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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joi Ito, the director of MIT's media lab, is one of the world's most prominent experts on the internet. He is featured in today's Masters of Scale podcast and talked to Axios about the less-open, "dark period" of the internet that is unfolding around the world.

The big picture: Democratic and authoritarian nations, while their style and language differ, are both recoiling at hate groups, terrorists, pedophiles and others. Frightened by violence and political turmoil, they are creating "a balkanized and not-so-open internet everywhere."

  • A primary dynamic is the U.S.-Chinese tension over power in the decades ahead:
"I think that for now, it’s possible that we’re headed into something that looks like a different version of the Cold War — but I think there is a chance to avoid that and I hope we figure out how to do that."

Why it matters: Experts are increasingly worried — and warning — about the dangers social media can pose to healthy societies.

  • For example: as Axios has reported, Sri Lanka blocked Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and other social platforms after coordinated terrorist attacks on Catholic churches killed at least 290 people.

Go deeper: Hear the episode where Ito says more about the birth of online communities and the open vs. closed internet.

Editor's note: Details of this podcast available exclusively to Axios readers first through a partnership with Masters of Scale.

Go deeper

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

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