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What is Dead Internet Theory?

The web is crumbling

What is Dead Internet Theory? The web is crumbling

A few years after Facebook arrived on computers around the world, there was talk of a future time when the platform would have more ghost profiles than active ones, meaning a greater number of accounts of deceased users compared to those still alive. Today, this phenomenon is joined by the Dead Internet Theory, a comprehensive idea that sees the web as a decaying world. How many times in the past year have we encountered a 404 Error page? This image forms the basis of the theory - even though initially, there was talk of a conspiracy about the presence of bots and automatically generated content by algorithmic curation to reduce organic human activity on the internet to manipulate the population. According to ANSA, 38% of web pages are no longer accessible, a consequence of the shift from «static web», explains digital expert Vincenzo Cosenza to the agency, to «social media, where content is increasingly created to capture a moment and then disappear».

Is the Internet dead? Not yet

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According to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, which observed nearly a million web pages from 2013 to 2023, the Dead Internet Theory is invading every digital space, from social media - as in the case of Facebook - to Wikipedia, where 54% of pages have non-existent links. In ten years, about 38% of all web pages have disappeared, and in 2023 alone, 8% vanished. 23% of online pages containing news articles have at least one "dead" link, even if the site is still highly trafficked. Moreover, on U.S. government sites, 21% of pages have at least one expired link. Regarding social media, the research highlights that almost one-fifth of posts on X became inaccessible a few months after publication, as the profiles from which they were shared became private, suspended, or deleted, with a higher incidence of censorship on content in Turkish or Arabic - about 40% of these became inaccessible three months after sharing.

Not long ago, we discussed the future of the internet with Valerio Bassan, journalist and digitalization expert, author of Reboot the System – How We Broke the Internet, and Why It's Up to Us to Fix It. The book speaks precisely about the responsibility of humans to protect technology, to build a more sensitive Internet. «Without people, the internet, like any technology, is empty. We are the ones who bring so much value to it», stated the expert. Until a few years ago, films like The Matrix, Her, and even Avatar scared us by showing how the internet and technological advancement would destroy humanity, but now we find ourselves facing the opposite problem: we have in our hands a tool that allows us to connect and advance science, yet we have reduced it to a pile of dead links and stories that disappear within 24 hours.