2011 National Gang Threat Assessment – Emerging Trends and The Internet

November 7, 2011

The FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC)has just released their 2011 gang assessment and trends report view printable version (pdf), and it is another sobering read, particularly as it highlights the ways and means in which gangs are leveraging internet technology to expand their reach and the types of crimes they commit.

Here are the reports key findings:

Gangs are expanding, evolving and posing an increasing threat to US communities nationwide.

Many gangs are sophisticated criminal networks with members who are violent, distribute wholesale quantities of drugs, and develop and maintain close working relationships with members and associates of transnational criminal/drug trafficking organizations.

Gangs are becoming more violent while engaging in less typical and lower-risk crime, such as prostitution and white-collar crime. Gangs are more adaptable, organized, sophisticated, and opportunistic, exploiting new and advanced technology as a means to recruit, communicate discretely, target their rivals, and perpetuate their criminal activity. Based on state, local, and federal law enforcement reporting, the NGIC concludes that:

  • There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and OMG gang members comprising more than 33,000 gangs in the United States. This represents a 40 percent increase from an estimated 1 million gang members in 2009. Gang membership increased most significantly in the Northeast and Southeast regions, although the West and Great Lakes regions boast the highest number of gang members.
  • Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others, according to NGIC analysis. Major cities and suburban areas experience the most gang-related violence. Aggressive recruitment of juveniles and immigrants, alliances and conflict between gangs, the release of incarcerated gang members from prison, advancements in technology and communication, and Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization (MDTO) involvement in drug distribution have resulted in gang expansion and violence in a number of jurisdictions.
  • Gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional gang-related crime, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution. Gangs are also engaging in white collar crime such as counterfeiting, identity theft, and mortgage fraud, primarily due to the high profitability and much lower visibility and risk of detection and punishment than drug and weapons trafficking.
  • Many gang members continue to engage in gang activity while incarcerated. Family members play pivotal roles in assisting or facilitating gang activities and recruitment during a gang members’ incarceration. Gang members in some correctional facilities are adopting radical religious views while incarcerated.
  • Gangs encourage members, associates, and relatives to obtain law enforcement, judiciary, or legal employment in order to gather information on rival gangs and law enforcement operations. Gang infiltration of the military continues to pose a significant criminal threat, as members of at least 53 gangs have been identified on both domestic and international military installations. Gang members who learn advanced weaponry and combat techniques in the military are at risk of employing these skills on the street when they return to their communities.
  • Gang members are acquiring high-powered, military-style weapons and equipment which poses a significant threat because of the potential to engage in lethal encounters with law enforcement officers and civilians. Gang members also target military and law enforcement officials, facilities, and vehicles to obtain weapons, ammunition, body armor, police gear, badges, uniforms, and official identification.
  • Gangs are becoming increasingly adaptable and sophisticated, employing new and advanced technology to facilitate criminal activity discreetly, enhance their criminal operations, and connect with other gang members, criminal organizations, and potential recruits nationwide and even worldwide.

Current Gang-Related Trends and Crime

Many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. Gang members are migrating from urban areas to suburban and rural communities to recruit new members, expand their drug distribution territories, form new alliances, and collaborate with rival gangs and criminal organizations for profit and influence.

Local neighborhood, hybrid and female gang membership is on the rise in many communities. Prison gang members, who exert control over many street gang members, often engage in crime and violence upon their return to the community. Gang members returning to the community from prison have an adverse and lasting impact on neighborhoods, which may experience notable increases in crime, violence, and drug trafficking.

Gang Membership and Expansion

Law enforcement in several jurisdictions attribute the increase in gang membership in their region to the gangster rap culture, the facilitation of communication and recruitment through the Internet and social media, the proliferation of generational gang members, and a shortage of resources to combat gangs.

Nationwide Gang Presence

Source: NGIC and NDIC 2010 National Drug Survey Data

Threat Posed by Gangs, According to Law Enforcement.

The NGIC collected intelligence from law enforcement officials nationwide in an attempt to capture the threat posed by national-level street, prison, outlaw motorcycle, and neighborhood-based gangs in their communities.

Source: 2011 NGIC National data

Gang-Related Drug Distribution and Trafficking

Gang involvement and control of the retail drug trade poses a serious threat to public safety and stability in most major cities and in many mid-size cities because such distribution activities are routinely associated with lethal violence. Violent disputes over control of drug territory and enforcement of drug debts frequently occur among gangs in both urban and suburban areas, as gangs expand their control of drug distribution in many jurisdictions, according to NDIC and NGIC reporting. In 2010, law enforcement agencies in 51 major US cities reported moderate to significant levels of gang-related drug activity.

