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Information Poisoning 329

Posted by michael
from the gratuitous-self-promotion dept.
There were several submissions of this piece: "Novelist Caleb Carr (probably most famous for The Alienist ) has written an article on Salon in which he talks about the dangers he believes information technology pose to society. His contention is that the unchecked spread of information technology will allow for increased corporate control over our lives. His proposed solution? Government regulation. (This is something that he has mentioned in interviews before, and it touches on ideas explored in his near-future SF novel Killing Time ). Overall a very interesting and thought-provoking read." I suggest you read the article without any preconceived ideas of whether you'll find it "good" or "bad", just read it and see what you get out of it.
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Information Poisoning

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  • on the radio [technation.com] awhile ago. The thing about it if you listen to him or read his stuff for any length of time it becomes clear that he really has not clue about the power we the geeks have. He really does think that all the big companies have all the good tools and that we as people have no tools to fight them. What he does not understand is that many people (that would be most of us) have and have the knowledge to use tools that are as good or better than what the corps and the gov have. For example check out rubberhose. [rubberhose.org] This kind of stuff is power and it is the power in the hands of the people who know and maintain the tech to do everything he wants the government to do. His idea is that the only thing that can stand up to a large corp is a large government. He just does not understand that we the people have the tools to do this for ourselves.
  • Aside from all the other obvious problems with Carr's thesis, I was really struck by this assertion of his:

    watching an entire generation of young people grow up to become virtual machines capable of storing informational bits like biocomputers but not of assembling those bits into meaningful bodies of knowledge

    And to solve this alleged problem, he wants government regulation??? Yeah, let's regulate people to be more useful and productive! Why didn't anyone think of that before?

    It's hard to understand how someone like this is given any credence whatsoever.

    Aside from the ludicrousness of the proposed solution, there's also the question of whether this particular problem actually exists. It sounds like pure old-fartism to me: "Young people these days are just plain irresponsible! We need tougher regulations to keep them under control!"

    Thankfully, laws and regulations already exist - not least of which is the U.S. Constitution - which mostly prevent people like this from doing too much damage to our society.

  • Wow, thanks for the link, that article rules!
  • Speaking of kiddieporn boogeymen,

    It's time for an update from Holland, Michigan -- What happened with your libraries pr0n filters debacle?!

    --
  • Saying that the Government can't solve a problem is saying that WE can't solve the problem, because ultimately WE DO control the government.

    I hope to god this is a troll. Most problems are better solved through private enterprise and individual action. Government sucks pretty badly at solving problems, but society as a whole is quite good at it. Just because we control the government doesn't mean that governmental regulation is the best answer to everything.

    Try to name a problem government has solved:
    Crime? No. Homelessness? Definitely not. Poverty? Drugs? Unemployment? Education? No, no, no, no...
  • Since it looks like we all seem to disagree with his conclusions, let's beat on a few of the author's premises/assumptions:

    "Either governments or corporations will regulate information, take your pick": did he ever consider the possibility that they be used to balance against each other? See the next item:

    "The Progressive reforms at the turn of the 1900's were a prior example of this sort of regulation, where "parental" government can protect us against greedy corporate interests": wrong, these reforms did not work by protecting us from railroads, oil, electricity, or medicine, but rather by ensuring the rights of the people and using the power of the government as a balance against said greedy corporations by providing specific limits on their power (anti-trust), specific requirements for MORE disclosure (labelling), and only direct regulation on specific, provable, directly harmful actions (unsafe working conditions, unsafe food and drugs, child labor, etc.) He also conveniently leaves out that these reforms were hand-in-hand with reforms limiting the power of abusive municipal governments (civil service reforms, graft reforms, etc.) The Progressive reforms limited power of both government and corporations, not thoughts and expressions.

    "The FCC has more power because broadcast is a more powerful medium": wrong, the FCC was created as a recognition that the necessarily small number of broadcasters would have government-sponsored power over the public airwaves. Because any idiot can publish a web page, that concern over a limited number of voices is not borne on the internet.

    But hiding under it all are real concerns that the internet is just another medium for pumping ads at us, but with more potential for us to be ensnared. And the answer to that? Regulate the corporations, not the content! Make sure that common carriers carry every provider's content on an equal basis; make sure that content providers have to subject their "information" to becoming part of the public culture -- for use, for inspiration, for criticism, for accountability. The useful information will always thrive when given an equal status, access, and audience to the useless.

    Yes, information can be powerful. That's exactly why we should never cede our rights to exchange it to any institution, corporate or government.
  • information technology bombards us so constantly with entertainment and marketing that quiet, objective consideration of our fate often becomes impossible. This leads to a society in which each member is increasingly concerned with the satisfaction of his or her own material appetites, and less and less concerned with the philosophical problems and principles that underlie the successful creation and maintenance of a civil society.

    Carr essentially makes the argument that given too much information, we become worse people. Given the bombardment of marketing, I won't be able to find time to quietly contemplate moral issues. But the government -- whose individual human agents won't be affected by this bombardment (huh?) -- can help by restricting information.

    Thankfully, Milton figured most of this out several centuries ago:

    a fool will be a fool with the best book, yea, or without book

    I'd like to extend this to say that a fool will be a fool even if he writes a book... or two, or three.

    Dumbass.

  • What he's missing is that in the race to earn profits, corporations have to please people. Only by pleasing people can corporations earn money.

    Only in the ideal case where buyers and sellers meet in the marketplace with equal power, full knowledge, and no costs externalized.

    Which is not to say that more government action is necessarily the answer to corporate misdeeds. We have to remember that corporations are creations of governments!

    Rather than muzzling the monsters it creates, the state simply should stop creating monsters. Revoke corporate charters of misbehaving companies (that's not a new power for the state, it's an existing one that's never used). Require corporate shares to be owned by people, not other corporations. Stop treating corporations as natural persons (the Constitution defines U.S. citizens quite clearly, and corporations don't fit). These aren't increases in government regulation, they're actually decreases in the state power to create profit-obsessed artificial entities.

    (Pardon me for the U.S. bias in the above; I believe the same ideas apply in other nations, but I'm most familiar with the laws here.)

    But what this twit wants isn't to stop corporate abuses. If that were the goal, he'd want more freedom of discussion, making sure that net publishing remains available to the average American, not just to AOL/Time Warner and Microsoft. Like every other pro-censorship fuckhead, he's wants his opinions of what's good information or bad information to affect the rest of us, "for our own good".

    "Information is not knowledge." Sure, Zappa told us that a long time ago. But I sure as hell don't need idiots like this "helping" me by forcibly filtering my data stream.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • Who's going to edit the web? Is he volunteering? I think the Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment because they didn't want to sit around and adjudicate disputes over the written word. It's not like the words from the officially editted and approved news outlets are that much better than the Drudge Report or Slashdot.

    "I sayeth that he calleth my tax plans nasty, brutish and short and that is surely a seditious act against the United States."

    "No, I sayeth that his tax plan is seditious in the breadth and scope of its grasp."

    Founding Fathers: "Whatever."

  • Just about the last thing I want to see is an Internet the likes of which Caleb Carr envisions, precisely because the government would control it and would exercise prior restraint. An Internet like that would take away one of the most powerful tools that protest movements have.

