big is your app’s environmental footprint graphic

The study, conducted by researchers from Purdue University, Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the first to analyze the water and land footprints associated with internet infrastructure in addition to carbon footprints to provide a more holistic look at environmental impact.

A number of countries have reported at least a 20% increase in internet traffic since March. If the trend continues through the end of 2021, this increased internet use alone would require a forest of about 71,600 square miles—twice the land area of Indiana—to sequester the emitted carbon, the study found.

The additional water needed in the processing and transmission of data would also be enough to fill more than 300,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, while the resulting land footprint would be about equal to the size of Los Angeles.

The team estimated the carbon, water and land footprints associated with each gigabyte of data used in YouTube, Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and 12 other platforms, as well as in online gaming and miscellaneous web surfing. As expected, the more video used in an application, the larger the footprints.

Because data processing uses a lot of electricity, and any production of electricity has carbon, water and land footprints, reducing data download reduces environmental damage.

“Banking systems tell you the positive environmental impact of going paperless, but no one tells you the benefit of turning off your camera or reducing your streaming quality. So without your consent, these platforms are increasing your environmental footprint,” said Kaveh Madani, who led and directed this study as a visiting fellow at the Yale MacMillan Center.

The internet's carbon footprint had already been increasing before COVID-19 lockdowns, accounting for about 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But the water and land footprints of internet infrastructure have largely been overlooked in studies of how internet use impacts the environment, Madani said.

Source: Turn off that camera during virtual meetings, environmental study says [2021]

Other links: Guia para entender y reducir la huella de carbono en internet [2020]

Mineral extraction


As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the environmental impact of finding all the lithium required to enable that transformation is becoming a serious issue. “One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries”.

The continent’s Lithium Triangle, which covers parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, holds more than half the world’s supply of the metal beneath its otherworldly salt flats. It’s also one of the driest places on earth, and the extraction of lithium needs massive amounts of water. Also the toxic chemicals that are used in the processing of lithium into a form that can be sold leak into the water supply. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, mining activities consumed 65 per cent of the region’s water. That is having a big impact on local communities that already have to get water driven in from elsewhere.

Lithium extraction inevitably harms the soil and causes air contamination. In Chile, there have been clashes between mining companies and local communities, who say that lithium mining is leaving the landscape marred by mountains of discarded salt and canals filled with contaminated water.

“Like any mining process, it is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells. This isn’t a green solution''.

Source: The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction [2018]


The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a history of conflict, where various armies, rebel groups, and outside actors have profited from mining while contributing to violence and exploitation during wars in the region. The four main end products of mining in the eastern DRC are tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold, which are extracted and passed through a variety of intermediaries before being sold to international markets. These four products, (known as the 3TGs) are essential in the manufacture of a variety of devices, including consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.

Coltan (short for columbite–tantalites and known industrially as tantalite) is a dull black metallic ore from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. Tantalum from coltan is used to manufacture tantalum capacitors which are used for mobile phones, personal computers, automotive electronics, and cameras.

Mining of coltan is mainly artisanal and small-scale and vulnerable to extortion and human trafficking. Moreover, uncontrolled mining in the DRC causes soil erosion and pollutes lakes and rivers, affecting the hydrology and ecology of the region.

The Coltan extraction causes problems that adjoin or overlap those caused by blood diamonds and uses similar methods such as smuggling across the porous Rwandan border.

Source: How coltan and greed fuel Congo's violence [2017]

Other links: Wikipedia: Conflict minerals law. Wikipedia: Coltan. Coltán, el mineral de la muerte [2015]


Cobalt is used in alloys and semiconductors and it is particularly important in lithium batteries. These lithium-ion batteries are increasingly in demand for electric cars, laptops and mobile phones, which means cobalt – once deemed a worthless chemical – is now the object of a geo-strategic rivalry between the world’s biggest economies.

The race to produce enough materials for this energy-storage revolution is creating a host of other environmental problems, as cobalt-producing nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Cuba are discovering. Lung disease and heart failure have been linked to high levels of this element, while the mines that produce it are blamed for devastated landscapes, water pollution, contaminated crops and a loss of soil fertility.

In the case of cobalt, 60% of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where large numbers of unregulated mines use children as young as seven as miners.

The environmental impact extends through the life-cycle of the product from refineries, battery plants, consumers goods manufacturers, electronic recycling facilities and waste dumps. Among the most affected are workers at poorly-regulated mines.

This has reached alarming levels in the Congo, which produces more than 60% of the world’s cobalt. In Cuba – which has the world’s third biggest cobalt reserves – satellite analysis of the huge open-cast nickel and cobalt mine at Moa in Holguín Province appears to show what researchers have described as a “lunar-like landscape” devoid of life over 570 hectares (1,408 acres), while they say their research shows pollution plumes have contaminated 8km of coastline and 10km of the Cabañas River.

