Playing Nice on the Internet

With the development of the internet and it’s exponentially increasing number of users, it is imperative to remember that with great power comes great responsibility. We often forgot that having access to the internet is great power: it gives one person the opportunity to communicate and reach nearly 7 billion others with a few strokes of a key. The distribution of this power will provide us with the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly. It will help us in showing us things we have never seen, and hurt us when we see things we wish we had not.

This complex network has driven us to re-evaluate and implement new policies in how to address social issues that will undoubtedly arise. Beyond parental controls, how do we block viral porn from an iPad of a seven year old? How do we assure that the middle school student is accessing only valid research for her science fair project? For her art history project? For her global studies project? It is when we enter the realm of social issues do we see the most dire need for regulation. And I feel like more often than not the root of these issues will be located at Google’s feet.

Recently, an actress who won a controversial copyright decision against Google last month, filed for a contempt of court order, claiming the company is failing to scrub an anti-Islam video from YouTube and other sites. The actress is featured in the video, which has cost to her to receive death threats from around the world, despite her claim that the film-maker dubbed slurs against Arabs in the Arabic version of the film. Legal scholars and free speech advocates are uncomfortable with the Garcia decision because it appears to legitimize copyright as a tool for censorship. And this does in fact pose some serious questions, especially in our society where freedom of speech has been an integral part in the formation of our nation.

It is clear to me that the lines would be a lot less blurred if there was some sort of law and policy, an list of amendments regarding the internet. (Side note: I wrote this post before my classmate’s presentation in class today, which discussed this exact concept). Censorship is terrifying in its own right, and this latest act definitely borders the fence between protection and censorship. Contact with the world wide web has become nearly unavoidable in modern society. I want to know I’m receiving real facts, and I don’t want to see inappropriate videos. But I do not want to be limited in my potential to access whatever circulates in the world wide web. The rules won’t be easy to enforce, they won’t even be easy to compose, but I think bigger international issues have been dealt with. I think it’s possible.

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