March 30, 2014 at 10:45 pm #546
Over and over again, Rushkoff states, “The content is not the message, the contact is.” (p. 105) Throughout the chapter, he brings to the table the idea that it is not what is being sold on the internet, it is the network of human interactions we make that keeps us coming back. That we have “this desire to construct a social organism.” (p. 104)
Over the course of this massive growth in technology, the internet has evolved. From being a platform for research to the social media giants we have today, human contact has driven the evolution.
As other discussions have stated, the law has had a hard time keeping the pace. Of all the cases that Abelson presented, the one I found the most fascinating was Stratton Oakmont vs. Prodigy. Prodigy lost the case because they claimed, despite trying to weasel out it in court, that they were policing information before it was presented to the public.
The reason I found it fascinating is because in our current time of social media, we can, to a certain extent, police what we see on our social media platforms. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have little control over what users post. We can report images. We can hide, unfriend, or block someone. Twitter wars have been started over inappropriate content. However, it is because we live in the US that we have the opportunity to do so. Other countries police at the cloud and never allow their citizens the chance to make their own choices about content. Yes, I know the ability is dwindling here.
To get to my point, if the contact is really the reason the internet thrives and the law has not kept up, what measures can be placed in the hands of the members of the giant social organism? For instance, I use parental control on the computer my son uses. How could something like that be implemented across cyberspace?
April 2, 2014 at 1:43 pm #552
Great question, Teresa. I think Abelson, et al. do a good job in Chapter 7 explaining the complicated subject of free speech versus appropriate content control. Since there are so many people online, including businesses acting in a variety of roles, it is hard to find the right spot for appropriate control. As you and the authors point out, it looks like after the cloud is the best location (p. 241). For the most part, this leaves the control up to us in the form of parental controls as you mentioned. I am not sure how something like parental controls could be implemented across cyberspace, without infringing upon free speech in the process.
I know one thing for sure: I wish more could be done to prevent the horror stories like the ones in this chapter involving innocent people being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Ken Zeran on p. 244, the stalking story on p. 249). It may not have mattered in these two stories, but I have always thought public records, including address/phone numbers, should not be available online. The argument for online records is the fact that the information has always been public and available to any interested party. As stated in an earlier chapter, however, there is a big difference in driving to a courthouse to look up records versus simply typing a name in a search bar. Online safety is a bigger issue than my simple solution, but it is a start.
April 3, 2014 at 10:39 pm #553
I’m not sure anything like parental controls should be implemented across cyberspace. Well I agree that parents, schools and employers, for example, should have the right to control access for protection, I don’t want anything like that implemented across cyberspace.
Businesses can certainly offer protections, but shouldn’t be required to. For example, Amazon offers great parental control on their tablets. And I just received an email from Apple this week about parental controls. They have changed their policy to allow parents to monitor and limit in-app purchases by their children. These things are good for parents, and good business, but I don’t want companies to be obligated to provide this.
Now, if an organization states or even implies that they are offering a certain service that includes filtering of content, than they have a legal obligation to deliver. But I don’t think that every company is obligated to provide these service, filter content or place boundaries on contact.
In a way, the Stratton Oakmont vs. Prodigy case seems ridiculous now. I often see comments, such as those by an anonymous poster that set off the case, as response to news stories. I read a joke (or maybe it wasn’t a joke), that any internet debate, if it continues long enough, will eventually end in someone being compared to Hitler. This demonstrates that freedom of speech being alive and well, and also to the nature of contact on the internet. It’s easier to call someone a Hitler, or to make scathing comments, because it is easier to behave this way when we are separated from personal contact.
April 4, 2014 at 10:49 am #556
I am not suggesting parental controls across the internet. What I am suggesting is that if laws cannot keep up, but lawmakers have decided that policing out of the cloud is the best place to monitor activity then it would make perfect sense to have reporting measures placed into the hands of the average user. It makes more sense to me to monitor reported content than the immeasurable amount of content coming from the cloud.
Most sites have already implemented these measures. For instance, Facebook posts can be reported. Comments on sites like The Huffington Post can be reported. While I do understand your concerns over free speech, I am not sure it would be infringed by knowing that you have to watch what you say or you run the risk of being reported. It is the same with Big Brother-ish cameras on street corners or traffic lights.