Despite these environmental problems, cobalt production is seen as the key to rapprochement with the US, which needs the mineral for its electric car industry and wants to ease Chinese domination of the global supply chain.

Source: How the race for cobalt risks turning it from miracle metal to deadly chemical [2019]

Other links: Child labour, toxic leaks: the price we could pay for a greener future [2021]

Rare Earths

The rare-earth elements (REE) are a set of 17 soft heavy metals. Compounds containing rare earths have diverse applications in electrical and electronic components, lasers, glass, magnetic materials, and industrial processes. Despite their name, rare-earth elements are relatively plentiful in Earth's crust, although due to the toxicity of its process of mining, there are only few mines. In 2017, China produced 81% of the world's rare-earth supply, mostly in Inner Mongolia ( Batou Lake Rare Earths mine).

China began producing notable amounts of rare earth oxides in the early 1980s and became the world's leading producer in the early 1990s. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, China steadily strengthened its hold on the world's rare earth oxide market. China is also the dominant consumer of rare earths in manufacturing electronics products for domestic and export markets. Japan and the United States are the second and third largest consumers of rare earth materials.

Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many high technology equipment such as smart phones, digital cameras, computer parts, semiconductors, bateries, etc. In addition, these elements are more prevalent in the following industries: renewable energy technology, military equipment, glass making, and metallurgy.

REEs are naturally found in very low concentration in the environment. Mines are often in countries where environmental and social standards are very low, leading to human rights violations, deforestation and contamination of land and water.

Mining, refining, and recycling of rare earths have serious environmental consequences if not properly managed. Low-level radioactive tailings resulting from the occurrence of thorium and uranium in rare-earth element ores present a potential hazard and improper handling of these substances can result in extensive environmental damage.

Source: REE - Rare Earth Elements and their Uses

Other links: Rare Earth mining in China: the bleak social and environmental costs [2014]. Wikipedia: Rare Earth Element (REE) .


E-waste or electronic waste is created when an electronic product is discarded after the end of its useful life. The rapid expansion of technology and the consumption driven society results in the creation of a very large amount of e-waste.

Electronic waste is the fastest growing category of hazardous solid waste in the world.

Technology is becoming more and more integrated into every aspect of our lives. Semiconductors and sensors are being added to products that never before had them, creating wearable monitors, smart homes, TVs that can stream programming from the internet, and much more.

Meanwhile, the life span of devices is getting shorter—many products will be thrown away once their batteries die, to be replaced with new devices. Companies intentionally plan the obsolescence of their goods by updating the design or software and discontinuing support for older models, so that now it is usually cheaper and easier to buy a new product than to repair an old one. Meanwhile, the companies continue to profit from steady sales.

Electronic devices are made of a complex mix of materials that include gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, lithium, cobalt and other valuable elements. But electronic devices also comprise toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, polluting PVC plastic, and hazardous chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants, which can harm human health and the environment.

Much of the e-waste is dumped in landfills where toxic chemicals can leach from the e-waste and end up contaminating the water supply.

The U.S., the second largest producer of e-waste after China, produced 10 million tons of e-waste in 2012, over 64 pounds per person. In 2012, only 29 percent of this was recycled—the rest is usually landfilled, incinerated or stuck in a closet. A study done by the watchdog group Basel Action Network using trackers, however, found that 40 percent of the e-waste supposedly recycled in the U.S. was actually exported. Most of it ended up in developing countries—usually in Asia—where informal recycling is typically unlicensed and unregulated.

At these informal recycling workshops, men, women and children recover valuable materials by burning devices to melt away non-valuable materials, using mercury and acids to recover gold, and dismantling devices by hand to reclaim other materials of value.

Usually they do not wear protective equipment and lack any awareness that they are handling dangerous materials. Research has found that inhaling toxic chemicals and direct contact with hazardous e-waste materials (even in some formal e-waste recycling settings) result in increases in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, premature births, reduced birth weights, mutations, congenital malformations, abnormal thyroid function, increased lead levels in blood, decreased lung function, and neurobehavioral disturbances. Moreover, e-waste toxins contaminate the air, soil and groundwater.

In the face of these health and environmental hazards, however, many people in developing countries earn a living by dismantling, refurbishing, repairing and reselling used electronic devices. Guiyu, China is often considered the e-waste capital of the world, with 75 percent of households involved in the recycling business. Informal recycling is also practiced in India, Nigeria, Ghana and the Philippines.

Wealthy countries send about 23 percent of their e-waste to developing countries each year. This is ongoing despite the fact that the European Union and 186 states have ratified the Basel Convention, which works to minimize the transfer of hazardous waste from developed countries to developing countries. The U.S, the only developed country that has not ratified the Basel Convention, has agreements that allow it to ship hazardous waste to developing countries.

