Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two good reasons to vote for Online Censorship

The word “online censorship” conjures images of a autocratic government enacting laws to curb a netizens online freedom of speech and expression. The slightest mention of the phrase instantly raises the hackles of interest groups, hacktivists and many Internet users.

In the midst of the polarized debate on free speech, the rationale behind Internet Censorship and on whose responsibility it lies is left unquestioned.  It is assumed that censorship is from governments and cyber citizens have no role to play in it. This notion is flawed as censorship by cyber citizens is urgently needed to control abusive and inappropriate content by other cybercitizens. The unattractive alternative is to be policed by the government or law enforcement using loosely defined laws, which are subject to misuse.

Cybercitizens can censor in two ways.

Firstly, by instantly and collectively reprimanding objectionable online comments made by cyber bullies, trolls, racists and fanatics as and when they write such posts. Cybercitizens cannot remain mere bystanders and have to step in to actively demonstrate that such behavior is not appreciated. Cyber citizens must own the responsibility to evolve and build an ethical online social order based on a collective consciousness; one, which can be taught in school and passed to the next generation of digital users.

Secondly, the institutions that collect, store and disseminate user generated contents such as social networking platforms and websites must be coerced to actively implement measures to reduce net anonymity, filter objectionable content, and remove hateful ideology by acting on reports by net users. Most of these sites do not play a role in moral or ethical policing and remain protected by laws which pass on the accountability to users. Many of whom, are anonymous or even in other countries where they are safe from prosecution. Free online platforms sustain themselves and their stock valuation by being able to mine a user’s behavior for ad revenue. This motive allows them to be lax on an individual’s security, privacy and tolerant to a wide range of content. Even today, any user can build a fictitious profile on almost all such sites.

Cybercitizens can encourage such sites to pay attention, take action and to be transparent on actions taken on reported abuse, by publicly showing disapproval on the sites forums and blogs and prodding their respective governments to enact stringent laws for content management.

Related Reads

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Billions of Unverified Identities creating an Online Identity Crisis


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