Skip to main content /TECH with /TECH

CNN Access

Zoe Baird: Public attitudes towards the Internet

Zoe Baird is president of the Markle Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that works to ensure that the Internet and other media are available to the public.

CNN: Good morning, Zoe Baird. Welcome to Newsroom.

ZOE BAIRD: It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

CNN: What were some of the highlights of your new study about public attitudes towards the Internet?

BAIRD: Our study shows that the American people are very enthusiastic about the Internet. They view it as a great information resource that makes their life easier. When we asked what analogy they make for the Internet, they point to a library, not to a shopping mall, a bank, or other things that people have speculated about the Internet becoming. People think it's a great library right in their home, with tremendous access to information.

Who should oversee the Internet? How about Oprah?  
Message Board: Overseeing the Internet  

At the same time, people have real concerns about the Internet that they want addressed, and these arise from the impersonal nature of the Internet, and the ability to pass along information. People say they don't feel they have the same rights and protections on the Internet that they have in the rest of their lives, and they don't know where to turn when they have problems. A surprising 70 percent of those interviewed said that most of the information on the Internet is not trustworthy. So, they love the Internet as an information resource, but there's a real trust deficit.

They want their values protected on the Internet, but they have a very great appreciation for the complexities in figuring out who would do that. They don't see this as a black and white choice between government regulation or industry self-regulation. Instead, they want to see government, business, non-profit organizations, and people themselves involved in making these decisions.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Isn't the public made up of various segments of society, each with different attitudes on the whole about the Internet in general?

BAIRD: It was very interesting to find that the factor that determined most how people felt about the Internet was how much they used it. Older people who use the Internet are as enthusiastic as our teenagers.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is the Markle Foundation involved in funding private groups to spearhead minority computer education?

BAIRD: Yes, we have been in a number of ways. We have worked with The Children's Partnership, which is creating a portal for low-income users to access information across the web that meets the needs of low-income and low-literacy users. We're also supporting other groups like the Educational Net-Casting Foundation, which is developing the use of black history materials in inner city churches with at-risk children.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: As a staff member of CNN's online community, I'm interested in how new media opportunities have changed the way we work. Did you explore how people see the Internet as a place for employment opportunities?

BAIRD: We didn't get into the employment question. We did find that there was not a significant change in any of our results when we polled after the downturn in the dot com economy.

CNN: Who might benefit the most from the information learned from your study? How can these results be used?

BAIRD: We hope that these results will be useful to the public in seeing that there's an interest in more debate about decision-making for the Internet. We hope it will be useful for those involved in business on the Internet and those involved in policy making to see where the public feels that they need greater confidence that decisions are being made that further their values of respect for privacy, security, free speech and progress.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Zoe Baird.

Zoe Baird joined Newsroom via telephone from CNN Center in Atlanta, GA. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Tuesday, July 10, 2001.

• Markle Foundation

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top