A problem requiring multiple solutions:

  • Designing better products
  • The right to repair
  • Extended Producer Responsibility
  • Better recycling
  • Circular economy

As more people buy electronic equipment, manufacturers are beginning to face shortages of the raw materials needed to make their products, so reclaiming and reusing the materials from discarded products and waste—a process called urban mining—makes economic and environmental sense. A recent study in China found that mining copper, gold and aluminum from ore costs 13 times more than recovering the metals through the urban mining of e-waste.

Urban mining is the process of reclaiming raw materials from waste products sent to landfill. On a conceptual level, it looks towards the waste generated by cities and urban environments as a valuable resource, using anthropogenic stocks rather than geological to meet the demands of manufacturing. It is an important element of the circular economy, as it returns the collection of discarded products and secondary raw materials to the demands of recycling.

It commonly refers to the recovery of metals from e-waste but has been used more generally for the recovery and monetization of any materials from any waste stream. E-waste is the focus of urban mining since electronics use a range of metals that can be recycled with high rates of recovery, including several precious metals such as gold, silver, and palladium.

Source: What Can We Do About the Growing E-waste Problem? [2018]

Other Links: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 [2020]What is urban mining? [2021]. Repairing – not recycling – is the first step to tackling e-waste from smartphones [2021]. Wikipedia: Electronic waste.


World Data Lab (WDL) has developed a global measurement framework of internet poverty to measure the number of people left behind in the internet revolution. People who can’t afford a basic package of connectivity—set at 1.5 gigabytes (GB) per month at a minimum download speed of 3 megabits per second (Mbps) (equivalent to 6 seconds to load a standard web page)—are internet-poor. This is an analog to the extreme poverty line, currently at $1.90 (2011 PPP), which represents a basket of minimum basic needs (mostly of food, clothes, and shelter).

Globally, internet access is rising. Every second, five to six people join the group of internet users (broadly seven are added and one person dies). Today, an estimated 4.5 billion people are connected compared to only half a billion people 20 years ago. As the price of internet access declined sharply, more people started to use it—similar to the rise of mobile phones 20 years ago.

Internet prices for every country are now available from Cable and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The cost of the average mobile internet package is $0.50 per day. However, quality varies across countries. Using our model of how prices vary with quality, we obtained the price of a standardized quality of internet use in each country. Setting a standard of 1.5 GB per month with 3 Mbps would allow an individual to browse web pages, check emails, and conduct some basic online shopping for 40 minutes a day. It is our equivalent of the “basic needs” of accessing the internet-enough to do the minimum, but not enough to watch videos or conduct other tasks such as accessing databases that demand higher bandwidth. How many people can afford such a basic internet package?

We assume affordability if it would represent 10 percent or less of a person’s spending. This is in line with recent World Bank estimates for West Africa where only around 20-25 percent of the population can afford mobile internet.

Based on this definition, World Data Lab estimates that there are around 1.1 billion people living in internet poverty today. This is a lower-bound estimate as it assumes that everyone in a country actually has access to the internet if they are willing to pay, in the same way that poverty headcounts assume that everyone has access to food if they have the money to pay for it.

Source: Measuring Internet poverty [2021]


As tensions have risen across the Taiwan Strait, the prospect of a Chinese attack on Taiwan has loomed larger. The need for countries worldwide to consider their position in the event of a cross-strait crisis has risen accordingly. One aspect of these calculations is Taiwan’s outsize role in the global semiconductor industry, and especially that of the computing chip manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

Semiconductors are the backbone of modern society, and the foundation of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing. The global semiconductor industry relies on high transnational divisions of labor stemming from the increasing complexity of chips and the economic pressure to innovate.

The U.S. export control measures targeting Huawei illustrate how the transnational semiconductor value chain can be “weaponized.” Vulnerabilities stemming from this value chain’s highly concentrated nature mostly work in favor of the United States and its allies, save in one respect: China’s ability to threaten Taiwan militarily.

In this context, TSMC’s dominance in global semiconductor production makes for a volatile mix with the geopolitics around Taiwan. It is gaining attention in government, the media, and online discussion as a factor in decision-making for capitals worldwide about the right stance toward Taiwan’s de facto independence and calls are being made for an express defense commitment to Taiwan that is justified by TSMC’s international importance.

Source: Taiwan, Chips, and Geopolitics [2020]

Other links: Cómo TSMC se convirtió en el principal fabricante mundial de chips, un bien que escasea [2021]

Submarine cables

The first submarine communications cables laid beginning in the 1850s carried telegraphy traffic, establishing the first instant telecommunications links between continents, such as the first transatlantic telegraph cable which became operational on 16 August 1858.