Although, this sort of system is not without flaw. Trust me, I see things every day that I would love to report. However, just because I disagree with someone does not mean they do not have the right to say anything they please.
I do find this concept a little stifling. However, I wanted to explore the idea of citizens (members of the giant social organism) serving a purpose that the law has yet to effectively serve.
April 4, 2014 at 11:52 am #558
I agree with you that I do not want more outside control over what I see and do on the internet. Also, in regards to Amazon, I believe their site to be the best retailer site on the internet. I spend thousands on Amazon every year.
Our company uses a special version of salesforce.com designed just for our company. Salesforce.com is a Customer Relationship Management software as a service. But our quote creation software stinks and I wish the people who designed Amazon.com would come to work for our company to fix that.
I agree that policing should be in the hands of the individual users. Do we really want the government reporting our posts as a violation of some rule/law? I know that I don’t.
April 3, 2014 at 10:57 pm #554
Teresa, I was wondering what you mean when you ask what measures can be placed in the hands of the members of the giant social organized? You bring up two interesting points that measures can go either way towards: child safety and censorship in other countries.
On the one hand, the argument for child censorship is an old and well-understood one. Kids shouldn’t see awful things on the internet. There is certainly plenty of truth to this, and I don’t disagree with it. There are plenty of difficulties with it, like the fact that kids have always had ways of sharing awful things with each other (think when that one kid on the block would sneak his father’s dirty magazines and share with his friends), or the fact that kids will always eventually find a way around some kind of technological block, but I agree that the basic premise – that kids should be protected from awful things online – is sound. I think an even stronger argument could be made for it, actually, since the chapter skips over some of the worst content of the internet. Pornography is some of the tamest content that’s censored for 18+.
The other side of the argument, of course, is the freedom of speech side.
I think this is a side that it’s very easy to lose sight of because of how privileged we are in America. As much as we talk about censorship, we have a lot of freedom of speech here. Other countries, especially countries with a lot of political turmoil, don’t have that luxury.
This Wall Street Journal article describes how Venezuela shut down Twitter, Pastebin, and several other common communication methods in response to protests against the government. This is an example of how cloud-censoring tools are easy to be misused.
This one talks about how Russia is blocking internet pages that are related to the protests going on in Ukraine.
These are just a couple in addition to the instances of censorship that our book already brought up, like China.
We in America tend to believe that knowledge is freedom, and freedom is inherently valuable. It’s extraordinarily dangerous to start down the slippery slope of censorship.
Essentially, there’s no easy answer. Protecting kids is important, but so is freedom of speech (especially in other parts of the world). Personally, I am inclined to favor freedom of speech over censorship for those under 18, if I have to choose.
In other semi-related news, this is a big deal on the subject of internet privacy and net neutrality.
The European Parliament is in the early stages of passing a law mandating Net Neutrality–that all traffic be treated equally. I did my cause/issue website on this topic, and it’s going to make some waves if it goes through, potentially setting an example for America to follow.
April 4, 2014 at 6:47 am #555
Last summer, I spent some time with one of my husband’s coworkers from China. I asked him if they had Facebook in China. He laughed and essentially said, of course not. (I thought maybe they had a censored version.)
He told me that shortly before the summer Olympics of 2012, the government opened access to social media to avoid negative press and international controversy. But otherwise, access to social media is limited. The government is afraid that people may feel free to share negative sentiments about the government, which is to be avoided at all costs. They are afraid of the power of contact.
On a side note, I also noticed that he accepted government regulation, such as in relation to whether or not you can have a dog. To him, that’s just that way it is. It makes me wonder how often we accept conditions in our life because that’s simply what we are accustomed to. (And I don’t mean to imply that these are all bad things. Only that these are things we don’t try to change, but could, because we have become comfortable.)
April 5, 2014 at 1:32 am #564
Probably really often, with regards to just accepting things as the way they are. That’s also typically the danger of increased censorship. It only takes a couple generations for ‘temporary’ measures to be thought of as the norm, and when there is no longer a public desire to change such measures, they are thought of as normal and there’s no longer any reason to uncensor what’s now the norm.
April 4, 2014 at 11:46 am #557
Rushkoff is a strange bird. I was watching a documentary about subliminal advertising and he was one of the experts that they interviewed. I just thought I would drop that in here.
