By Dave Stancliff
I’ve always felt uneasy with anonymous posters on the Internet. Since I started my own blog (www.davesblogcentral.com) nearly two years ago, I’ve had the chance to compare notes on this subject with other bloggers.
Most of them believe it’s okay to have anonymous posters in comment sections, online forums, and chat rooms. They point out that the 1st Amendment protects the people's right to free speech.
Their assessment of most people who post anonymously is generous, and the consensus is people use pseudonyms so they can express themselves without fear of retaliation. An outlet, as it were. They also point out anonymous posters aren‘t all troublemakers. I agree, but it’s the troublemakers who concern me.
Having said that, the subject of accountability should be considered when making personal verbal attacks. Anonymous stalkers use sites to hunt for human prey, and on so-called social sites like FaceBook and MySpace, cyberbullying happens and sometimes leads to deadly consequences.
The Internet is the wild, wild, West and we’re still exploring it’s vast frontiers. There’s no one to keep order, and communication can be an ugly experience if you visit some online forums. You may know the ones I mean. They’re like visiting a cesspool, or an asylum for the criminally insane.
Where’s the value of letting people disrupt discourse between others with lies and hateful comments without accountability? What about the con artists who use the Internet so skillfully because of it’s anonymity? Then there’s the trolls.
I don’t want to use too much space about trolls, other than to say your best recourse is not to feed them. Suffice it to say most Internet surfers have run across trolls, and everyone deals with them differently
The Internet has given us access to just about anything. It has it’s dark sides and rather than discuss more of them, I’ll stick to this accountability issue. Here’s what I see: a country full of angry people because of the economy and the perception that government isn‘t helping them.
Some of those angry people go to the Internet to spew hate and lies on every site they visit. Some start their own hate-sites like the White Supremacists and the KKK. They’re able to recruit like-minded bigots in bigger numbers than ever before. The web, for them, is the biggest platform they’ve ever had to spread their message of hate and racism.
Consider this; the culture of the Internet permits malicious lies to go unchecked and angry rhetoric which reaches dangerous new heights. Extremists on both the Right and Left openly threaten one another in cyberspace until it finally carries over to the real world.
Some anonymous posters thrive on no accountability, and say things the mainstream media wouldn’t dare, for fear of being sued. This “no accountability culture” has crept out of cyberspace and now shows its ugly influence in the real world.
Has the Internet influenced the vitriolic speech now used by politicians to gain their constituents’ fiery approval? I think so. Read and listen. Anyone who surfs the Internet and who follows politics knows there’s some truth to it.
It all goes back to accountability. Hate, lies, and racism, have found homes in the welcoming world wide web’s vast landscape. Angry people who can’t face reality create their own in cyberspace. Still it’s freedom, which can be messy at times, but we value it.
The Internet presents a paradox. It’s up to parents to teach children about accountability, especially if they surf the web. Parents need to make their children understand how harsh words and outright lies online can lead impressionable people to suicide. Does the connection between the real world and cyberspace influence young people’s behavior? It’s something to think about. Real hard.
As It Stands, call me old-fashioned, but I think a person should be held accountable for what they say in cyberspace, especially if they create violence in the real world.