    Let us consider the Drug War as an example. At the present, anti-Drug-War propoganda of varying qualities is available. Some of it is just plain junk. Some of it is good, factual stuff. In either case, this propoganda serves the purpose of countering the government's program of getting people to accept greater and greater intrusions on our privacy and our rights. The government has less of an excuse to seize and sell your property prior to trial if the marijuana you're selling maybe isn't that bad; or if you hear about some school teacher getting his property seized and sold, sans any charges or trial, because some kid he sold land to got busted for pot. And, slowly, the panic mongering becomes ineffective, and the government has to change policy to something less intrusive.

    Let us suppose that the government automagically takes all websites with an anti-drug-war message and marks them "not factual." Then what?

    Apply the same argument to, say, anti-war, pro-gun-rights, anti-abortion, pro-choice, pro-contraception, etc. websites, and you get an idea of what happens: the Government becomes one big CyberSitter[TM], same agenda and everything. At least with corporate-regulated Internet, we have a choice and the potential for competition if we want alternative information channels.

    Let me suggest an alternative to corporate and government regulation: educating our children so that they can learn how to take information, screen it for bullshit, and turn it into knowedge, rather than having some faceless corporate or government entity judge what is suitable for Internet and what is not.

    I'd also suggest to Mr. Carr that he stop believing his own press.

    ObJectBridge [sourceforge.net] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.

  • Of course, you need experts. Experts who are willing to judge any fact on its correctness, to do the research, and who have a gift for sniffing out a hoax. Obviously, the best system would be to run the whole internet on slashcode [slashcode.com], and let the moderators decide what is interesting and/or true.

    As you've probably observed, Slashdot users are generally good at filtering out nonsense. We don't try to make money quick, we don't believe there are AIDS infested needles everywhere or many unwilling kidney donors, and we've all seen hamsters dancing [hampsterdance2.com].

    Occasionally, something will pass under the radar, when a false story [slashdot.org] passes the editor's bullshit detectors, and quite a few of the slashdot readers. This is usually because the story attacks us where we are most vunerable, promising free computing power, revealing a new Microsoft problem, or announcing that Linux and BSD have been ported to the central nervous system. There are enough sceptics amoung us, however, that the hoax is eventually found out [slashdot.org]. We quickly learn our lesson - In God We Trust, and all others require verification.

    Of course, if all the Internet was on slashcode, the trolls would outnumber the virtuous by 10000 to 1. And that's why I keep getting forwards about Microsoft, AOL, and Disney teaming up to offer cash to folks who forward emails, etc. But I'm sure the next version of the slashcode will have an even more powerful moderation system.

    As an added bonus, every web site will have its spelling, punctutation, and grammer reviewed / berated at no extra cost!!!
  • by joshv (13017) on Monday January 08, 2001 @01:46PM (#522350)
    He actually thinks the government and corporate America are seperate entities.

    -josh
  • Oh god, it's 10 times worse than I expected.

    Carr on regulating away "obscenity" on the 'net:
    "So far so good: We are talking about material that is obviously dangerous and has been criminalized in other areas."

    Obvious to whom? FALLING ROCK is dangerous, pornography is not. Porn, or other "obscene" material, actively DOES nothing at all. One views it, one interprets, one chooses how to allow it to affect one's thought processes, ideas, and beliefs, just like any source of information. If I look at some porn, and then go commit some heinous crime (or some wonderful act of philanthropy, for that matter), the pornographer cannot be held accountable by any process of logic and reason.

    There is a distinction of thought processes that I've discovered that will be very helpful if I share here. A person sees two things: one that is controlled by the government, and a similar-in-some-way thing that is not. The authoritarian mind looks at the unregulated thing and asks "why not?". The libertarian mind looks at the regulated thing and asks "why?". The point is not that obscenity on the 'net /should/ be regulated, but that obscenity elsewhere /should NOT/.

    "And if that means suspending full First Amendment protection from the Internet, so be it."

    That pretty much speaks for itself. The internet is a mechanism through which I can express myself, usually in very classic means such as the written word. Any government action that prevents me from doing so is in obvious violation of both the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment. To put it simply, the day the Feds start nuking Slashdot posts, the spirit of America dies.

    "People assume that what they read on the Net is true."

    That is THEIR problem. I tell you a lie, and you believe it. I may have done a morally reprehensible thing, but that does not relieve you of responsibility for any actions you take as a result of believing my lie. Much as I despise misleading advertising and media spin, the solution is to get people to question all information, to adopt healthy skepticism. The solution is NOT information pre-approval. If the author is truly worried about information consumers becoming complacent in unable to properly transform information into knowledge, he should fear this kind of sanitizing more than anything. After all, if we have the assurance of our (ultimately benevolent, of course) government that anything we read on the 'net is true, then there's no reason to ever question anything again!

    "if site owners can be held legally responsible for disinformation they may unwittingly disseminate (much in the way that if you unknowingly buy stolen goods you can still become an accessory after the fact)"

    I turn your attention again to the liberty/authority thought dichotomy. The buyer of stolen goods not only did not intend wrongdoing, but did not even PERCEIVE wrongdoing. Similarly, webmasters cannot by process of logic and reason be held accountable for re-publishing information which they do not realize is false.

    Mr. Carr dwells on the ostensible distinction between a motive of public welfare and that of private profit. He contends that the interests of average people and of corporations will not often coincide (a ridiculous notion in and of itself, anyone ever heard of the Invisible Hand?), and so government must make the choices instead. But he forgets that governments have interests too. If the government controls the media (which is essentially what Mr. Carr is proposing), how could anyone report on government corruption?

    I get the sinking feeling that Caleb Carr's clocks and calendars are all wrong. You and I know it's 2001, but he seems to wish it were 1984.

    MoNsTeR
  • Freedom requires people exercise responsibility. If I want the freedom to walk the streets, I cannot go around and shoot things up.

    So far so good. Is the flip side true?

    If I do not exercise responsibility, do I ultimately dinished my freedom? maybe.

    What happens if I do not want to take responsibility for something? Ultimately, it is neglected, or someone else picks up the ball.

    With really big social problems, who takes responsibility? Maybe some social group, like a club, a political party, a church, some haphazard group of people. If it is big enough, the government, maybe. Hopefully?

    You follow this up and track it down, and it starts to look like the government grows to the extent that people push stuff onto it. It grows to the extent that people do not take an individual personal responsibility for something, anything.

    So now we blow it all off, and say freedom equals the ability to not be responsible for something, to not have a care in the world, to dance around nekkid and do it in the streets. Does this work?

    It works in the short run, just until the point that you have to deal with other folks. You don't do it in the street because you usually gotta watch for cars

    Examples include things like you common sports teams. The Celtics coach Rick Pitino just quit in disgust because individual players are more interested in show boating and personal conserns instead of team play. Individual players getting lazy because they have made it and are being paid the big bucks, and now they can relax, even if the team drops pitifully down the standings.

    We will be free to the extent we do take real responsibility, and rip it out of the clutches of government. If we blow it off, and let "the other guy" handle it, then the government will step in just as predicted in the article. A bigger more muscular government, because we gave it the power.

    The game has got to be that we take control of the internet, instead of letting someone else hijack it for their profitable agenda. Regardless of how impossible that goal seems. (yeh, I know it 's a bitch, ain't it)

    Otherwise we'll be no better of than a bunch of clueless basketball players, but we won't even have the paycheck.

  • Right now, that is.