Currently 99% of the data traffic that is crossing oceans is carried by undersea cables. Also, the total carrying capacity of submarine cables is in the terabits per second, while satellites typically offer only 1,000 megabits per second and display higher latency.

These cables are highly valued not only by the corporations building and operating them for profit, but also by national governments and modern military, “vital to the national economy and security”. Two privately financed, non-consortium cables were constructed in the late 1990s, which preceded a massive, speculative rush to construct privately financed cables.

Most cables in the 20th century crossed the Atlantic Ocean, to connect the United States and Europe. However, capacity in the Pacific Ocean was much expanded starting in the 1990s, in part as a response to the emerging significance of Asian markets in the global economy.In the 1980s, fibre-optic cables were developed. In July 2009, an underwater fibre-optic cable line plugged East Africa into the broader Internet. Antarctica is the only continent not yet reached by a submarine telecommunications cable.

intelligence-gathering: Frequently at the beginning of wars, nations have cut the cables of the other sides to redirect the information flow into cables that were being monitored. In World War I, British and German forces systematically attempted to destroy the others' worldwide communications systems by cutting their cables with surface ships or submarines. During the Cold War, the United States Navy and National Security Agency (NSA) succeeded in placing wire taps on Soviet underwater communication lines in Operation Ivy Bells.

Environmental impact: The main point of interaction of cables with marine life is in the benthic zone of the oceans where the majority of cable lies.

In June 2021, Google announced it was building the longest undersea cable in existence. The cable would ensure users fast, low-latency access to Google products, such as Search, Gmail and YouTube, as well as Google Cloud services.

In August 2021, Google and Facebook announced that they would develop a subsea cable system, dubbed “Apricot”, for 2024 in order to improve internet connectivity, and serve growing demand for broadband access and 5G wireless connectivity across the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Source: Wikipedia: Submarine communications cable [2022]

Other links: Tonga: por qué son tan vitales y vulnerables los cables submarinos que llevan internet a todo el mundo [2022]


How does a particular country’s laws and practices regarding data affect the path adopted?

On the internet there are physical infrastructures of servers, connected to electricity and communication cables, hosted in countries that contain legislation, armies, population control plans, etc.

It is not necessarily the case that a state’s laws and practices affect the route, rather that the route determines which states’s laws and practices one is exposed to.

The internet is routed passively, that is to say, there is no way you can tell your data how it should reach its destination. The internet is designed in such a way that data will always try to find the fastest route available, and that may happen to take your data through countries like the UK that monitor all passing data.

In this sense the route is often more influenced by geography and money. Geography, because some places such as the the UK’s West Coast act as a ‘funnel’ for submarine cables, since they are the first stop for many of those cables when they cross the Atlantic. Money, because richer countries will also have the faster infrastructures and those get a preference when it comes to routing. Laws and policies can influence where companies set up their offices and data centres though.

Border-Check is a free software tool that allows us to visualize the path our data takes when we are surfing the net. It shows through images, the real infrastructure and the actors that make it up, geo-positioning in real time on a map the points through which our data travels in a simple web navigation. Therefore, it allows the user to become aware of the actions that governments, police, private companies could apply to our data based on the different legislation of each country.

Source: Border Check, the physical and political realities behind the internet [2013]

Other links: Border Check: herramientas de la lucha por la neutralidad de la red [2013]

Social networks centralization

Currently, there are over 4.5 billion people around the world who use some form of social media—about 57% of the global population.

Yet, just a handful of companies control a majority of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, owns four of the five most widely used platforms.

Top Social Platforms by Monthly Active Users graphic.

A majority of Meta’s user base comes from its most popular platform, Facebook—the social media giant currently has around 2.9 billion MAUs worldwide. The platform’s biggest user base comes from India, with an audience size of almost 350 million. Its second-largest user base is the United States, with 193.9 million users, while Indonesia comes in third with 142.5 million.

WhatsApp, also part of the giant Meta’s network of social platforms, has approximately 2 billion of monthly active users (MAUs), making it Meta’s second-largest platform, and the third-largest social network overall. Like Facebook, a significant number of WhatsApp users are located in India, with roughly 390 million users. Brazil has a large portion of WhatsApp users as well, with an audience size of 108 million.

The billions Users Club Graphic graphic.

Meta currently dominates the social network landscape, with a combined total of 7.5 billion MAUs across all four of its platforms.

After Meta, Tencent has the second-highest reach thanks to its three platforms—WeChat, Qzone, and QQ. Of the three, WeChat is currently the most popular. On average, WeChat users send about 45 billion messages a day.

Third on the list is Alphabet, thanks to its one platform, YouTube. Founded in 2005, this video streaming platform currently has over 50 million content creators, who share approximately 500 hours of video content every minute.