NDIC survey data indicates that 69 percent of US law enforcement agencies report gang involvement in drug distribution.

NDIC reporting suggests that gangs are advancing beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities and becoming more influential in large-scale drug trafficking, resulting in an increase in violent crime in several regions of the country.4

  • Law enforcement reporting indicates that gang-related drug distribution and trafficking has resulted in an increase of kidnappings, assaults, robberies and homicides along the US Southwest border region.

Juvenile Gangs

Many jurisdictions are experiencing an increase in juvenile gangs and violence, which is often attributed, in part, to the increased incarceration rates of older members and the aggressive recruitment of juveniles in schools. Gangs have traditionally targeted youths because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics, as well as their likelihood of avoiding harsh criminal sentencing and willingness to engage in violence.

  • Juvenile gang members in some communities are hosting parties and organizing special events which develop into opportunities for recruiting, drugs, sexual exploitation, and criminal activity.

Gang Alliances and Collaboration

Collaboration between rival gangs and criminal organizations and increased improvement in communications, transportation, and technology have enabled national-level gangs to expand and secure their criminal networks throughout the United States and in other countries. 

Gang Sophistication

Gang members are becoming more sophisticated in their structure and operations and are modifying their activity to minimize law enforcement scrutiny and circumvent gang enhancement laws. Gangs in several jurisdictions have modified or ceased traditional or stereotypical gang indicia and no longer display their colors, tattoos, or hand signs. Others are forming hybrid gangs to avoid police attention and make to it more difficult for law enforcement to identify and monitor them, according to NGIC reporting.

Many gangs are engaging in more sophisticated criminal schemes, including white collar and cybercrime, targeting and infiltrating sensitive systems to gain access to sensitive areas or information, and targeting and monitoring law enforcement.

Gangs and Alien Smuggling, Human Trafficking, and Prostitution

Gang involvement in alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution is increasing primarily due to their higher profitability and lower risks of detection and punishment than that of drug and weapons trafficking. Over the past year, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in at least 35 states and US territories have reported that gangs in their jurisdictions are involved in alien smuggling, human trafficking, or prostitution.e

Alien Smuggling

Many street gangs are becoming involved in alien smuggling as a source of revenue. According to US law enforcement officials, tremendous incentive exists for gangs to diversify their criminal enterprises to include alien smuggling, which can be more lucrative and less risky than the illicit drug trade. Over the past two years numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have reported gang involvement in incidents of alien smuggling. In some instances, gang members were among those being smuggled across the border into the United States following deportation. In other cases, gang members facilitated the movement of migrants across the US-Mexico border.f

An immigrant is smuggled in a vehicle

In October 2009, ICE agents in Los Angeles, California, arrested suspects linked to a drug trafficking and alien smuggling ring with close ties to the Drew Street clique of the Avenues (Sureño) street gang in Los Angeles. The ring allegedly smuggled more than 200 illegal aliens per year into the United States from Mexico, concealing them in trucks and hidden compartments of vehicles and then hiding them in a store house in Los Angeles

Source: FBI

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is another source of revenue for some gangs. Victims—typically women and children—are often forced, coerced, or led with fraudulent pretense into prostitution and forced labor. Some gangs in the New England area are combining human trafficking and drug trafficking operations, where females are used to courier drugs and participate in prostitution.


Prostitution is also a major source of income for many gangs. Gang members often operate as pimps, luring or forcing at-risk, young females into prostitution and controlling them through violence and psychological abuse. Prostitution is reportedly the second largest source of income for San Diego, California, gangs. According to November 2010 open source reporting, African-American street gangs in San Diego are pimping young females to solicit males.18


Contraband Cell Phones

Smuggled cell phones are a continuing problem for prison administrators in correctional facilities throughout the country. Smuggled cell phones and Smart Phones afford incarcerated gang members more influence and control over street gangs through unrestricted access and unmonitored conversations via voice calling, Internet access, text messaging, email, and social networking websites. Instances of violence directed by inmates using mobile devices are also a growing concern for corrections officials. Incarcerated gang members communicate covertly with illegal cell phones to plan or direct criminal activities such as drug distribution, assault, and murder.

