Jun 12, 2012
According to an article on the BBC website this morning, the world wide web is inching closer to being a safer and more lawful place. Under new government proposals websites will soon be forced to identify people who have posted defamatory messages online. Admittedly this is only a small (and weak) step compared to the more effective controls being put in place in other Countries (look at the much tougher and more effective stance being taken by places like India for instance) , but every little improvement helps. Will it work?
If approved, the new powers to be added to the Defamation Bill will make the process of tracking down internet nuisances and removing offensive content much simpler and less expensive. This must be a good thing. The problem however lies in how to actually identify an online user and then connect an online account to a real person, who can be physically found.
The proposed solution currently seems to rest with tracking and disclosing IP addresses. Whilst this might be an adequate measure to thwart casual internet pests, it will do nothing to address the more serious problems associated with internet trouble makers such as online activists. Creating ghost (fake) accounts, hiding IP addresses and being untraceable on the internet still remains ridiculously easy for people with the slightest technical awareness and who are prepared to take a little care around their online presence.
I would suggest that whilst this new legislation will help combat the casual web user who is making a nuisance of him / herself, it will do nothing to counter the groaning number of persistent internet activists and trolls. In truth how much value will we really gain from being able to prosecute the odd person that has made some silly comments online after maybe one to many beers on a Friday night?
As the Internet becomes increasingly ingrained in our society and day to day lives, surely it must be time to bring about proper legislation and the rule of law to the online world. Going much further than censorship. Yes of course there are issues connected with so doing and the solution is not simple. But given the importance of the subject matter it must be time for some radical and hard hitting measures. People can only use the Internet for “evil” if they have access, therefore it would seem to me that we need to radically re-think how access is provided and regulated. Perhaps we need a stringent “web user licence” scheme? This would of course have to be a global scheme, but could be designed in a similar way to current territory access (immigration and border control).
Ultimately the Internet is not some magical land that is intrinsically beyond the rule of law and “owned by the people” what ever that is supposed to mean! The Internet is nothing more than a global mesh of physical cables that link up computer devices. The web is nothing more than computer software that runs on top of this. These communication cables are owned by telecommunication companies and therefore it is infinitely possible to control who and what is connected to the network.
Potential solution for making the web a safe and lawful place abound, but what we might be lacking is people with the backbone to make it happen.