    Having worked for one of Australia's largest ISPs for two years, I can safely say they have no clue what they are talking about. All ISPs are treated as telco's and the industry ombudsman actually asks the ISPs what constitutes a breach in the law! I'm not kidding, every time someone makes a serious complaint, they come to us and say "What legally constitutes a "port scan?""

    How on earth is a body supposed to regulate an industry when not only are they asking the industry what the law is, but they have zero kowledge of the industry they're regulating?

    I agree with the author in that the kinds of content abuses he mentions and the kind of attacks perpetrated on Undernet can never be effectively legislated against unless there is a knowledgeable framework within government.

    While I would prefer to keep this out of the hands of individual nations (eg, Muslim fundamentalist governments arresting women for showing their faces on the Internet) I do think such a body needs to exist. The only suitable body would seem to be the UN. Though, when you're not American you tend to see the UN a little differently. Their manipulation of the media in not strictly factual ways is as bad as any government, and seems to be largely dictated by the US's fascist approach to demanding autonomy in any theatre they have an interest in. For instance their main complaint about signing the recent anti war crimes paper was that they might have US troops convicted. Apparently war crimes are for other people, Americans have Patriotism.

    Sorry for the fanatic tinge here, but no government will ever be perfect. So a strictly democratic Internationl body is the best we're going to get for policing and tracking of offenders. We've all grown with this medium and it's time to realise there's those out there who would make things much worse not only for us but for everyone. Control it before we're all staring at inhouse "broadband" corporation shit like the television. Legislate that the Internet remains a definite body and corporations can't use the name on whatever they like, and there are rules therein.

  • I don't think rankings of creationist/evolutionist sites will be a problem, as long as more information than just the average 1-10 rank or the majority vote is provided. If a web surfer runs across the two [talkorigins.org] competing [trueorigin.org] Talk.Origins archives, and discovers that on each one sizable groups of people have voted for both "completely factual" and "completely false", then said web surfer will have to (guess what) think for themselves. In this case, that's not a bad thing, because the better evolutionists and creationst are all smart enough to provide references, the references are increasingly linked to online, and so with a web rating system it would at least be possible to get most of the facts straight in that debate, even if many people consider the conclusions still debatable.

    What I would worry about is stuff like this post [slashdot.org], which got modded up for a little while because it sounded technically informed, before one or two of the replies showed how to verify that it was bullshit. Peer review works for academic research because it is actually review by one's peers who can be expected to fully understand the articles in question. If you extend that "peer group" to be the entire internet, then people who know what they're talking about are lost in the noise. At the least, this "web fact ratings" system would have to allow for moderators to add comments and links to justify their opinions.

    A "rate everything" website wouldn't be too hard to do; there were a couple companies trying (although not doing a great job IMHO) last time I checked. I'd start with something like the slash code, but with the story ids replaced by arbitrary URLs. Open a "story", and in one frame it gives you the website (put through a caching filter so that link tags take you to the ratings site for the linked page) and in the other frame it gives you veracity ratings, related links, commentary, etc. Add a front page with the ability to search through most popular pages, most active stories, etc. and you'd rake in the hits.
  • > Of course, you need experts. Experts who are willing to judge any fact on its correctness

    No, thanks. I don't want the government taking ANY pro-active stance on that. I prefer reactive government, i.e., existing libel, slander and fraud laws.

    I imagine this same type of thing happened when Gutenburg took control of the printed word away from those currently in power -- the Church and the government. It was a good thing then, and it's a good thing now. Widespread use of "information technology" can be a boon to citizens wishing to keep its institutions -- government and business -- in check. It's already happening. Internet news puts organizations who are used to controlling the media into a reactive position. It's a wonderful thing! And we don't need any "approved" or "authorized" raters/censors to protect us from "bad" information.

    - - - - -
  • "The difference between Government and Corporations is that Corporations have to EARN their dollars"...

    Excepting the cases where they obtain these dollars through the private manipulation of public resources and institutions.

    Or the cases that involve theft, fraud, graft, etc.

    Or the cases where Corporations monopolize a commodity, or market something far beyond its intrinsic value through distorted information campaigns.

    I do not agree with Carr's conclusions, but his contention that the incentive to profit is generally a disincentive to social and civil resposibility is pretty much in evidence.

    These so-called "EARNings" are at the expense of millions.

    Example:

    There are Agribusiness concerns patenting Basmati rice strains, which they derived from the prior work of hundreds of generations of farmers in the Indian sub-continent. These corporations, like Monsanto, "EARN" profit from the stolen heritage of many thousand years. They have legal ownership of this gene strain, as if they were present at the dawn of life, and combined the first basic proteins!

    They maintain this ability to "EARN" via manipulation though all of my above mentioned tactics, and are imprisoning the same Indian rice-farmers who dare grow their own 'infringing' strains.

    The church of the free market is conviced that this behavior is an anomaly, and that market forces will coerce civility! Just like they have with deCSS and MP3, etc.

    HUMBUG!

  • First of all, libertarians are not far-right. It's more of a "north of center" philosophy. In some issues, libertarians agree with conservatives, in others, with liberals. Politics isn't one-dimensional.

    As for why there are so many libertarians, I don't see why you think it's so disproportionate. The Naderites and the libertarians roughly balance here. Yes, the mainstream parties are underrepresented, but that's because most people on Slashdot are more aware, and thus tend to take stronger stands on issues, whereas the mainstream parties go for the lowest common denominator...

    Does it bother you that you're being exposed to other political ideologies? Would you rather just hear a whole bunch of people agreeing with you?
  • You've _got_ to be kidding. Yes, this guy is an idiot, but he's no Green- he's a fascist. And so are you- if you want to totally set the corporations free to 'do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law'.

    I am only a person: meaning that I am not legally compelled to maximize my income by any means necessary. I cannot reasonably expect to hire lawyers to exempt me from murder. I am not expected to try and destroy my neighbors. I'm expected to operate within a social system with pretty clear limits- not simply within the letter, but the spirit of the law, because I am a person.

    Corporations are _so_ different from this it's not remotely funny. Laws banning corporations _are_ the answer: let them do business with some PERSON taking responsibility. Failing that, laws restricting corporations would be a step in the right direction.

    Certainly, the most direct power comes out of the barrel of a gun. However, too many people conveniently forget the indisputable history of corporations hiring their own gunmen- most notably in the Roaring 20s, an era with many similarities to this one. Can you blame any of us for swearing, 'never again'?

  • by lemox (126382) on Monday January 08, 2001 @01:23PM (#522383)

    "technology is making people dumber: It is teaching them how to assemble massive amounts of information, of arcane minutia, without simultaneously teaching them how to assemble those bits of information into integrated bodies of knowledge"

    The public school system has been doing this for the past 50 years at least. This is a sympton of society in general, not a net specific one.

    As to the public's general apathy, how is now any different than any portion of the century in which television was available. Public interest has always taken a back seat to public diversion. Did the Romans need marketers to convince them to watch the gladiatorial matches for days on end, not even leaving to bathe or see to their homes?

    "Corporate Regulation vs. Government Regulation" is just rubbish. Sure, corps are dishonest, greedy, and completely driven by profit, but unless Steve Jackson's vision of cyberpunk becomes reality, they don't have at their disposal a heavily armed force to exert their will upon you. Who does? Why our friendly government, just looking out for our best interests.

