Fire in the stove cooks while fire in the roof killsShould there be regulations to maintain a proper interaction in the web or should the statusquo be maintained? How many of us realize that they could be prosecuted if they write illegal content on a blog or even on an Orkut community or even an "anonymous" Wikipedia entry? If you are a girl and someone puts slanderous content with nude/objectionable pics in an online media, and totally screws up your life should the person doing intentionally or as a prank be let scot-free? If you are a lawmaker and you are seeing terrorists use online forums to recruit and commit crimes against your innocent people what should you do? As terrorists and gullible teenagers utilize the Internet for a lot of criminal activities how should the conventional society respond? Finally, has Internet made the world a better place?
This is one of the question that I was asking myself for a while and I had couple of posts in draft that were later discarded. Let me put more thoughts into this. Our conventional society has done a lot of adhoc things to stop this Internet menace but things are not enough. they either restrict too many things or lets too many things.
Consider the conventional society:
There is a minimum age for driving & drinking, there are processes for obtaining licence and only those who are qualified can drive, for getting a gun you need to be qualified, you can drive only in left/right depending on the country you are driving in, if you insult someone publicly in writing or speech you could be prosecuted for libel or slander, if you kill someone you are jailed or put to death....
When we don't have problems with conventional society having so many rules and regulations that help us mostly though gives some minor nuisance, and is a must for orderliness in the society. How much of those controls exist in the highly powerful online mediums? This is particularly important as young kids write blogs, go to social networking sites and do all sort of activities without even realising the rules of conventional society and a lot of people get burnt. They don't realize that if you create a malicious profile in social networking sites like Orkut intentionally slenderizing people, you could be prosecuted in various jurisdictions including India, China, Brazil and US. This is like giving fully loaded Machine guns to kids and punishing them when they accidentally hit the trigger. The fault lies in the society that had allowed the kids to have accessed the tool in the first place.
Internet like any powerful tool of nature has to be put in place and accessed properly to get real benefits out of it. Fire in the stove cooks while fire in the roof kills. But, I'm appalled to the lack of much regulations and education regarding preventing its misuse. No doubt, the revolution occurred too quickly for lawmakers to take decisive action. A similar process occurred in the world a hundred years ago, when automobile was invented and every tom-dick-and-harry started driving. The result was disastrous and nations quickly responded by issuing driving licences. We need similar things for the online media, lest it gets totally out of control.
Reputed service providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have to take first steps and steer the direction for the community and the public should maintain a list of sites that voluntarily implements the steps and block the access to the rest from the corporate domain, parental control list etc. I use the term Internet account to mean the combo package offered by Google, Yahoo, etc that lets a range of services including email, chat, photo sharing, blogging, social networking, etc.
Some of the essential standards are:
1. Provide options for special Internet accounts with proper identification: Currently anybody (including Osama Bin Laden) could open email/blog/social networking account. This has to be slowly moved to a situation where only real persons with provable records and identification should be able to open accounts. In other words, if you need to obtain a Google account (for Blogger, Orkut...) or equivalent Yahoo and Passport accounts, you should be able to produce atleast one identification from the conventional society: Drivers licence, Credit card number, Passport number etc. This is one of the first steps in controlling spam and malicious mails, apart from reducing a lot of different spoofing and other crimes on the net. Though, it is not a cure-all medicine, it will make a lot of people think twice before they could do all those stupid blunders under the guise of anonymity.
2. Ensure licensing in accounts: Schools must start an internet education program and only those have passed them should be allowed to create internet entities including email & blogging. There must be such education and test programs across the society and the individuals wanting to access the specific tools must be able to pass a small exam that makes them liable to their crime. So, if you are kid sending a death threat by email to the President, or insult a person in a blog or create a malicious Orkut account or vandalize a Wikipedia entry you know its consequences. It might even be as bad as killing someone with a jigsaw. If we can suitable have drivers licence program for hundreds of millions of drivers across the world, I don't think why it will be more hard to create education and testing program for hundreds of millions of Internet users in the world.
There are few other steps that could be done for a better internet world, but these alone could make a good start and enable to contain the current anarchy. Initially enforcing them would be hard, but schools & governments should work with internet tool providers like Google and Yahoo to create such standards and punish those companies that don't follow the standards. A lot of governments are very concerned with Internet security and thus, most of the world will agree to those standards and only companies adhering to those standards will be permitted in a lot of school & office campuses. Eventually other companies will start implementing the standards and once most of the major providers of email, news, social networking & blogging join the common standards platform, ISPs could be pressurized to blockade everyone else, and eventually from our ISPs we will get only those websites & content that have proper legal standings. And things like Verisign standards can be extended for many other websites too. And after a while, such international conventions can be agreed upon and all these Internet content will come under the purview of the international law, instead of the current fragmented jurisdictions. And those countries and networks that don't agree can be permanently blockaded from the Internet.
The goal is to bring every Internet user, website or an Internet entity under laws and procedures of the conventional society. Like, how the world agreed upon that killing without a cause is a crime internationally, internet laws should be international standards and it will end the anarchy in the Internet world and pave the world for a better future.