How should we regulate the Internet? Will we ever get it right?
Just in recent news as of 2019, France has made a ban against misinformation during elections, a problem which it has had in the past. In Germany, new fines have been levied against hate speech, in a country which has had no small issue with that topic in the past. The European Commission is publishing a report on large Internet media providers and their efforts to police online content. Meanwhile, in the US, an ongoing hot scandal with Russian meddling in American elections has prompted a huge flaming debate over online regulation.
Of course, the usual objectors are complaining that freedom of speech is being curtailed. And that’s going to be a collateral concern always; it’s impossible to monitor and catch every instance of harmful activity without netting some false positives.
Can we just say that maybe the push to an all-social web wasn’t the best idea? We didn’t have nearly this much problem when the web was more of a hierarchy. Now everyone can write everything everywhere; there are no experts, no authorities, only a constant rabble. Make the whole word an infinite blank wall and give everybody a spray can of paint, and then wonder why there’s so much graffiti.
Before, big social media companies simply shrugged and said: “Our user content isn’t our fault.” But now, in fact, it turns out that they are being held responsible for that content. Anybody who has run a blog for the last two decades knows the answer to this one: turn off the comments section. Let’s go back to a diverse web, where you actually needed bookmarks. If people want to sound off an opinion, let them do so on their own blog, where they can own it, instead of providing fifty million scattered anonymous dumping points on the web.
That could be one solution staring us in the face. Of course, we all like a more interactive web, a shared experience. And it would be a wonderful world if everyone could handle that privilege responsibly. But only a few years ago, virtually no one was able to broadcast their every waking thought to the entire world, and nobody missed it. Now it is our life’s blood, people cry at the idea of doing without it.
What’s that those superhero movies say? “With great power comes great responsibility?”