Nov 23 2012
By Fred Hoot - Google+
I am probably going to step on everyone’s toes here, but this is something that has been bugging me for a long while. In the United States, we have a Constitution that guarantees free speech and that premise has been adopted by users of the Internet in every country world-wide.
Notice that I said “users of the Internet” and not governments. This is an important distinction.
Not surprisingly, there are good and bad uses for free speech. I wish to attempt to define and categorize the uses. To simplify, I have created two categories in which to classify Internet usage of free speech: Good Usage and Bad Usage.
What is Happening
Good users do not hide behind an anonymous mask to exercise their free speech. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Nowhere in the First Amendment is there a guarantee of anonymity. It is my opinion that if you are willing to put your opinions out there on the Internet, you should show some backbone and stand upright and support your opinions. Our founders stood up for their beliefs and many sacrificed everything they owned and their fortunes to bring about a nation that has free speech.
In civilized countries this is no problem. However in countries where there are repressive regimes, standing up for your rights can be deadly.
You can probably see those repressive governments that attempt, often successfully, to repress free speech by rounding up Internet users and imprisoning them – even for posting a joke! Some countries have even executed bloggers for “spreading corruption” and other trumped up charges just for disagreeing with their government. Communist China has been known for its ruthless tactics against those who are speaking out against the government.
Subjects of such countries have been using anonymizer sites (often called proxy servers) to hide their identity and sometimes even avoid prosecution. Religious organizations have often turned to the Internet for presumably safe access through proxies.
Good Use of Free Speech on the Internet
Where would we be without the free exchange of information? Not back in the Stone Age, but definitely not where we are today. At the university level, research information is widely shared. By a simple search on the Internet you can find just about any topic of research from the serious to the frivolous. The important thing is there is a free exchange of ideas which lead to many discoveries that better our lives.
Do you need a recipe for Thanksgiving? You will find literally millions of delectable dishes. From Turkey to ham to deserts – all is freely available. If you want to share you family’s secret green bean casserole, you can easily join the rest of the cooks that have made their presence known throughout the world.
Political ideas are shared among party lines. Politics is discussed and even ranted about and eventually leaders are elected for another season. The free exchange of ideas, even in rants, is part of the process.
Ideas for freedom and free speech penetrate political boundaries often to the dismay of political leaders. Some corruption is exposed and others cool down their actions of cheating.
Then there are the blogs – millions of them covering every subject imaginable. From commercial to personal, the blogosphere enables the free exchange of personal likes and dislikes and expands everyone’s exposure to new ideas.
The good use of the Internet helps us all.
Bad Use of Free Speech on the Internet
Using the Internet to spread false information is a very bad use of free speech. Even Wikipedia, an open source for encyclopedic information is prone to misinformation. Just check out the biographies of any political or controversial person.
Using high-speed Internet for theft is increasing. By using a large pipe, server farms send out millions of emails engaged in some underhanded social engineering to get you to freely give them your personal information or infect you with some virus or malware. Every day some people fall for the millions of potential dollars to be gained by helping a foreign national smuggle money out of their repressive country. Some people wind up getting their bank account drained and wind up in the poor house.
Identity theft is on the rise. Fortunately, the arrests of people who are stealing identities throughout the world are also increasing. We can only hope that the arrests catch up with the perpetrators.
Bullying in the social networks is on the rise and has resulted in many suicides and murders. Teenage school children are particularly prone to being on both the sending and receiving ends of this for of social persecution. It seems just about every teenager has a phone with high-speed internet access to take part in their favorite social settings 24 hours a day.
What Can We Do?
We can do anything we wish. My first question for you is a rework of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: “Are you a good user or a bad user?”
If you are a good user, I congratulate you!
- If you receive communications purporting to give you millions of dollars, just report them to your ISP and the Justice Department of your state.
- If you receive bank scams, report them to your bank’s security and fraud department – they take this type of fraud seriously.
- If you see your friends bullying others, tell them to back off. Remind them they could be arrested if the bullying leads to someone getting hurt of killed.
- Ask bullies if they would like to be terrorized unmercifully.
- Best of all, be an example of a good user by using the high-speed Internet for what it was initially designed: for the free exchange of information.
If you are a bad user, I have a suggestion for increasing your internet access speed so you can do your deeds even faster with more power.
- Carefully take apart your networking equipment, router, cable box and even your smartphone.
- Look for any component blue in color and carefully remove these as they are installed by the manufacturers to intentionally throttle your communications.
- If there are no blue components, some manufacturers have colored them silver to fool you.
If all the bad users do this, the rest of us can relax and enjoy our high-speed Internet without any worries. Remember free speech on the Internet does not guarantee all speech.
Nigerian 419 scam letter via Flickr by mike_hcg
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