    Honestly, the rest of the article doesn't even deserve comment. As soon as the 300 lb. gorilla of anti-internet propagana, the phantom pedophile, the whole thing just became sensationalistic. Most people lose all sense of rational thought when you talk about the "children". I don't blame them one bit either, but the fact remains, that when you hit upon a very sensitive and volatile subject, they will most likely believe anything they are told, regardless of how credible it is. Carr's philosophy of limited speech should be applied to him and his thinly veiled attempt to yell "fire!" in a crowded theater.

  • by Chewie (24912) on Monday January 08, 2001 @01:58PM (#522387)
    Oh, I'm sorry. Maybe it's the fact that the MPAA/RIAA are trying to have their cake and eat it too.

    Me: "So, when I buy this CD/DVD, am I buying it or licensing it?"

    Corps: "Oh, you're licensing the information on it. You're paying for the right to access that info."

    Me: "So, if something happens to it, will you give me another one for free? After all, I've already paid for the right to access the info."

    Corps: "No! You want another one, you pay full price."

    Me: "Oh, well then, I'd better make a personal backup copy, as is allowed under copyright law."

    Corps: "No! We don't want you to do that! You might distribute that copy to people who didn't pay for it! Thus, we'd better control the ability to copy any of our material."

    Me: "Yeah, but isn't that punishing people who don't distribute copyrighted works? And isn't that also making it impossible for me to make my perfectly legal backup copy?"

    Corps (realizing at this point I'm trouble): "You know what, screw you! We're not only going to keep you from exercising your rights under copyright law, we're going to do it insidiously, by slowly buying legislation that takes away rights you had."

    Me: "What?!?! You can't do that! People will be outraged!"

    Corps: "You honestly think most people will notice? We'll just use words like 'all-digital quality', and people will not only allow it, they'll welcome it! Mwahahahahahaha!"

    So there. Now, I'm not saying that everyone who rips CDs to mp3 are just making personal backup copies. However, to punish everyone for those who do is just stupid.
  • Actually, I think he makes the mistake of confusing television with the Internet. The current state of the nations intellect is not the fault of the Internet. If anything the Internet is the last great hope of intellectual discourse. Every other method of mass information dissemenation has been filled 100% to the gills with marketing and propaganda. Television is a lost cause. Even PBS runs what can only be described as commercials between the shows. Radio is no better. Print has a handful of alternative voices here and there, but these operations are usually a hair's width from going bankrupt.

    Hell, look at slashdot. How many people do you think will read this post of mine? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? I may not be reaching the whole country, but this is an effective way for me to make my opinion known and hopefully provoke some thought.

    But, of course, this is exactly what Carr want's to prevent. After all, everyone knows that PBS is non-commercial and so doesn't air commercial advertisements. No fact rating for that. And everyone knows that there is no system of propaganda and censorship at work in the mass media. That's just a conspiracy theory! No fact rating for that.

    Basically everything he is advocating is already being applied to the broadcast television networks. Gosh, let's make the Internet more like broadcast TV. That should improve the intellect of the nation! If I was in charge of his censorship program the first thing I would block would be this lame article. Fortunately, such power doesn't exist and salon.com can publish whatever they want. This is good, since some of their articles are worthwhile. This one, however, is not?
  • Try to name a problem government has solved:

    Okay, the Jacklegs-In-Blue-Suit-White-Shirt-Red-Tie shortage is doing a lot better now...

  • Certainly, conspiracy theorists will accuse the government of manipulating information in order to control the public, but corporations don't even hide that fact.

    Which is a point in favor of the corporations as far as I'm concerned. At least they don't hide their motivations. Or do you really think the purpose of the War on Drugs is to save the children?

    And anyway, with such information surpressed, companies need only please the shareholders, not necessarily make products people will buy naturally. They make products they think they can convince people they need, and more often than not, it's successful.

    Even if this is true, they still have to make products that Joe Consumer will voluntarily pull out his credit card to buy. Even if they run glitzy multi-million dollar ad campaigns, you still have a choice. Contrast this with government programs, where if you decide that you can better plan for your retirement than can the government, tough luck, 15% of your salary still goes down the Social Security rathole.

    A product does NOT necessarily have to be truly superior for a company to claim it is such.

    Neither does a government program.

  • What's troubling here is that you're dealing with delivery systems that so directly affect what people learn and therefore what they choose to believe. So the need for having multiple hands at the helm is all the greater.

    Carr concisely refutes his own thesis that the single hand of governent should steer the helm.

    Am I ultimately saying that the government should shut down the Drudge Report because it's irresponsible and specious? Absolutely not. I'm saying there should be an agency in place that would terrify Matt Drudge into vetting his reports and not publishing hearsay unless it is labeled as such. If such an agency existed, would Drudge, like the snake oil salesman he is, eventually be driven out of business by the reduced sensationalism of his product? Perhaps. And I can't say I'd shed a tear. But he wouldn't have been shut down by the government.

    This is at best mental muddle and at worst simply dishonest. What Carr proposes is analogous to the old Jim Crow laws -- grandfather clauses, literacy tests, etc were the "agency in place" to "terrify" blacks into staying away from the polls, while theoretically not infringing on their right to vote. And, of course, fact-checking would be applied as selectively as the old literacy tests: if you believe that a Clinton Administration would scrutinize Salon as carefully as Drudge (or vice vera for a Bush Administration) I have some beachfront property in Flin Flon, Manitoba to sell you.

    Carr claim boils down to an assertion that the government can absolve itself of responsibility by strangling anti-government publications in red tape rather than banning them outright. This is so ludicrous that not even politicians and judges are likely to fall for it.
    /.

  • While Huxley's world was grim, I didn't want want the readers drawn back to the fantasy of Shakespeare's "Tempest".

    Its not that I have no hope, its just that I'm realistic enough to know that nobody will see their nose until its on the floor.
  • I'm Dr. Righteous, and I'm here to sing
    That information is poisoning.
    It's a data wasteland that destroys the young.
    They're overloaded on sex and drugs.

    My apologies to Styx, but it seems appropriate.

  • As some once said

    when someone says "It's for the Children", watch your rights and your wallet, because one or the other is under attack.

    With the straw men he setup, I really surprised he didn't add "And subversive RIGHT WING gun groups use the net to exchange information"

    Right now, gun ownership seems to be a short step behind pedophilia on America's most hated
  • . How do you get a system that marks information sites as factual or not factual when the population-at-large can't even decide on what they think is factual?

    Only have skeptical, scientific minds rate the information, and ignore other people who aren't as careful or scientific. "www.skepdic.com" is what I'm talking about.

    Of course, this will tell you whether astrology works, whether zombies are real, and whether the person selling "make money fast from home with no effort" is really truly sincere. Which you may know anyway.

    But if you want to know if quantum computing will be practical or who should be president or whether a Macintosh computer is faster doing calculations than your ibm compatable running windows or linux, then you've got to go fish.

    -Ben

    P.S. Also if you are a creationist, my advice would be to build an ark, wait for the flood, and then go fishing from your new boat. Or, accept that there is a REAL OBJECTIVE world outside all religions which you should live within. That should be what the internet ultimately achieves.

    Slashdot isn't the best place for complete intellectual honesty and skeptically judging all claims scientifically. ("Linux is best" best for what? "Best for me now, workers soon, and eventually your grandmother. Open source is the answer, and will bring about a new cyber utopia where we all know everything and are free to do anything.") But it is differently biased and probably more free-thought accepting than, say, a MSDN site. Still, remember there is a real objective world outside of computers, operating systems, and even the internet, which we should try to learn more about.
  • The question is not whether there is a problem. The question is whether you can solve it using government. The answer for most problems is "no".
    -russ
  • I think I've got an answer to many of the problems: the micropayments get served by governments, which skim off a fraction as taxes.