As far as the question of control of cyber space I think it should be left in the hands of the end user. I do not want the government getting even more control over my life than it already has. The federal government’s interference in the daily lives of Americans has grown to ridiculous proportions over the past decade. The NSA already keeps tabs on our social media content so I would actually like to see much LESS interference. The government, after making the internet public, soon realized that the organism that they had created had grown beyond their direct control, so they made the decision to simply monitor what goes on and data mine.
I do believe Rushkoff is correct in that the contact is the message. The internet was created by the DOD but, even before it was made public, it had started to evolve into a social media platform.
April 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm #559
I do think that some sort of reporting service on the internet would be a good idea, though I don’t know how it would be implemented. Also, I think that comes with the concern that whoever is policing the content that is reported would have their own agenda. As I took a literature for children course a few years ago, our discussion regarding banned books comes to mind. What you and I find offensive or inappropriate varies wildly. I know as a child, I was encouraged to read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. However, I have a cousin who is 20 and is still “not allowed” to read the Harry Potter books. I can’t imagine the wealth of content that would be reported due to differences in values or perceptions. That being said, it would be nice if content could be reported, until it has been reviewed. Content would not be reviewed until reported once, and it would no longer be available to report once it has passed a review system. Of course, this wouldn’t help with my concern regarding personal agenda, which I think would be the first issue that would need to b addressed.
April 4, 2014 at 12:33 pm #560
@ Jon I think you bring up what is certainly EVERYONE’S biggest concern in the US. The hushing of political unrest and infringement on human rights is often an issue with any sort of censorship. I think the idea of creating a safe internet space can easily snowball into a tyrannical display of power.
On a less serious note, I think that “strange bird” is my new almost-insult Tim. I laughed allowed, but thankfully no one is around to hear me.
April 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm #561
I agree with your argument for favoring freedom of speech over censorship, even for those under 18. Judge Reed, quoting Supreme Court Justice Kennedy about a flag-burning case and relating his opinion to the current issue of protecting children online, stated, “Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection” (p. 249). To me, this quote sums up the difficult position Supreme Court justices are in when deciding these difficult issues. Thankfully, they usually side with our rights, even if the decision will be unpopular. As Teresa points out, we must then keep looking for appropriate ways to block or report inappropriate behavior at the end-user point.
April 4, 2014 at 4:44 pm #562
I swear I learn so much from the discussion forum in this class; I’d honestly never even entertained the idea of other countries “policing at the cloud.” I think censorship on social media (the ability of users to report offensive content) is good to an extent because minors use social media, but censorship of social media “at the cloud” limits personal expression.
I usually think of Internet use as a solo, content-driven activity, but this week’s reading has changed my mind. Internet use really is driven by human contact—and not just social media. Everything online is a product of someone’s time and effort. In pursuing the content someone has created, we are pursuing contact with that person. I hadn’t though of it this way before, but it’s absolutely true.
I think parental controls, hiding, un-following, and blocking are effective enough methods of censorship by personal preference without more methods being necessary. Implementing something like parental controls across cyberspace would limit expression too severely; this is dangerous territory.
April 4, 2014 at 4:50 pm #563
No Facebook in China? Like I said in my previous comment, this boggles my mind. I’m much more culturally egocentric than I thought. I just assumed that because we have certain freedoms of expression on the Internet in the US that these online freedoms were universal. And someone accepting that they just cannot have a pet, no matter where they live, is also very otherworldly to me. If I want a dog, I can go to a pet store and get one today with no trouble. Your discussion of your Chinese friend makes me wonder: is there anything I’ve accepted as the norm that others would balk at?
April 5, 2014 at 12:43 pm #565
Something like parental controls should not be implemented across cyberspace. Unless it is illegal, we have the right to say and do what we want on the Internet. I do not think it needs to be regulated for the general population. Although, I think it is necessary for parents to regulate what their children see and experience on the internet until they are not only old enough, but educated enough to make informed decisions on content they experience.
As for what measures can be placed in the hands of the giant social organism? Responsibility to post and submit content online that supports the positive advancement of culture and knowledge. I am not naïve enough to believe this would ever exist, but in a perfect world it would. So, in order for us to continue to use the internet in positive ways we must continue to use our own personal filters to have the experiences we want.
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