Governing the Internet – Understanding the need

This post is a short post with just a few things to think about in terms of Internet Ethics in the area of Internet Governance.

The idea that the Internet should be governed is a growing discussion point. What was once thought of in only negative terms with reference to the Great Fire Wall of China as a way to control what netizens could access has also developed a Western argument for its importance with recent foreign influence into the US elections and a concern that such influence through social media is only beginning. In this short post I will just bring up the subject with a thought on it.

Despite there being proponents of a more Cosmopolitan world, the truth is we are far from it in all areas other than with the Internet. While key economic drivers are still restricted through national regulations and policy such as immigration and trade, the Internet which has become the medium of information exchange, the driver of opinions and ideas of all kinds, is entirely a radical element of Cosmopolitism across the globe but unchecked or governed by anyone outside countries such as China and soon Russia. Will the Chinese or future Russian model in fact be a precursor to some toned down Western version? This may happen when realization reaches the point where it is no longer thought that a radically free internet where all subject matter and topics should be freely exchanged across borders is the best scenario.

At first discussion, the idea that ideas and opinions should be shared openly everywhere seems intuitively not only good but a moral imperative. To not allow for this would seem unnecessarily authoritative and restrictive on basic freedoms. The exchange of ideas over the Internet can be seen as almost a second Renaissance. However, with everything, there are bad elements. These elements are not sharing information for the betterment of society, in some enlightened form of progress, but rather are sharing information to persuade opinion and direct action for immoral causes. In radical cases with elements of the Internet for purely anarchist objectives. The most well-known example of what I am writing about is with the use of social media platforms such as Facebook to drive change in a direction beneficial to foreign interests. These groups who post advertisements, send tweets, or share information to groups are often developed with little expense and can easily target and reach large groups of the voting public.

With the rise of disinformation, and I hesitate to use the word fake for obvious reasons, the question should be asked whether although allowing for the Internet to still be a beacon of free thought and information exchange, should we not at the very least begin to govern how it is accessed in our own counties? To not do so would seem to be a careless government. We would still have the internet although there would be rules on what could be accessed, shared, and who can add content in much the same way library’s do today.

Some may think any restrictions on freedom of thought is wrong in the same way as many see a library not carrying a particular book is now taken as a sign of unnecessary and damaging censorship. However, and to continue with the library example, if I can’t take out books from library’s in the province beside mine, it is hard to see how I can have access to hate propaganda from a country on the other side of the world without restrictions. Different library’s can have different rules for what is carried and who gets a card and for what. Similarly, as most library’s have public message boards, who can post on that board and for what types of events has rules.

It’s my opinion that if done properly and with due care, the Internet can remain the information superhighway it was created to be, while at the same time allowing for some form of national governance attached to maintain autonomy and protect against harmful elements.