    I know what you're thinking -- Big Brother. But, if an open protocol could be devised that anonymized the payer, and only concerned itself with making sure it got hold of the payment on one end, and securely remitted on the other end, it could actually be an effective digital cash.

    As to *which* government would serve payments, why the government in charge wherever the server was located, which would also set the tax rate.

    As for exchange rates, I imagine you could invent a net-cash-only currency that the server on each end would convert to and from the local currency.

    So, poof, there go all sorts of practical/political hurdles. Now if I could just think of how to do this technologically...
  • by gughunter (188183) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:29PM (#522426) Homepage
    I spent months lobbying against the Smithsonian for its rejection of an Australopithecus Spiff-arino specimen. Now, sadder but wiser, I wish I'd known the provenance of that cruel hoax from the outset. Government is the only answer.
  • It will be interesting to see whether modern corporations can hire private armies to murder guild/association/union organisers, as they did in the 20s...
  • Well, yeah, that's exactly what's *wrong* with a strong federal government. I'm glad you're starting to see the problem.
    -russ
  • Until you can offer a way for the free market to address these kinds of situations (apart from hoping the companies lose business after they kill people, which demonstrably does not happen) I will remain extremely skeptical of the "corporations will line up with our interests" dogma.

    I would say that maybe the free market is working just fine, and travellers are willing to accept a miniscule increase in risk (flying on the most dangerous airline is still far safer than driving) for a cheaper fare. With government regulation, they don't get to make those choices. In fact, if stricter safety regulation forced air fares up, more travellers might decide to drive instead, which would almost certainly produce more total accident deaths.

  • This article irritates me in so many ways that I'll have to limit myself to highlights. If it were shorter and less literate I'd assume it was a troll. First, Carr raises a straw man: that the only defense for freedom on the internet is financial:
    Why are you, Mr. Carr, trying to rain on a parade that has made so much money for so many people and entertained such vast audiences by bringing in the tired old horse known as government regulation?

    Actually, financial well-being is the least important benefit of freedom. Carr seems blind to the ways in which the Internet has empowered ordinary people against both corporate and government organizations.
    Next, Carr introduces the 'child molester' motif:
    Put simply and a bit crudely, the operators of the Internet can never be expected to agree to regulations that might obstruct the online activities of child molesters if such regulations would make it difficult for those same companies to reach the children that form such a large part of their customer bases.

    OK, Carr started by claiming the Internet will destroy education, health, etc. and now he's focusing on child molesters? Even if the Internet greatly facilitated child molesters, which it doesn't, this would have no bearing on the sweeping arguments with which Carr opened. And notice that with 'operators' Carr is invoking the image of a for-profit field much like broadcast TV - which is not what the Internet is becoming.
    Then Carr wishes the FCC would censor the Internet as they do TV. Rationale:
    Because there is a general recognition that radio and television, being far more pervasive and inescapable than print, must also be more accountable.
    Carr, it's more because TV lends itself to monopoly and near-monopoly. The internet doesn't - in fact the internet is more democratic than print media.
    Just like government officials hoping to use 'child molesters' or 'cyber-terrorism' to get funding, Carr uses the scare of 'widespread information pollution' to justify draconian prior restraint. But he can't point to a single real world example! He whines about Drudge, but how many people have absolute faith in Drudge?
    A crown jewel of idiocy:
    Certainly it is sinister that so few companies control so much information and entertainment, and there is no reason to think that they operate any differently than their blue-chip ancestors -- observe how Napster has revealed its true colors as just another attempt to beguile members of the public with claims of being on "their side," only to turn around and try to bilk them.
    If you're concerned about corporate abuse of the Internet, you should advocate less government regulation, not more. The corporations are only winning through burdensome and unfair laws and regulations. In the case of Napster, it was the government's ridiculous interpretation of the ridiculous idea of copyright that forced Napster to kowtow to the 'music industry'. If the government would stay the hell off the internet Napster would not be forced into 'bilking' users.
    I think Carr is just looking for excuses to push his pro-censorship agenda.
    I think I'll stop now and resist the temptation to tear this thing apart word by word, illustrating the extreme illogic of which it is made.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:30PM (#522437) Homepage
    He says that although government sucks, at least it's on our side, whereas corporations have only their own interests. What he's missing is that in the race to earn profits, corporations have to please people. Only by pleasing people can corporations earn money. The ones that don't, lose money and go out of business. Government action doesn't have that feedback mechanism. It only has voting, and we only vote once a year. You vote for a corporation every time you buy or don't buy their products.
    -russ
  • Try to name a problem government has solved:
    Crime? No. Homelessness? Definitely not. Poverty? Drugs? Unemployment? Education? No, no, no, no...


    In how many instances has one of those problems ever been solved by private enterprise? For every example, I will give you a counterexample.

    Crime: As an institution, the only crime that a private company really cares about is a crime against its property or revenue potential. Otherwise, private enterprise stands to profit from crime every bit as much as from the lack of it (sales of firearms, burglar alarms/security systems, etc...)

    Homelessness: What company is going into business to sell homes to people who can't afford them? The homeless, as a rule, do not constitute a market.

    Poverty: Poverty is good for business. When the alternative to slave wages is starvation and penury, people tend to settle for slave wages.

    Drugs: The drug cartels themselves are massively profitable private enterprises. The fact that they are illegal is a technicality. They are no more or less moral than any corporation, they have simply adapted to their environment (by contributing to government corruption, among other things).

    Education: Two hundred years ago, universal public education was unheard of, and the majority of people were ignorant, illiterate, poor and downtrodden. Today, the vast majority of people are products of public education, are literate, make decent wages and live reasonably comfortable lives. Are you telling me this is a coincidence? Do you actually believe the greatest good is served by basing access to education on the private means of individuals and families, thereby denying education to those who need it most?
  • It's a really nice suggestion to read the article without any "preconcieved notions", however, those preconceived notions are sometimes well thoughtout. Personally, as a Libertarian, I find the idea of government regulation as being repugnant. GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH. YOU may want the government regulating YOUR life to protect YOUR sense of security, but I would gladly forefit my security and fight to my dying breath to preserve my liberty.
  • Facts are objective, but from a practical standpoint, they are subjective.

    How do you get a system that marks information sites as factual or not factual when the population-at-large can't even decide on what they think is factual?

    You do it by including the identity of the reviewer with the rating. Each piece of info could be rated by many different reviewers, and the reader chooses the rating that is from the reviewer who, in the reader's opinion, has the best reputation for Truth/Reliability/Orthodoxy/PoliticalCorrectness/W hatever.

    So, in your Consumer Reports example, who decides what is factual? Consumer Reports does. Who will use their ratings? People who trust Consumer Reports.

    BTW, this is what is wrong with the Slashdot moderation system: moderators are anonymous, so you can never really trust the scores.