Cell phones smuggled into correctional facilities pose the greatest threat to institution safety, according to NGIC and BOP reporting.

  • In 2010 a New Jersey inmate was prosecuted for using a contraband cell phone to order the murder of his former girlfriend in retaliation for her cooperation with police regarding an investigation involving the inmate.

The majority of illegal cell phones in California prisons are smuggled in by visitors or correctional staff. Many cell phones have also been discovered
in legal mail and quarterly packages. In 2010, more than 10,000 illegal cell phones were confiscated from prisoners in California.

Historically, correctional staff who have been caught smuggling phones have been successfully prosecuted only when the phone was connected to a more serious charge such as drug distribution,
and district attorney offices rarely prosecute unless a more serious offense is involved. In March 2011, legislation was approved in the California State Senate to criminalize the use of cell phones in prison, including penalties for both smugglers and inmates.

Sources: US Bureau of Prisons and CDCR; California State Senate Press Release, 22 March 2011

Gangs, Technology, and Communication

Gangs are becoming increasingly savvy and are embracing new and advanced technology to facilitate criminal activity and enhance their criminal operations. Prepaid cell phones, social networking and microblogging websites, VoIP systems, virtual worlds, and gaming systems enable gang members to communicate globally and discreetly. Gangs are also increasingly employing advanced countermeasures to monitor and target law enforcement while engaging in a host of criminal activity.

Internet Use for Propaganda, Intimidation, and Recruitment

According to open sources and law enforcement reporting, since 2005, MDTOs have exploited blogs and popular websites like YouTube and MySpace for propaganda and intimidation. MDTOs have posted hundreds of videos depicting interrogations or executions of rival MDTO members. Other postings include video montages of luxury vehicles, weapons, and money set to the music of songs with lyrics that glorify the drug lifestyle. While some of these postings may offer specific recruitment information, they serve more as tools for propaganda and intimidation.
Gang members routinely utilize the Internet to communicate with one another, recruit, promote their gang, intimidate rivals and police, conduct gang business, showcase illegal exploits, and facilitate criminal activity such as drug trafficking, extortion, identity theft, money laundering, and prostitution. Social networking, microblogging, and video-sharing websites—such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter—are now more accessible, versatile, and allow tens of thousands of gang members to easily communicate, recruit, and form new gang alliances nationwide and worldwide.

NGIC reporting indicates that a majority of gang members use the Internet for recruitment, gang promotion, and cyber-bullying or intimidation. Many also use the Internet for identity theft, computer hacking, and phishing schemes.

  • According to NGIC reporting, gang recruitment and intimidation is heavily facilitated through the Internet. Gangs use social networking sites such as Facebook to promote their gang, post photos of their gang lifestyle, and display their bravado, which ultimately influences other youth to join gangs.

The proliferation of social networking websites has made gang activity more prevalent and lethal—moving gangs from the streets into cyber space. Gang members, criminals, and drug traffickers are using the Internet not only to recruit and build their social networks, but to expand and operate their criminal networks without the proximity once needed for communication. Likewise, youth in other regions and countries are influenced by what they see online and may be encouraged to connect with or emulate a gang, facilitating the global spread of gang culture.

According to information obtained from multiple state and federal law enforcement sources, incarcerated gang members are accessing micro-blogging and social networking web sites such as MocoSpace and Twitter with smuggled prepaid cellular telephones and using the messaging features to coordinate criminal activity.

Street gang members are also involved in cyber attacks, computer hacking, and phishing operations, often to commit identity theft and fraud. 

Gangs and White Collar Crime

NGIC reporting indicates that gangs are becoming more involved in white collar crime, including identity theft, bank fraud, credit card fraud, money laundering, fencing stolen goods, counterfeiting, and mortgage fraud, and are recruiting members who possess those skill sets. Law enforcement officials nationwide indicate that many gangs in their jurisdiction are involved in some type of white collar crime.

  • Members of the Black Guerilla Family in Maryland used pre-paid retail debit cards as virtual currency inside Maryland prisons to purchase drugs and further the gangs’ interests, according to August 2010 open source reporting.52

Some gangs, such as the Bloods and Gangster Disciples, are committing sophisticated mortgage fraud schemes by purchasing properties with the intent to receive seller assistance loans and, ultimately retain the proceeds from the loans, or to comingle illicit funds through mortgage payments. Gang members are also exploiting vulnerabilities in the banking and mortgage industries for profit.