Close behind Alphabet is Bytedance, with a combined 1.6 billion MAUs across its two platforms—Douyin and its international counterpart TikTok. While the apps share a lot of similarities, they function as completely separate entities, with different registration, content policies, and regulations.

Source: Ranked: The World’s Most Popular Social Networks, and Who Owns Them [2021]

Corporations abuses on users

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

It is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, holding each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

When a platform starts, it needs users, so it makes itself valuable to users. Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they're locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they're locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the lifecycle.

This is why – as Cat Valente wrote in her magesterial pre-Christmas essay – platforms like Prodigy transformed themselves overnight, from a place where you went for social connection to a place where you were expected to “stop talking to each other and start buying things”.

Google Search was based on principles set out in founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin's landmark 1998 paper, “Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” in which they wrote, “Advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers.”

This process has only lasted for as long as it has because the internet has devolved into “five giant websites, each filled with screenshots of the other four”. With the market sewn up by a group of cozy monopolists, better alternatives don't pop up and lure us away, and if they do, the monopolists just buy them out and integrate them into your enshittification strategies, like when Mark Zuckerberg noticed a mass exodus of Facebook users who were switching to Instagram, and so he bought Instagram. As Zuck says, “It is better to buy than to compete.”

Source: Tiktok's enshittification [2023]


Internet addiction is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviours regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress. The condition has attracted increasing attention in the popular media and among researchers, and this attention has paralleled the growth in computer (and Internet) access. Prevalence estimates vary widely, although a recent random telephone survey of the general US population reported an estimate of 0.3-0.7%. The disorder occurs worldwide, but mainly in countries where computer access and technology are widespread. Clinical samples and a majority of relevant surveys report a male preponderance. Onset is reported to occur in the late 20s or early 30s age group, and there is often a lag of a decade or more from initial to problematic computer usage. Internet addiction has been associated with dimensionally measured depression and indicators of social isolation. Psychiatric co-morbidity is common, particularly mood, anxiety, impulse control and substance use disorders. Aetiology is unknown, but probably involves psychological, neurobiological and cultural factors. There are no evidence-based treatments for internet addiction. Cognitive behavioural approaches may be helpful. There is no proven role for psychotropic medication. Marital and family therapy may help in selected cases, and online self-help books and tapes are available. Lastly, a self-imposed ban on computer use and Internet access may be necessary in some cases.

Emotional Internet Addiction Symptoms:

  • Euphoria when using the internet on one’s phone or computer
  • Inability to prioritize schedules or manage time
  • Boredom or lack of interest in routine tasks
  • No sense of time
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance of work
  • Defensiveness

Physical Internet Addiction Symptoms:

  • Carpal tunnel
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
  • Poor nutrition and/or personal hygiene
  • Significant changes in weight
  • Neck and back pain
  • Dry eyes, or other vision issues

5 Types of Internet Addiction

  • Computer Gaming Addiction: This type of internet addiction is what most people think of right off the bat. Computer addiction, or computer gaming addiction, simply involves activities that can be performed on a computer, both on and offline.When more and more people gained access to computers, games like Solitaire and Tetris were programmed into the computer software. These games were probably meant to be played at random and help users pass the time when bored, but they quickly became a problem. Researchers found that people were developing computer or gaming addictions, wherein they were spending significant amounts of time playing these and other games, and suffering as a result. For example, office employees spent (and still do) too much time playing these games and their productivity, as well as their motivation at work, plummeted.As you probably know, these computer games as well as thousands of others are still available and widely played today. Computer or gaming addiction is the oldest of internet addiction types. Not to mention, it is still common if not more common today.
  • Cybersex Addiction: Cybersex addiction is comprised of online pornography, adult chat rooms and websites, and web-cam services. An obsession with any of the aforementioned can prove harmful to one’s life, specifically in their relationships. An individual who is addicted to porn or another service of sexual nature often struggles to form intimate, romantic, and/or sexual relationships in real life.
  • Online Relationship Addiction: Those with an online relationship addiction are obsessed with finding and maintaining relationships online, which often leads to their neglecting in-person relationships, such as those with family members and friends.These online relationships are typically created in chat rooms or social media platforms, but can be formed anywhere online. This isn’t just harmful to one’s mental and emotional wellbeing—it’s dangerous. Oftentimes, people who pursue relationships online do so under a fake name and persona. It’s hard to know when the person you’re chatting with online is telling the truth about their identity.
  • Net Compulsions: Net compulsions refer to online activities like gambling, auctioning, shopping, and trading stocks. These habits can have a negative mental, emotional, and financial impact on an individual, as losing an excessive amount of money can cause significant stress in one’s life.It is easy for people to fall into the trap of net compulsions, especially those who already have a gambling, spending, or shopping addiction.
  • Compulsive Information Seeking: Compulsive information seeking is acting on that uncontrollable urge to Google (or Bing). Some people just can’t resist gathering information on the web, from the symptoms of an illness to random facts about a celebrity, how to change a tire, etc. This form of internet addiction can negatively affect one’s performance at work and even lead to severe anxiety issues.