    ---
  • I don't think there is a problem, at least not the one Carr posits. Carr claims that the internet is flooded with misinformation and that people blindly believe what they read on the internet. I haven't found either of these statements to be true.
    On the contrary, the internet allows one to see both sides of a controversy, where the major media are usually biased towards one side. Also, people tend to be skeptical of internet sources and only grow to trust a particular source over time. For example if /. were to post that the Soviets were selling nuclear missiles on ebay, I'd pretty much assume it was a hoax.
    But I agree that if the problem did exist, government would not be a good solution.
  • by Private Essayist (230922) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:33PM (#522454)
    Carr makes some interesting points (essentially boiled down to: either government will regulate the Net or corporations will, and at least goverment is supposed to be on the side of the people whereas corporations exist to make profits). This point could be argued back and forth, but he at least makes a good argument for his case.

    It was this statement, however, that most struck me. In talking about how government, for instance, regulates the food industry so we know what ingredients we are dealing with, he says something similar is needed for the Net. He says: "There must be strenuous efforts first and foremost to guarantee that what is represented as fact is fact, and that what is not fact is clearly labeled as such."

    This parallels an idea I had a couple years ago as a possible Web business -- providing a rating system to information sites as to how factual the information really is. A 'Consumer Reports', if you will, of information.

    But the problem I came across, and one that I see in Carr's proposal, is this: Who decides what is factual?

    Let's use an obvious example, creation versus evolution. See the problem? If a creationist were to evaluate a scientific article talking about evolution, might he or she be tempted to mark it down as 'Not factual'? Certainly a biologist would mark creationist writings as 'Not factual.'

    So whoever provides the ratings as to whether or not information on the web is factual will either bring their own prejudices to the task, or will turn off a sizable segment of the population ('Oh, he marks that site as factual, but he believes in evolution so what does he know?')

    I don't know the solution to this problem. How do you get a system that marks information sites as factual or not factual when the population-at-large can't even decide on what they think is factual?
    ________________

  • Caleb Car suggests we need a government organization designed to protect the American public's information sources. We've done that already. It was called the "House Un-American Activities Committee", and it took way too long to die the death it deserved. Has he no sense of decency?
  • I think I can make sense of the seeming contradiction. The corporations we characterize as 'evil' are frequently using laws which libertarians do not approve.
    I think most younger, more net-savvy libertarians would like to see intellectual property abolished or substantially weakened. This would prevent most of the abuses complained of on Slashdot. Beyond that, we need to ask what right and responsibilities a corporation has as an artifical, government-created person. For example, it's noteworthy that while corporations enjoy most of the rights of natural people, they cannot be imprisoned for breaking the law. We don't even attempt to provide an analogous punishment. To explore this question is certainly within the scope of Libertarianism.
  • by Animats (122034)
    What a bozo article. This sounds like a writer bitching because people are reading on-line instead of buying his novels. Reminds me of when John Hershey (a forgotten novelist) was lobbying against software copyrights, on the grounds that software wasn't a truly creative work.

    There's a good argument for using existing antitrust law to break up media centralization. We used to have that, and lost it in the Reagan years, which is how we ended up with AOL-Netscape-Time-Warner cable/internet/movies/TV/etc. Four years of Bush and we may be down to two or three media conglomerates. We really should have a forced separation between ownership of content and delivery systems.

    But this guy is arguing for outright content regulation, which never works very well.

  • Hell, I hope to god you're a troll. Government is certainly not perfect, but there are many problems which would now be much, much worse without government intervention.

    How about this: name a problem that private enterprise or individual action has solved, with no recourse to government intervention. Food safety? No. Child labor? No. Environmental degradation? No. Humane working conditions? No.

    The worst possible situation for most people is to be completely controlled by an institution that has no regard whatsoever for their welfare. Sound like a prison? Sound like a sweatshop? Sound like a country where industry runs amok, or even worse, where industry owns government?

    That's the battle; that's the choice. You haven't addressed it: choose between government or corporate regulation, or provide a realistic scenario where neither is necessary.

    question: is control controlled by its need to control?
    answer: yes
  • by Don Negro (1069) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:36PM (#522475)
    by the Child Porn boogeyman.

    He spends the first half of the article building his case with kiddie pr0n as the raison d'etre, and the second half failing to understand the difference between information and ideas, or at least the fact that they are made available via the net in exactly the same way, and sweeping regulation of one will undoubtable stifle the other - untolerably so.

    This is a shame, since his points about the historical inability of corps to self-regulate (without the fear of government regulation to motivate them) are very valid, and his concerns about the erosion of privacy are well founded.

    Further, we already have laws in place which regulate to some extent what content can be viewed by which people in which circumstances, and we will undoubtably have more in the future. Requiring passwords and some form of identity checking beyond what we already have would erode privacy even further, which he seems to be opposed to overall.

    In all, his arguments, while understandable, lack internal consistancy. He just hasn't thought hard enough about the parts where the edges don't quite line up.

    He should spend a couple of months reading /. He'd at least have a better grasp of the arguments and technical challenges his opinions will have to reckon with.

    Don Negro

  • ...but flawed, most notably in his assumptions (stated early in the article) that (a) government and corporate power are separate entities (they are not, at least in the U.S.) and (2) that the (American) method of jettisoning dead wood in elected government is effective enough to ensure that the gov't works in the interest of its constituents.

    Sadly, I don't have any better solution than Carr's to offer, besides suggesting that people educate themselves, distrust authority generally, and leave the raising of other people's children to their parents.

    OK,
    - B
    --

  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Monday January 08, 2001 @06:00PM (#522487)
    I'm tired of having to listen to people who have to defend the ignorant. You know what? Let the ignorant defend themselves. This would thin the gene pool out nicely.

    We'd end up in a scene from The Stand.. a few lonely souls wandering from town to town looking for someone to talk to. :)

    --
    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • So it would take five years and a bunch of $1 million studies on the impact of new ideas on rat brains to get them approved?

    I'm sorry. This has to be the stupidest thing I've ever read. As Slashdot proves every day, the best answer to bad speech is debunking speech.

    D

    ----
  • I wholeheartedly disagree. If Jefferson were alive today, he'd want every single last citizen to own an M16 and a bullet proof vest. Not for hunting, not for shooting sports. No, the reason he laid out was simple: To shoot police and soldiers. To fight a revolution. To defend ourselves from the State.

    My friend, I was having an argument with someone the other day, and you virtually quoted me to the letter. Wish I had mod points.

    --
    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • I wholehearedtly agree (I think) with everything this guy said about the present, but the conclusions he draws shows that he doesn't even understand the present.

    The Internet is fundamentally an open global information forum and NOTHING the US wants to do about it can change that! Think about the propeganda wars we have seen in recent years online such as the Serbs-V-NATO and you can see how no international agreement (think China) will ever be reached to control the entire internets information.

    Attempts to ascribe viewing rights as the method of control is backward to every other item on the planet. It is the responsibility of the distributor to stay within the law not the consumer (when at age 15 I bought condoms though the legally required age was 18 (16 to marry, 17 for sex and 18 for condoms...sheesh intelligent people!) I felt no fear or prosecution though the seller should have). Pornographic magazines do not attempt to create child-proof covers, they trust the retailers to keep them in the right hands.

    To enact the sort of steps outlined in the article, the U.S. government would have to disconnect the U.S. from the Internet directly and create "proxies" to allow acceptable internet information not hosted in the US in, as well as forcing all people allowed to host within the US to obey whatever verification rules they enact. Now what you have is an inflexible web (- /. of course) where no new ideas appear (they are old by the time soneone says you can say it) with a mountain of beauracracy, your internet would no longer be a library/research centre/entertainment facility.

