The Wild Internet Frontier

The hubbub surrounding John Smedley stepping down from Daybreak has gotten me thinking once again about The Internet and its place in society.

I’m sort of a Libertarian at heart so the very idea of The Internet has always appealed to me. A place where everyone is free to make their own way, without any pesky government regulations. A place that breaks down political and social borders and treats everyone like an equal human being.

Grabill's Cow Boy
Change the horse to a cable modem and you’re looking at everyone on The Internet.

But the reality is that The Internet is nothing like the egalitarian Utopia it was supposed to be. It’s more like a new frontier–a wild, lawless country like the American West. It’s a virtual version of Deadwood.

There was a time when I never would have considered the idea that any government had any business being involved in The Internet. But when I see what has happened to Smedley, it’s hard not to feel like it’s way past time for a new sheriff to ride into town and bring some law and order to The Internet.

It’s one thing to verbally harass someone on the Internet using forums or Facebook or Twitter or whatever. It’s a completely different story to harass someone in real life, effectively using the Internet as a weapon. For human society as a whole to survive, there has to be real world consequences for that kind of behavior, and I don’t see how to enforce that without governments sitting down to write a whole bunch of laws specifically targeting Internet behavior. And not just “feel good” laws either.

It’s gotten to the point now that I think any of these hacker groups that launch coordinated DDoS attacks of any kind should be classified as terrorist organizations and pursued as such. But governments are so far behind the curve in terms of its laws keeping up with technology that there is probably no legal way to do that, let alone any way for law enforcement to actually track down the perpetrators.

And yes, I’m fully aware that we would have to give up some or all of our anonymity on The Internet to get to the place where we need to be. But these days I’m starting to think it’s worth it. There seem to be far more criminals benefiting from that anonymity than anyone else right now.

Of course it’s probably too late and the genie is not just out of the bottle but running amok in the streets. If that’s the case then, well, let’s hope we can survive a world run by criminals who can destroy everyone with the click of a button.

Posted on Blaugust Day 6. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

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