Should The Internet Be Policed?

This is a conversation I’ve had on a number of occasions to which I’ve seen compelling arguments on either side. Unfortunately the internet is ripe with offensive comments and you don’t have to try very hard to find them. I’m seeing way more online abuse stories in the news than I use to; such scaremongering has caused me to become slightly more wary. While some people may be able to bask in the anonymity that the internet provides, I think for some of us we still have a tendency to project our personal selves out there in the way that we communicate. I suppose in that sense, I feel like it is really important to be careful about how you communicate online because you don’t really know who’s on the other side. Some people find it easy just to ignore the odd hateful comment but then I’ve also heard of cases where it has caused great distress. I think that feeling safe and socially validated still plays an important role online. It is also important to note that much of what we write is available for all to see.

Thankfully, I’ve found most of my online encounters to be friendly in nature, but of course you have to be somewhat responsible for your own safety. There are lots of different online communities; Some are built to encourage friendly interactions while others exist as an outlet to share slightly offensive viewpoints – I choose to avoid such sites myself. I suppose you could compare this to going out where you would choose to actively avoid certain streets or pubs that weren’t to your tastes. Receiving the odd insult is also, unfortunately, something that we have to harden to in life both online and off. On multiple occasions I’ve had random strangers yell at me while walking down the street minding my own business – I’ve no idea what got them so rattled up.

The internet is a wonderful tool that shouldn’t be reserved just for the few and so I’d be in support of making it a fairer and safer place for everybody. The difficulty is that by doing so you could also be infringing on freedom of expression. People have a right to be able to share their views without the fear of being prosecuted. On the other hand, fear of abuse can have a negative effect on our willingness to share our viewpoints. Obviously, if you have strong opinions to share then you should probably expect some opposition, but threats and abuse should never be considered commonplace anywhere. If it’s wrong to do it in person, then maybe it’s also wrong to do it online.

There has been the odd case where arrests have been made over online abuse, but it’s unclear where to draw the line or how to go about enforcing it. Even offline you don’t find police around every corner. For many people the great thing about the internet is that it is a place where lots of different websites can exist to cater to many different needs, but it can’t be denied that it has become such a major part of our lives that the way we choose to use it is an important issue. Feel free to share your own opinions on this matter in the comments below.


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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When Iā€™m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

2 responses to “Should The Internet Be Policed?”

  1. Pasduil says :

    I’ve heard a lot about online abuse, harassment in games etc, but I’ve never really experienced it or even seen it happening that I can remember.

    Not sure if that makes me unusual or like a lot of things (e.g. street crime) it means the discussion of it is out proportion with how much it really happens.

    • wallcat says :

      I wonder myself how out of proportion the discussion is and I tire of seeing the stories (especially around games because it makes the community sound really bad.) I use to play a lot of online shooters and only had one really bad experience where they shouted abuse at me down the mics for being a girl. It didn’t last long because I quit out of the game straight away. The rest of the time its been great. I have to admit though, since then I haven’t played as many online shooters as I use to and mostly stick to just playing with friends. In a lot of cases you don’t really hear the full story of how it came to be. Maybe it is a serious problem or maybe ā€“ just like game violence ā€“ it’s a lot of scaremongering over very little.

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