The Internet is a very powerful tool. Its potential fascinates us every day. We never thought we would be able to make a video call on the other side of the world through zoom. We never thought the internet would revolutionize online education, which allows anyone to study anything they want with websites like Khan Academy. We never thought we could do shopping from our bed with Amazon. These are just some examples of what the internet can do.
However, with all the benefits of the internet, it also comes with some disadvantages. Some of the issues that we can see in our day-to-day life are bullying, harassment, violent crimes, hate, porn, and other problematic content. These are getting worse and worse as the internet is becoming more accessible to us. These raise even bigger concerns about who should be responsible for governing these contents. In this essay, we will look at some of these issues with examples and who should be responsible for stopping the spread of these.
Bullying and Harassment
Bullying and harassment are common issues on the internet today. Cyberbullying increased by 50% since 2000 due to the rise of social media, messaging systems, emails, online voting booths, etc. This can lead to several mental stresses for the victim such as loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, depression, psychosomatic problems, and in some cases attempts or actual suicide.(Kiriakidis & Kavoura, 2010). Mostly, cyberbullying and harassment take place because of the power dynamic and the freedom that the internet provides. Here is a bullying story of Zoe’s that gives a nice overview of what cyberbullying looks like, what are some signs, and how the victims and their families may feel.
Link to the video: https://youtu.be/q9oc_A7tQcU
Another great example that depicts how can bullying and harassment can take place in the workplace is, “a Toronto police officer was demoted and put on unpaid leave for 24 days for accessing police records while on duty to gather information, which was then used to harass her former boyfriend and his current wife over Facebook” (West, Foster, Levin, Edmison & Robibero, 2014). This is just one example, but bullying and harassment can take place in many situations.
With issues like this, there are some possible solutions to governing this kind of behavior on the internet. The two best governments for these bullying and harassment issues are the institutions (schools and workplaces) and the national government. The national government and schools should work together to make sure they set up guidelines for students on issues like cyberbullying and harassment. On top of that, parents should be educated on the prevention and response to cyber bullying (Kiriakidis & Kavoura, 2010). Also, the government and workplace should work on cyberbullying and online harassment guidelines and consequences in the workplace, which may include termination from employment. Government can help the broader public by organizing programs to increase awareness, online safety campaigns, and help centers as seen in Malaysia. (Razali and Nawang, 2022) Legal actions should only be taken as a last resort, especially if suicide takes place.
Violent and Hate Content
Another issue that is becoming more and more prevalent is violent and hateful content. It is mostly because the internet is widely accessible and with no power of blocking it before posting let some extremists post hateful comments toward a group or individuals on the internet. According to this journal article, in the European Union, 80% of people encountered hate speech, and it’s mostly about race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or political affiliation.(Castaño, Suárez, Vega & López, 2021). This content can come in many forms, some of the most common ones are in the form of social media posts, websites, video games, dangerous information, etc. Next, we will look at two examples of hate and violent content on the internet.
The first one is a social media post by a gunman, who killed around 40 people in 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was a live shooting video that mimics some Point of View shooting games like Call of Duty. This shows many people are taking these violent games too seriously and encouraging them to take their fantasies in real life.
Link to the video: https://youtu.be/8AsGXfA0bEg
The second example shows the influence of dangerous information, like how to create a bomb or a handgun, available on the internet that led two 13 years old boys to create a bomb and throw it at their 3-year-old twin sister. “in Wayne County, Michigan, two 13-year-old boys reportedly used a bombmaking recipe they obtained on the Internet to construct a popbottle bomb that they threw at 3-year-old twin sisters.” (Oravec, 2000)
These issues with hate and violent content can be controlled by four main groups: platforms, community, private organizations, and government. Platforms are the best government in this issue as we can already see many social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Reddit, etc. already started enforcing guidelines to regularly remove content and banning users for hate speech or violent content. (Ganesh& Bright, 2020). This new enforcement has been successful in hateful content moderation and is common with major sites like these. Community can provide resources for the public on ways to understand and handle these Internet problems. Thirdly, a few private organizations are coming up with “hate filter” technological solutions that filter out any violent websites, contents, etc. (Oravec, 2000) Some of these software are DNSFilter, LightSpeed Filter, etc. that are widely used in schools to block out violent and hateful contents. Finally, countries’ governments can be good moderators, for example, China uses Internet Censorship, blocking any content that the Chinese government doesn’t want to show. However, this may not work in Western countries like the United States, the UK, etc.
Sexually Explicit Content:
Sexually explicit content is also becoming a regular issue because it is easier to access on social media or pornography websites and even the circulation of child porn. There are no verification systems that block underage from accessing those websites.
In this example, a 37-year-old employee at an Internet parental control company called Bark went online disguised as 11 years old to find the scary truth on the internet of how they are being reached by pedophiles coercing and abusing them.
This matter involves many entities to provide solutions: national government, platforms, and private companies. In terms of the national government, they can provide hotlines to report illegal contents that involve child porn, pedophile activities, etc. The national government can also provide law enforcement that deals with arresting pedophiles or sharing and selling child porn. Many platforms are also initiating guidelines restricting their users from posting sexually explicit content involving the showing of genitals or sexual activity etc. In addition to these, there are several blocking technological private companies like Qustodio, Norton, Family Parental Control, Google’s safe search, etc. provide paid blocking services to block any sexual content involving any social media content, websites, or ads (Akdeniz, 2002).
In conclusion, we have seen some of the major issues on the internet like bullying, harassment, violence, hate, and sexually explicit content in much more detail with some current world examples. We have also seen some of the internet police, who can moderate content on the internet. Some of the important roles are government, platforms, private companies, and communities. There is no one biggest player but more of a collaboration between them and needs to have different guidelines for each of these issues. The Internet is absolutely not a perfect place but with all these internet police, it is becoming a much safer place for everyone.
Kiriakidis, S. P., & Kavoura, A. (2010). Cyberbullying: A Review of the Literature on Harassment Through the Internet and Other Electronic Means. Family and Community Health, 33(2), 82–93. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44954176
West, B., Foster, M., Levin, A., Edmison, J., & Robibero, D. (2014). Cyberbullying at Work: In Search of Effective Guidance. Laws, 3(3), 598–617. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws3030598
Razali, N., & Nawang, N. (2022). An overview of the legal framework governing cyberbullying among children in Malaysia. IIUM Law Journal, 30(Special 1), 207-228. https://doi.org/10.31436/iiumlj.v30is1.704
Castaño-Pulgarín, S. A., Suárez-Betancur, N., Vega, L. M. T., & López, H. M. H. (2021). Internet, social media and online hate speech. Systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 58, 101608. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2021.101608
Oravec, J. A. (2000). Countering violent and hate‐related materials on the Internet: Strategies for classrooms and communities. The Teacher Educator, 35(3), 34–45. https://doi.org/10.1080/08878730009555233
Ganesh, B., & Bright, J. (2020). Countering Extremists on Social Media: Challenges for Strategic Communication and Content Moderation. Policy & Internet, 12(1), 6–19. https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.236
Akdeniz, Y. (2002). Internet Content Regulation: UK Government and the Control of Internet Content. In Computer Law & Security Review (pp. 303–317). ScienceDirect. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0267-3649(01)00505-2