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

Updated 48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Voters in Wisconsin, Michigan urged to return absentee ballots to drop boxes

Signs for Joe Biden are seen outside a home in Coon Valle, Wisconsin, on Oct. 3. Photo by KEREM YUCEL via Getty

Wisconsin Democrats and the Democratic attorney general of Michigan are urging voters to return absentee ballots to election clerks’ offices or drop boxes, warning that the USPS may not be able to deliver ballots by the Election Day deadline.

Driving the news: The Supreme Court rejected an effort by Wisconsin Democrats and civil rights groups to extend the state's deadline for counting absentee ballots to six days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. In Michigan, absentee ballots must also be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

56 mins ago - Technology

Facebook warns of "perception hacks" undermining trust in democracy

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Facebook warned Tuesday that bad actors are increasingly taking to social media to create the false perception that they’ve pulled off major hacks of electoral systems or have otherwise seriously disrupted elections.

Why it matters: "Perception hacking," as Facebook calls it, can have dire consequences on people's faith in democracy, sowing distrust, division and confusion among the voters it targets.

Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage"

Former President Barack Obama launched a blistering attack on President Trump while campaigning for Joe Biden in Orlando on Tuesday, criticizing Trump for complaining about the pandemic as cases soar and joking that he's "jealous of COVID's media coverage."

Driving the news: Trump has baselessly accused the news media of only focusing on covering the coronavirus pandemic — which has killed over 226,000 Americans so far and is surging across the country once again — as a way to deter people from voting on Election Day and distract from other issues.

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