Every great innovation that has ever become part of commerce in America and the world usually comes with some kind of negative consequence, be it on a social, economic or political scale-or a combination thereof.
For every process or product that makes doing certain tasks easier, there are individuals who find themselves out of work, as their previous jobs had become obsolete. For every advance in technology, there is always someone or some group who will use that advance for corrupt purposes to make a fast buck.
In that respect, the Computer Revolution which started in the latter half of the 20th century and continues today mirrors the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century.
Computers in all their forms-from desktops to laptops to smartphones-are amazing in their seemingly endless ability to perform a variety of tasks quickly and make it easier for everyone to communicate with each other. The Internet and social networking have made the world a smaller place by allowing folks thousands of miles apart to communicate with each other instantaneously.
But this has come with a cost, as the Internet has also opened a world of illicit activity-from pornography to movie piracy to hate groups-available at the touch of a button.
Some groups in the world are looking to take action to curb the content of the Internet. On Sunday, May 21, Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing were filled to capacity by thousands of members of Orthodox Jewish sects for a rally which called for greater restrictions on the Internet to block explicit content.
At the same time, the Pakistani government blocked the social networking site Twitter since it refused to remove “tweets” which they considered to be offensive to Islam.
Conversely, during the “Arab Spring” last year-when thousands of people protested in Middle Eastern nations against autocratic governments-social networking sites like Facebook were also blocked by some of these countries since they were used by protestors to organize.
As America grows more dependent on the Internet and computers, concerns have also risen about the vulnerability of America’s digital network to hackers and “cyberterrorists.”
Since the Internet is considered to be an avenue of free speech protected by the First Amendment, the U.S. government can’t censor, filter or restrict content-provided that no existing laws are broken. We can, however, look at the Industrial Revolution- and the methods by which societal problems of that time were resolved-as inspiration for stopping online abuses.
During the Industrial Revolution, it took exposés by muckrakers and greater enforcement by government agencies to stop abusive businesses, improve working conditions at factories and crack down on squalid living conditions in tenements.
The public needs to be educated that not all they see on the Internet is harmless and to avoid websites that bend the rules of decency. Moreover, the government needs to continue and enhance its efforts to crack down on those who use the Internet for illegal purposes.
The Internet can’t be censored, but there are ways to clean it up for the betterment of society. We, however, need to be willing to do the job right.