WITH THE AMOUNT of attention the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act have been getting, along with Canada’s kid brother Bill C-11, the question of whether the Internet can be made a private place is being debated heatedly all over North America. While there are many advocates for limiting the scope of the web, it seems Fulcrum volunteers have come to the consensus that restriction is ignorant, and ultimately ineffectual.
Point: A balancing act
The evolution of the Internet is one of the most fascinating tales of the modern world. Being a completely artificial environment, it has been able to find an organic balance that interestingly mirrors that of the natural world.
If we attempt to interfere with this natural balance by imposing laws and restrictions, we would be upsetting the very essence of the Internet: Its freedom. This environment has given rise to some magnificent means to share information. Wikipedia, the encyclopedia by the people for the people, would not exist within an online community safeguarded by rules and restrictions.
Google, the world’s most popular and powerful search engine, would have never advanced if restrictions had been placed on what kind of search results it could display. Luckily, its development was driven by the demands of the users, maintaining its success democratically by constantly staying ahead of its competition.
The idea of a truly free Internet does not come without its darker sides, but one must be willing to cope with extremes if one wishes to be truly free.
Some argue pornography is too easily accessible online, and so these exceptional cases should be dealt with singularly. In regards to the adult entertainment industry, they have managed to maintain high yearly profits even though a massive amount of their web content is available free of charge.
The web moves at an alarmingly fast rate—you have to keep up or be left out. This frightens many industries that have found themselves scrambling in the past decade to offset revenue lost as the net grows in popularity. The idea of applying restrictions to the web is a method of coping with their fear of it.
Essentially, it’s like cheating at cards. If restrictions were placed onto the Internet it would give scared industry leaders an ace in their sleeve, ruining the opportunity for new progressive ideas to advance.
The Internet has levelled the playing field and—though this may scare some—we must keep it free and open since, frankly, it may be the only level field we have left.
Other Point: Internet privacy? Get real!
Most of us were born smack into the middle of the tech-madness that is “the information highway.” The Internet is engrained in our modern expeditious society, and a world without it now seems hardly plausible.
While consumers now have access to all sorts of data and information, so do the companies and businesses that market to us in the first place. We live in a world of ignorant bliss, oblivious to the massive release of personal information the web commits.
We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can prevent such an infraction of personal confidentiality. It’s apparent to anyone with an email address that there will always be buyers and sellers for private information, so why the blind faith in web privacy?
There’s been more conscientious effort recently in implementing privacy procedures to protect consumers. Initiatives such as creating a digital tracking off switch so consumers are not unwittingly tracked by companies, disabling Internet cookies, and securing privacy settings on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are all vain attempts to impede a vastly growing communication network.
Not only are these initiatives insufficient in combating the development of web technology, but they significantly restrict people’s right to expression. The Internet is a public sphere, and regulating content negates the purpose of having an open exchange of information. Besides, mandating privacy legislation over business companies online prevents critical marketing.
The concept of online privacy is oxymoronic in its definition. A more practical approach would be to educate consumers on what kind and extent of information they are releasing into the world when they access various websites, rather than implementing futile ventures to halt the progression of the free market.