Street, prison, and motorcycle gang membership and criminal activity continues to flourish in US communities where gangs identify opportunities to control street level drug sales, and other profitable crimes. Gangs will not only continue to defend their territory from rival gangs, but will also increasingly seek to diversify both their membership and their criminal activities in recognition of potential financial gain. New alliances between rival gangs will likely form as gangs suspend their former racial ideologies in pursuit of mutual profit. Gangs will continue to evolve and adapt to current conditions and law enforcement tactics, diversify their criminal activity, and employ new strategies and technology to enhance their criminal operations, while facilitating lower-risk and more profitable schemes, such as white collar crime.

The expansion of communication networks, especially in wireless communications and the Internet, will allow gang members to form associations and alliances with other gangs and criminal organizations—both domestically and internationally—and enable gang members to better facilitate criminal activity and enhance their criminal operations discreetly without the physical interfacing once necessary to conduct these activities.

Globalization, socio-political change, technological advances, and immigration will result either in greater gang expansion and gang-related crime or displace gang members as they search for criminal opportunities elsewhere. Stagnant or poor economic conditions in the United States, including budget cuts in law enforcement, may undercut gang dismantlement efforts and encourage gang expansion as police agencies redirect their resources and disband gang units and taskforces, as reported by a large number of law enforcement agencies.

Maps. Gang Presence in the United States

FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Violent Crime, 2009


Sexting Trauma – Read this Month’s Redbook Article

October 24, 2011

A new article  by Sandy M. Fernández for Redbook provides excellent insight into a sexting incident’s long-term impact on a young girl. Covering a three year time period, the article delves into the life of a young girl who felt pressured into sexting, and the emotional, legal, and educational aftermath.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

Sexting Trauma: “I Was Naked Out in the World”

“Can I have a video?”

When the message flashed on then-13-year-old Taylor Sullivan’s* cell-phone screen late on a Saturday night in February 2009, she didn’t understand the question. It was midnight, and Taylor…. was in her pajamas, watching That’s So Raven and texting a boy from school, a class clown type who, she hoped, “might want to be my boyfriend.” She’d never dated anyone before.

“Video of what?” she typed. Everyone else in the house had gone to bed. But Taylor — kept awake by the pinging messages — had come back to the living room.

“You stripping,” came the answer.

Taylor’s immediate response was “No, no way.” …. Taylor had friends who’d sent some, … She had even tested out a couple shots herself. She knew the risks: Guys rarely kept these to themselves. Still, she liked this boy. And he swore it would be just between the two of them. “I didn’t know what to do,” Taylor says. “So I’d say, ‘I don’t know. I don’t feel good about this.’ And he’d be like, ‘Please?'”

It’s two years later, and we’re sitting on the back porch….. read more on http://www.redbookmag.com/kids-family/advice/teenage-sexting

It’s a thoughtful article that should be read not only by every parent but by every teen as it helps take a topic that is often discussed very 2-dimentionally and brings forward the complexities of dealing with the aftermath as the sender/victim, among friends, at school, and at home.   I am honored to have been interviewed for this article, and help drive greater awareness of the issues rather than the sensationalism that frequently accompanies these stories.

What’s missing from the article are suggestions for how to help your child build up defenses so they don’t feel pressured to send sexual images or video, what to do  if they already have sent images of themselves to others, and how you as a parent need to support your child through this kind of event. To learn more about these aspects of dealing with sexting see my blogs:


Internet Word of the Month – Hackerazzi

October 18, 2011

The rapid evolution of new internet related words is nearly as fast as the development of new technologies making it a struggle to keep up – even for dictionaries. To help you stay up to speed with this new techno-lingo, here’s our second word-of-the-month.

This month’s word? Hackerazzi…..

Have fun incorporating it into your lexicon!


The state of the Internet Infographic – Cool Stats to Ponder

August 23, 2011

What makes this  State of the Internet by Mashable [infographic] so interesting is that it is dynamic, you can see the number of new internet users, and new websites coming online, click around the world to see the internet’s role in various countries, and has interesting stats about the videos uploaded each minute, the searches, tweets, and more.

Interesting stats (subject to change by the time you look at them!):

  • Avg. time spent on Facebook per month – 17 hours and 33 minutes
  • Videos watched on YouTube per day – 2 billion
  • 119 Million Tweets sent per day
  • 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • 1.2 Million Editors edit 11 million articles per month on Wikipedia
  • The online dating industry is worth $4 billion worldwide
  • Your facebook profile is worth $91

Have fun exploring.


