While the United States of America is
still leading in Internet penetration, Europe is not far behind and
China is rapidly closing the gap. In fact, many small countries of
Western Europe, such as Ireland, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, or Austria
have a far better Internet infrastructure than the US. China's
population of Internet users increased by almost one-third during 2006.
Although human rights groups continue to
criticize what they call China's Internet censorship there is still a
remarkably diversity of Internet content behind the country's "great
firewall" - with vibrant chat rooms, rich educational web sites and a
growing commercial sector for gambling and shopping.
The great plurality and openness of the
Internet in Europe and the United States is, of course, its major asset.
However, many people are also outraged about the huge amount of
pornographic filth and commercial trash (in the form of intrusive
advertising) that is invading this infrastructure. Many governments in
Europe and the US are also concerned that the Internet is increasingly
used for economic and criminal scams and as a tool to promote terrorism.