Causes of Internet Addiction; Risk Factors

As with most disorders, there isn’t always a clear cause of internet addiction. However, there are likely multiple factors that contribute to the development of this disorder, some of which are rooted in nature and others that are rooted in nurture. Let’s explore a few of these potential factors:

  • Dopamine chase: Many addictive drugs, like alcohol and cocaine, are linked to this elusive “dopamine chase.” For example, when an individual uses their drug of choice, they experience pleasure and release dopamine, which causes them to experience euphoria. The drug user starts to chase this euphoric feeling, which reinforces their behavior. And over time, more of the drug is needed for the individual to achieve the feelings they seek.A similar cycle is seen in internet addiction: If you like to play video games or shop online, and you struggle with an internet addiction or obsession, you’ll have to spend more and more time engaging in the behavior to achieve the same level of pleasure.
  • Multiple layers of rewards: Another theory, the Variable Ratio Reinforcement Schedule (VRRS) theory, says that internet addiction can stem from multiple levels of rewards. For example, your scrolling through social media might reward you many times, as you receive likes and comments on the photo you just posted, accept a friend request from your crush, and read exciting updates about your friends getting engaged or pregnant. Every time you sign on to Facebook, Instagram, or another social platform, you never know what you’re going to get—but there is always potential for multiple levels of rewards, which keeps you coming back for more.
  • Chemical makeup and structural brain changes: Additionally, some research suggests that those with internet addiction have brain makeup similar to individuals with drug or alcohol dependence. Additionally, some research shows that internet addiction physically changes the structure of the brain, in that it affects gray and white matter in the prefrontal regions, which help with remembering details, planning, prioritizing, and paying attention. Therefore, when this area of the brain is altered, we aren’t able to prioritize the right tasks—we prioritize the internet, instead.
  • Genetics: Your genetics might also play a role in the development of internet addiction. If you struggle with this form of addiction (or another type of addiction), your dopamine or serotonin levels might be lower than most, requiring you to engage in more behaviors to achieve the same level of pleasure. This biological predisposition can increase your risk for addiction.
  • Depression and Anxiety: Finally, if you have depression or anxiety, you are more likely to turn to the internet for relief. For example, if you suffer from social anxiety, it’s much easier to meet people in a virtual world than it is to meet people face to face. These individuals find pleasure in these interactions and relationships just the same, only they must engage in them online. This can put someone on the fast road to internet addiction.

Effects of Internet Addiction: Short-Term and Long-Term

When it comes to internet addiction (and other types of addiction), there are both short-term and long-term effects, of which can prove harmful to the individual. Short-term effects include:

  • Incomplete tasks
  • Neglected responsibilities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Backache
  • Neck pain

An individual with internet addiction might experience the above symptoms after only several sessions on the internet. Long-term side effects include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Vision problems
  • Damaged relationships
  • Loss of a job
  • Financial strain

When one is farther into their addiction, they are more likely to experience the above side effects. As they spend more and more time on the internet, they are at a greater risk of experiencing carpal tunnel, hurting their vision, damaging their relationships, losing their job, and entering financial distress as a result of their job loss or spending money on shopping, gambling, or gambling online.

Source: Internet addiction: definition, assessment, epidemiology and clinical management [2008]

Other links: Internet addiction: Definition, symptoms, causes, treatment, and more [2023]

Data traffic

Today, around five billion internet users exist across the globe.

The Internet Minute, annual infographic

At the heart of the world’s digital activity are the everyday services and applications that have become staples in many people. Collectively, these produce unimaginable quantities of user activity and associated data.

Here are just some of the key figures of what happens in a minute:

  • Amazon customers spend $283,000
  • 12 million people send an iMessage
  • 6 million people shop online
  • Instacart users spend $67,000
  • Slack users send 148,000 messages
  • Microsoft Teams connects 100,000 users
  • YouTube users stream 694,000 videos
  • Facebook Live receives 44 million views
  • Instagram users share 65,000 photos
  • Tiktok users watch 167 million videos

As these facts show, Big Tech companies have quite the influence. That influence is becoming difficult to ignore, and draws increasing media and political attention. And some see this attention as a plausible explanation for why Facebook changed their name—to dissociate from their old one in the process.

One tangible measure of this influence is the massive amount of revenue Big Tech companies bring in. To get a better sense of this, we can look at Big Tech’s revenue generating capabilities on a per-minute basis as well:

  • Company Revenue Per Minute
  • Amazon $955,517
  • Apple $848,090
  • Alphabet (Google) $433,014
  • Microsoft $327,823
  • Facebook $213,628
  • Tesla $81,766
  • Netflix $50,566

Much of the revenue that these elite trillion-dollar stocks generate can be traced back to all the activity on their various networks and platforms.