    Finally I have one question....why the net and not National Enquirer? If people believe the net is true they sure as hell believe paper is (let alone film, tv, music ...). I detest the coporate influence in the world AND agree that the key is governmental regulation BUT I don't think this guy has a single good idea in his head about how to do it. I think it is nothing to do with the internet or media (though they best show the "coruption") but is entirely based in the monetary based legal systems of the world. Imagine if in the MS V Stacker case both sides were unable to spend more than a judge appointed amount on their cases (or even better they could spend nothing but would be represented by court appointed lawyers if the court deems a case neccessary) instead of one side simply using money to delay and badger the legal system to get the best profits they can. The legal system should be above money, imagine Gore and Bush could not engage a lawyer or even legal advice, they just had to decide for themselves whether or not they should go to the court and if they did that the courts then decided what should happen instead of one side pushing for judgements while another pushes for delays until time is the only issue left and politics (money) the only deciding factor.

    By the way I know I can't spell :-)

  • So discount the possibility of government making a change? Do you trust insurance companies more? I'm not defending this guy. I think the article is short sighted and ignorant. But Government bashing is stupid. Saying that the Government can't solve a problem is saying that WE can't solve the problem, because ultimately WE DO control the government.
  • Yes, I agree that the government should control the net. That way, General Electric, Rockwell, and Time Warner can create an even greater media lockdown, because they're the ones that fund the infolection campaigns of our "representatives." When we have a regulatory agency to police the net and protect us all from sexual predators and tongue-in-cheek articles (That evil Onion) then we'll truly be able to lie back and enjoy an Internet that's suitable for the whole family. What is this guy trying to do? Sounds to me like he should pull his head out of his ass...
  • Interesting that I'd see this tonight, since I finsihed reading Killing Time a couple of days ago. Not a great book, but certainly not a bad one either. Some of his ideas are very important to think about.

    The central premise of the book is that since information is so easy to manipulate and modify, that everything you read, hear, or see via some form of media is suspect. Or, at least, it will be in 20 years or so.

    His article makes a couple of assumptions. First, that governmental regulation is better than corporate regulation. Probably, but governmental regulation has, in so many ways, been a tool of corporate interest. Nobody is going to convince me that the government overall acts in the interest of the people, unless they are rich. Also, in the novel, the government is one of the prime manipulators of information to control the population.

    The second assumption is that traditional media is more reliable and accurate than what you find on the web. This is true to a point, but the largest media providers, including print, are owned by large corporations. I trust what I read in The Nation more than what I might read in USA Today. I agree that the editorial process is a Good Thing, and trust that most of the 'facts' presented in print have been checked. But, the choice of what to present is more and more being curtailed by the interests of the corporations that control the providers.

    During the Crusades, a band of Germans slaughtered an entire town, which was mostly Jewish. The Cambridge Medieval History from 1968 refers to this incident as "the misbehaviour of some Germans."

    Or, take the story of the Alamo. There is a Kurt Vonnegut novel that breifly explains why there was a fight there in the first place. This story, which is presented in text books as a swashbuckling tale of good Americans fighting injustice against insurmountible odds, has more to it that you may have read in the 8th grade. The Mexican army attacked because the Good Folk of San Antonio owned slaves. Slavery was illegal in Mexico, and San Antonio was a part of Mexico at the time. So, the heros of the Alamo were fighting for the right to own slaves. How utterly American.

    You may believe that or you may not. I read it, and it seemed entirely reasonible to me. What's interesting is that I believe it, even though I've never been able to confirm the information. Vonnegut very well could have been making it up. I have been trying to confirm that story, on and off, in various sources for the last five years. I have had no luck.

    The last time I attempted to find any confirmation on this information, which I was exposed to about 10 years ago (or more), was about three years ago. I tried looking for info on the Web, which was much smaller then. I have just searched Google [google.com] for the same thing. There appear to be several essays on the subject out there. Some of them appear to be genuine pieces of scholarship.

    I agree that our information exposure might well become a more serious problem. I agree with Clifford Stoll that we don't need more computers in public schools. I also believe that an ideal situation for the Net would be one not regulated by governments or corporations. I also believe this is possible.

  • What he's missing is that in the race to earn profits, corporations have to please people.

    Sure they have to please consumers now, but not people in general. A company can piss off everybody in, say, Ghana, but if they're selling to Canadadians, there profits won't be hurt so long as the Canadians are blissfully happy (as Canucks tend to be).

    Of course, they only have to keep the consumers happy until they reach "Company Store" status. Wal-Mart is almost there.

  • The writer of that piece (Scott McCloud [scottmccloud.com]) is also the author of two great books on comic art (or Sequental Art, as he puts it):

    Understanding Comics [amazon.com]
    which talks about the atructure of comics, and the mechanism that lets you understand the temporal/spatial/emotial concepts comics attemtpt to portray, and

    Reinventing Comics [amazon.com] (which the author mentions is the piece you posted), a book I have just received and not read yet - but is about how comics are transitioning into the digital world, and I image if you liked the short piece linked to in the original comment you'd love this book!

    My second thought is this - why do more people not use PayPal [paypal.com] for online micropayments? I ask this becase witrh PayPal it's easy enough to set up a simple link that you can have a reader use to pay you as little as .01, plenty small enough for most micropayments. The reader gets to use a credit card to pay if they wish. As Scott said, whenever he wrote a really good comic and made it availiable online I'd be happy to cough up .25 or .50 it it was quick and easy to do.

    It is true that to offer this service PayPal takes some percentage, perhaps that is enough to stop it from being used. I'd be interested in hearing from other people about possible problems with using PayPal as a micropayment system.

    A final note - the comment used in my sig was found in Reiventing Comics.
  • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Monday January 08, 2001 @06:40PM (#522518)
    Carr seems not to notice that not a single one of his concerns about the Internet could not also apply to the print media. Print was much more pervasive in its heyday, when every major city had 4 or 5 major newspapers, than the Internet is likely to be even 10 years from now, but nobody ever dreamed of regulating it. All newspapers, even nowadays, print unmitigated drivel from time to time, but they're only liable for it if it causes harm to someone. Carr offers no compelling reason to hold online content to a stricter legal standard than that.
  • The usual counterbalance of government intervention into the casual and murderous corporate greed (bought a Bridgestone/Firestone tire on a Ford truck lately? It happens folks, and losing voters "in extremis," is what it takes before somebody in government takes notice,) can't be relied upon in the case of IT because both want to control you, your assets and whatever's left of your power.

    One will do it because all they see is the bottom line while the other will be doing it to "protect" you (from who or what is always nebulous ain't it? Kiddie Porn. Give me a break! Its an State-run industry in Asia. Porn tours of Malasia. "Bangkock and bang pre-tit poon-tang for foreigners")

    Basically, get down on your knees, spread 'em and kiss your ass goodbye. Orwell just had the timing wrong by fifty years.

    Hopefully I'll be dead before then. I'm childless, intent on remaining that way and won't subject any progeny to the shit that's coming.

  • "Only two forms of regulation are available in the United States: governmental and corporate. "

    That's the central flaw. There is another form of regulation: Self control. TV rotting your mind and turning you into a corpulent blob? Get up, turn it off, and go for a walk. Kids downloading porn? Take 'em aside and explain the evils of the sex industry to them.

  • We need to prevent corporations from gaining too much power over the population. We need to make sure our children learn critical thinking skills. I agree with Carr on these points.