High speed Internet Use Saves Consumers Nearly $8K Annually?

November 15, 2010

Perhaps the best enticement for bringing non-internet adopters online has just been found. Saving Money.

According to new data from the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), “the average US household earning $62,857 per year before taxes can save $7,707 annually through use of broadband internet” (after factoring the average $490 yearly cost of broadband access).

Here’s how:


Using online apartment postings, which provide rent alternatives cheaper than going rental rates in major US housing markets, broadband internet access can provide annual savings of $974 per year (7.7% of the average US total of $12,697 spent in rent annually) Site examples: www.padmapper.com, www.apartments.com, www.craigslist.org


IIA created a standard basket of monthly groceries to establish a baseline retail cost, then conducted a series of online searches against the baseline to identify cost savings exclusive to the internet. Potential savings of $965 per year, or 25.7% of the $3,573 the average US household spends annually on food at home, is based on cost reductions at the aggregate basket level. Site examples: www.couponmom.com, www.peapod.com


Online-only deals can save a consumer who spends the average of $7,658 per year on travel up to 20% of that figure, or $1,532. Source: Amadeus Case Study amadeus.com/us/documents/aco/us/BearingPoint.pdf


Online-only deals can save consumers an average of 1.5% on the typical $29,217 net outlay for a new American-made car in 2010, or $438. Source: usatoday.com/money/autos/2010-07-12-carprices12_ST_N.htm

Non-prescription Drugs

IIA created a standard basket of the best-selling non-prescription drugs to establish a baseline retail cost and then conducted a series of online searches against the baseline to identify cost savings exclusive to the internet. They determined the average consumer can save $76 per year, or 24.2% of the average $312.60 spent on non-prescription drugs.

IIA applied the 24.2% savings factor to the average annual expenditure on non-prescription drugs, which was derived as 10% of the average annual expenditure on healthcare ($3,126) from the Department of Labor annual study on consumer expenditures. Site examples: www.drugstore.com, www.amazon.com


Searching online for the lowest gas prices within a 10-mile radius of three zip codes for several major US cities, IIA researchers found a savings of 4.76% off the average gasoline expenditure ($1,986) based on the Department of Labor annual study on consumer expenditures. Site example: www.gasbuddy.com


IIA created a set of standard baskets of apparel for a man (khakis/jeans and shirts) and a woman (skirts/jeans and tops) to establish a baseline retail cost in each of five price categories. They then conducted a series of online searches against the baseline to identify cost savings exclusive to the internet, and applied 37.12% savings factor to the average annual expenditure on apparel ($1,725) based on the Department of Labor annual study on consumer expenditures, determining yearly savings of $640 on apparel. Site example: www.overstock.com, www.ideeli.com


Reading free online newspapers can save the average consumer 100% of the typical yearly $193 spent on newspaper delivery subscriptions.


Online bill payment can save consumers 100% of postage paid to mail bills, which averages $47 per year.


IIA conducted a search-based study on restaurant dining, sporting/concert tickets and leisure activities in several major US cities to determine the average consumer can save $2,747 per year, or 51.7% of total average entertainment expenses.

IIA applied a savings factor of 57.6% on dining outside of the home ($2,619) based on the Department of Labor annual study on consumer expenditures, and applied a savings factor of 46% on entertainment such as concerts, events and leisure activities to the entertainment budget ($2,693) based on the Department of Labor annual study on consumer expenditures. Site Examples: www.groupon.com, www.livingsocial.com, www.bargainseatsonline.com

One area that wasn’t specifically called out in the research? Online coupons.

The use of e-coupons and discounts more than doubled in the first half of 2009 compared to 2008 as the worsening economy has brought frugal into fashion.

If you are not familiar with electronic coupons (e-coupons), they are a great way to save even more on the items you purchase. And chances are high that the very websites you shop on offer them if you only take the time to look.

E-coupons may be “pushed” to you by cellphone, iPod, email, Facebook and Twitter, can be purchased on eBay, or found through online searches for manufacturers rebates/special promotions, or simply by searching on an online store’s name plus the word “coupon” “promotion code” or “discount”.  They may also be automatically uploaded to shoppers’ loyalty cards, or found on screens built into grocery cart handles, and so on.  E-coupons can be printed for use in brick-and-mortar stores or entered as promotion codes in online stores.