In other words, the 5.7 million Google searches that occur every minute is the key to their $433,014 in per minute sales.

The Internet Minute Over The Years

With the amount of data and information in the digital universe effectively doubling every two years, it’s fair to say the internet minute has gone through some changes over the years. Here are just some areas that have experienced impressive growth:

  • In 2016, Snapchat users 527k photos per minute, compared to 2 million in 2021
  • In 2017, Twitter saw 452k Tweets per minute, compared to 575k in 2021
  • In 2018, $862,823 was spent online shopping, while 2 million people were shopping per minute in 2021
  • In 2019, 4.5 million videos on YouTube were being viewed every minute, while in 2021 users were streaming 694k hours
  • In 2020, Netflix users streamed 404k hours per minute, growing to 452k hours in 2021.

Source: From Amazon to Zoom: What Happens in an Internet Minute In 2021? [2021]

Growth perspectives

In 1993, there were only 14 million internet users across the globe. But today, there are over 14 million just in Chile.

That said, the total addressable market still has some room left. By some measures, the complete number of internet users grew by 500 million in 2021, a roughly 11% jump from 4.5 billion users in 2020. This comes out to an astonishing 950 new users on a per minute basis.

What’s more, in the long term, with the appropriate infrastructure in place, certain areas within emerging markets can experience buoyant growth in the number of connected citizens.

Here’s where the next billion internet users may come from, based on the largest disconnected populations:

Unconnected People - % of Population

  1. India 685,591,071 - 50%
  2. China 582,063,733 - 41%
  3. Pakistan 142,347,735 - 65%
  4. Nigeria 118,059,925 - 58%
  5. Bangladesh 97,427,352 - 59%
  6. Indonesia 96,709,226 - 36%
  7. Ethiopia 92,385,728 - 81%
  8. Democratic Republic of Congo 71,823,319 - 81%
  9. Brazil 61,423,295 - 29%
  10. Egypt 46,626,170 - 46%

Source: From Amazon to Zoom: What Happens in an Internet Minute In 2021? [2021]


The Cambridge Analytica scandal is more than a “breach,” as Facebook executives have defined it. It exemplifies the possibility of using online data to algorithmically predict and influence human behavior in a manner that circumvents users’ awareness of such influence. Using an intermediary app, Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest large data volumes—over 50 million raw profiles—and use big data analytics to create psychographic profiles in order to subsequently target users with customized digital ads and other manipulative information. According to some observers, this massive data analytics tactic might have been used to purposively swing election campaigns around the world.

Although different in scale and scope, this scandal is not entirely new. In 2014, Facebook conducted a colossal online psychosocial experiment with researchers at Cornell University on almost seven hundred thousand unaware users, algorithmically modifying their newsfeeds to observe changes in their emotions. The study results, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), showed the ability of the social network to make people happier or sadder on a massive scale and without their awareness—a phenomenon that was labeled “emotional contagion.”

A common lesson from these two different cases is that Facebook’s privacy policy is no absolute guarantee of data protection: in 2014, it allowed the reuse of data for research purposes even though “research” was not listed in the company’s Data Use Policy at the time of data collection. A couple of years later, it allowed an abusive app to collect data not only on users who signed up for it, but also on their friends

The second consideration is that not just Cambridge Analytica, but most of the current online ecosystem, is an arm’s race to the unconscious mind: notifications, microtargeted ads, autoplay plugins, are all strategies designed to induce addictive behavior, hence to manipulate. Researchers have called for adaptive regulatory frameworks that can limit information extraction from and modulation of someone’s mind using experimental neurotechnologies. Social computing shows that you don’t necessarily have to read people’s brains to influence their choices. It is sufficient to collect and mine the data they regularly—and often unwittingly—share online.

In today’s digital ecosystem, wannabe demagogues can use big data analytics to uncover cognitive vulnerabilities from large user datasets and effectively exploit them in a manner that bypasses individual rational control. For example, machine learning can be used to identify deep-rooted fears among pre-profiled user groups which social-media bots can subsequently exploit to foment anger and intolerance.

Source: Cambridge Analytica and Online Manipulation [2018].

Other links: Team Jorge:The hacking and disinformation team meddling in elections [2023]


NSO Group claims that its Pegasus spyware is only used to “investigate terrorism and crime” and “leaves no traces whatsoever”. This Forensic Methodology Report shows that neither of these statements are true.

Amnesty International’s Security Lab has performed in-depth forensic analysis of numerous mobile devices from human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists around the world. This research has uncovered widespread, persistent and ongoing unlawful surveillance and human rights abuses perpetrated using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

In this Forensic Methodology Report, Amnesty International is sharing its methodology and publishing an open-source mobile forensics tool and detailed technical indicators, in order to assist information security researchers and civil society with detecting and responding to these serious threats.