It is, however, text messaging and email that are emerging as the most popular ways to obtain coupons in the US, with 8.6 million (8%) of the country’s households currently using one or both of these methods to receive money-saving offers, according to an analysis from Scarborough Research that explores and ranks the ways households obtain coupons.

The savings can be significant. If you have not tried e-coupons, you may quickly find yourself a fan as savings of 5-20% off individual items or whole purchases, and free shipping are common.

Why pay more?

Learn more in these to blog posts: Internet Shopping and e-Coupons; Bargain Hunting Online Safely Online Coupons Gaining Momentum; Especially Among Wealthy


Who’s Who in Internet Politics: Understanding Information Technology Policy

October 17, 2010

There is a political tug-of-war occurring over internet technology issues, with a barrage of new proposals before congress. To help you make sense of the players in this struggle, Robert Atkinson, of The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has created a succinct, easily understandable primer of ‘who’s who’ in internet politics, and what these groups mean to the future of the internet.

The outcome of the contended issues will effect virtually every aspect of how you use the internet and the level of privacy you have while doing so. As such, understanding the players and the issues – and weighing in with your elected officials and the companies you use – is critical as we each play a role in shaping the future. I consider this document to be a ‘must read’.

The whitepaper is broken into a few key sections (Excerpted from the white paper):

The major players in the IT policy debate that fall into eight basic groups;

  • Cyber-Libertarians – These “Netizens” believe that they launched the Internet revolution. Typified by groups such as the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and dedicated readers of Wired magazine, they believe “information wants to be free” and that all software should be open-source.,
  • Social EngineersThese liberals believe the Internet is empowering but they worry that its growth is having unintended and sometimes dire consequences for society. They invoke the so-called “digital divide,” the purported loss of privacy, net neutrality, or voice concern that corporations are controlling the use of digital content.
  • Free MarketersThis group views the digital revolution as the great third wave of economic innovation in human history (after the agricultural and industrial revolutions). Free marketers envision a dramatically reduced role for government as the Internet empowers people, liberates entrepreneurs, and enables markets.
  • Moderates This group is staunchly and unabashedly pro-IT, seeing it as this era’s driving force for both economic growth and social progress. While they view the Internet as a unique development to which old rules and laws may not apply, they believe appropriate guidelines must be developed if it is to reach its full potential.
  • Moral ConservativesThis group sees the Internet as a dangerous place, a virtual den of iniquity, populated by pornographers, gamblers, child molesters, terrorists, and other degenerates. Unlike the free marketers, the moral conservatives have no qualms about enlisting government to regulate the Internet.
  • Old Economy RegulatorsThis group believes that there is nothing inherently unique about the Internet and that it should be regulated in the same way that government regulates everything else, including past technologies.
  • Tech Companies & Trade AssociationsThis group encompasses a range of organizations from the politically savvy hardware, software and communications giants to Internet start-ups. On the whole, tech companies tend to believe that regulation can be both advantageous and detrimental; they do not fight against all regulations and they do favor the right ones for them, (and occasionally the “wrong” ones for their competitors).
  • Bricks-and-MortarsThis group includes the companies, professional groups, and unions that gain their livelihood from old-economy, face-to-face business transactions. Many of them fear, often correctly, that the Internet is making them obsolete, while others have worked to transform their business models to take advantage of e-commerce.

The dividing lines between the groups

  • Individual Empowerment vs. Societal Benefit
    This line separates groups on the basis of beliefs about the Internet’s overriding purpose. In some ways this is a variant on the classic tension between liberty and equality. However, it goes beyond this to represent the tension between individualism and communitarianism, with the former being a focus on individual rights, and the latter invoking community benefits like economic growth, security, and improved quality of life.
  • Laissez-Faire vs. Government Regulation
    The groups divide along this line over the degree to which the government should impose formal rules on IT and the Internet.

The ongoing policy debates

  • Privacy The collection and use of personal information about Internet users by corporations and government is the source of many heated and emotional debates.
  • Internet Sales TaxesTax policy is controversial in any setting, but perhaps particularly so with regard to the Internet.
  • Copyright ProtectionAs virtually all media have become digital, protecting copyrights has become a nightmare.
  • Net Neutrality What has become a highly contentious issue, net neutrality, refers to the idea that the individual networks collectively forming the Internet be controlled by users rather than by their owners and operators.

To learn more, read Who’s Who in Internet Politics: A Taxonomy of Information Technology Policy