This report documents the forensic traces left on iOS and Android devices following targeting with the Pegasus spyware. This includes forensic records linking recent Pegasus infections back to the 2016 Pegasus payload used to target the Human Rights Defender Ahmed Mansoor.

The Pegasus attacks detailed in this report and accompanying appendices are from 2014 up to as recently as July 2021. These also include so-called “zero-click” attacks which do not require any interaction from the target. Zero-click attacks have been observed since May 2018 and continue until now.

Finally, in section 9 the report documents the evolution of the Pegasus network infrastructure since 2016. NSO Group has redesigned their attack infrastructure by employing multiple layers of domains and servers. Repeated operational security mistakes have allowed the Amnesty International Security Lab to maintain continued visibility into this infrastructure. We are publishing a set of 700 Pegasus-related domains.

Names of several of the civil society targets in the report have been anonymized for safety and security reasons. Individuals who have been anonymized have been assigned an alphanumeric code name in this report.

Source: Forensic Methodology Report: How to catch NSO Group’s Pegasus. Amnesty International [2021]

Present Privacy-Future Crimes

The present privacy is important to defend in relation to possible future crimes due to law changes. When you say 'I have nothing to hide', it is not true because maybe in the future will be a crime things that now are not:

'The technology industry is bracing for the uncomfortable possibility of having to hand over pregnancy-related data to law enforcement, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Friday to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent that for decades guaranteed a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

As state laws limiting abortion kick in after the ruling, technology trade representatives told Reuters they fear police will obtain warrants for customers' search history, geolocation and other information indicating plans to terminate a pregnancy. Prosecutors could access the same via a subpoena, too.'

Source: US tech-industry frets about handing data states prosecuting abortion. Reuters [2022]

Other links: Search warrants for menstrual data on tracking apps [2023]

Algorithm Bias

Bias, or prejudice for or against a thing, person, or group, is traditionally thought of as part of human decision-making. But, bias can extend beyond individual actions and infiltrate the systems created by people: Even computers, which think in purely mathematical terms, take on the human trait of prejudice. Members of marginalized groups, such as women and people of color, are often those adversely affected by erroneous algorithms.

AI is created using a feedback loop. Real-world experiences shape data, which is used to build algorithms. Those algorithms drive decisions affecting real-world experiences. This kind of circular reasoning means that bias can infiltrate the AI process in many ways. At a more granular level, humans generate, collect, and label the data that goes into datasets. Humans determine what datasets, variables, and rules the algorithms learn from to make predictions. Both of these stages can introduce biases that become embedded in AI systems.

(Lack of) Representation in AI, at a Glance:

  • In 2017, just 12 percent of contributors in leading machine learning conferences were women.
  • Female AI professionals earn 66 percent of the salaries of their male counterparts.
  • Among new AI Ph.D.s in 2019 who are U.S. residents, almost half were white, 22 percent were Asian, 3.2 percent were Hispanic, and 2.4 percent were Black.
  • The standard training dataset for facial recognition is reportedly 84 percent white faces and 70 percent male faces.

Examples of How AI Bias Affects Marginalized Groups:

  • Facial recognition: Facial recognition software, used in services like biometric security at airports and on phones, performs better on lighter skin tones, according to the Gender Shades project. The study also found that these algorithms — from Microsoft, IBM and Face++ — performed the worst on darker skin-toned females.
  • Job recruiting: An Amazon job recruiting tool meant to scan resumes and return the most qualified applicants was abandoned in 2015 when engineers discovered it was not gender-neutral, according to Reuters. The algorithm used data from prior applicants, which was skewed toward men.
  • Healthcare decisions: An algorithm used in U.S. hospitals was supposed to direct patients to healthcare programs, but a 2019 study found it was less likely to refer Black people to the care they need than equally sick white patients. The software, which used healthcare costs in the preceding year as a primary indicator for the seriousness of a disease, did not recognize Black patients were substantially sicker and received less access to care.
  • Prison sentencing: Algorithms used in the criminal justice system predict the likelihood that those convicted will commit a future crime, which affects their sentence. These “risk assessments” are unreliable. Research from ProPublica found it was 20 percent accurate in predicting crime. But they are also biased: The algorithm is more likely to falsely label Black defendants as future criminals and white defendants as low risk.

Source: How Artificial Intelligence Bias Affects Women and People of Color [2021]

Other links: Microsoft shuts down AI chatbot after it turned into a Nazi [2016]. AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals [2017]. When Good Algorithms Go Sexist: Why and How to Advance AI Gender Equity [2021]

“We do not lack reasons to change our habits on the Internet, now it is only a matter of wills…”