    What I don't agree with is that notion that somehow registering users for porn sites and giving the government the abilitiy to punish gossip-mongers is somehow going to accomplish this goal.

    Carr starts out with a sensible goal in mind, but I really don't see how the things he talks about are going to help. If sites have to carefully label all claims they make so that someone isn't unwittingly duped by a false rumor, wouldn't that just further degrade people's critical thinking skills? (No need to question that news item -- it's a proven fact that's been certified by the government.)

    Also, as near as I can tell, fraud isn't legal just because it happens on the internet...

  • by ninjaz (1202)
    There is no First Amendment on the Internet, anything you say or do is only with the permission of another person or organization you can do about it.

    That's not what the US Supreme court says in their decision to strike down the CDA: http://www.eff.org/pub/Legal/Cases/EFF_ACLU_v_DoJ/ 19970626_cda.decision [eff.org]

    The first amendment doesn't deal with forcing people to publish something or to provide connectivity to your website. What it does do is restrict government so that it doesn't prevent people from doing those things.

    What I, and the author of this article were referring to were specifically government interference with people and organiziations who do want to share information.

  • It does take a percentage if you have a business account, which you need to have to use it for online web payments. They've also made a number of changes recently to encourage switching to a business account, like only being able to accept about ~700 a year in payments made by credit cards from other people... and they have a sneaky default now of paying someone from your bank account rather than by credit card if you are just trying to send money to someone (I recently drained $500 from my checking account by accident that I meant to put on a credit card that way!).

    That said, your basic point is a really good one and I'd hate to scare away anyone from a useful service like PayPal, which is still great for casual transactions and auctions.
  • I'm going to make a completely prejudicial post here and now, and then reply to it after I've read the article with more specific thoughts.

    Government regulation cannot POSSIBLY be the answer. The simple reason is that government doesn't work. In fact, it often works in reverse. Most areas in which the government tries its (inherently violent) hand at "fixing" something, it ends up broken even worse. You can't throw a rock into the history of government without hitting a policy that worsened what was ostensibly the problem.

    A corporation cannot "control" an aspect of my life that I do not /choose/ to allow it to "control". A /government/, on the other hand, will control (with force, naturally) any part of my life it damn well pleases, and if I don't like it, I get to go to jail.

    more in a minute...

    MoNsTeR
  • he same kind of regulation that Theodore Roosevelt initiated 100 years ago to check the spiral of the United States into a nation where the rich were served by a laboring class that had no right or reason to expect reasonable working hours or standards, decent food, drugs or housing, or even remotely honest politicians.

    Yeah, and technology is creating "a laboring class" who somehow are suddenly poorer than they used to be, starving, etc. because - what? We read slashdot? Kids surf for porn? Give me a fscking break.

    This guy needs to get out more. What he doesn't like on the web ... he doesn't have to read! And I for one don't want the likes of him interfering with my RIGHT to communicate.

    Sorry.

  • OK... I am about half way through the article. Before I started, and about 1/4th of the way through, I didn't see how your comment made sense.

    Now I have to say I agree with you, and disagree with the author. I think the net WILL need some regulation (tho maybe not the net per se... I think trade needs to be regulated more specfifically).

    This guy wants to tackle problems like "Disinformation" and "Child porn" etc. His problem being that "People assume what they read on the net is true"

    Well fuck... people believe what they see on TV news is true too (whether or not it is) and that what many politicans say "is true".Whats the difference here?

    This strikes me as a whole lot of fluff to promote his fluffy book (which I am assuming is as content free, and chock full of meaningless allegations as his article).

    -Steve
  • Actually that's a good point. Information IS power and therefore it is dangerous. However, for the most part, information is only dangerous to existing social systems -- ie, new data or theories cause old social structures to be outmoded. So the perception of data as danger is going to be strongest by those who have power in the existing system.

    Information about things like bombs is not, in and of itself, dangerous, any more than a gun is dangerous without someone to use it. Information just is, it doesn't do anything by itself. (in fact you could argue that information doesn't actually exist until it's in someone's brain, which is much like the old question about trees falling in uninhabited forests making sounds.... ie, kind of fun to think about. Not relevant, however, so I'll get back to the main topic. :) )

    In very general terms, restricting access to information means restricting access to power. Restricting access to power means concentrating that power. I suspect that power, like money, tends to accumulate; if you have money it's easier to make more money. If you have power, it's easier to get more of it. If this is true (and it seems powerfully true from what I can see), that means that the slide toward totalitarianism is the easiest and simplest path to follow -- water likes to flow downhill, power and money flow uphill. If that natural flow continues unchecked for too long, we have totalitarianism/1984.

    Strikes me that just like we can get water to mountaintops, we can keep power and money in the hands of the masses. That does not mean that it can't be fought and delayed as long as possible. I would suggest that trying to keep information out of the hands of the masses does not encourage the fundamental principles of democracy and equality, and instead would work to concentrate power in the hands of existing institutions.

    Considering how abusive they are becoming of the power they have already, giving them more just doesn't seem like a very good idea.

    Remember, half of the population is below average intelligence. Do you really want to give government bureaucrats (not the brightest bulbs in the firmament) that much ability to tell you what you can read, think, and do?

    I do agree with you that widespread, free access to information is dangerous, but I would suggest that the consequences of the alternatives are far worse.
  • "WE DO" not control the government. Government is controlled by special interests. That is the only possibility in a democracy. Now, if you're lucky enough to be one of these special interests, government works for you. If not, you have to take what you get. If that bothers you sufficiently, then you become a special interest.

    Anybody who's out to help themselves using government action has enough interest in doing so. Anybody who's just helping the general interest finds that the entire cost falls on themselves, and the entire gain falls across all of society. So only special interests accomplish anything in a democracy.
    -russ
  • argh. didn't proofread well. 'possible' not 'possibly'. *doh*

  • He's quite correct in one thing, though. You are only as free as the information given to us. Certainly, conspiracy theorists will accuse the government of manipulating information in order to control the public, but corporations don't even hide that fact. Marketing is ALL about spin, whether you like it or not. A product does NOT necessarily have to be truly superior for a company to claim it is such.

    And anyway, with such information surpressed, companies need only please the shareholders, not necessarily make products people will buy naturally. They make products they think they can convince people they need, and more often than not, it's successful. How often have you decided you *really* needed a gadget that was advertised on TV? I generally don't have that problem, but there are those I know that get swayed by those sleazy snake-oil infomercials.

    So, to sum up; an economic argument only works when everyone has the ability to put together all different sides of the issue and figure out what is best. However, it is in the corporation's best interest to prevent that from happening.


    yours,
  • You also have no control over the governments of the states you do not live in, nor in your own state the towns that you do not live in.

    Your argument cuts both ways.
    -russ
  • Scott Rosenberg, managing editor of Salon, has written a followup article" [salon.com] to 'Information Poisoning': if you were thinking about flaming Salon in email try reading this first, as they have been pretty swamped with outraged letters :)
  • It is not correct. All that a corporation has to do is to make a would-be consumer in their target market (i.e., someone with the income to spend) believe that they have more to gain from purchasing the product than from not purchasing it, or that they have more to lose from not purchasing it than from purchasing it. This may not have anything to do with pleasing the consumer at all. I have bought many things that do not please me, because I am afraid of the consequences of not buying them, rather than things that would please me. This includes insurance, some Microsoft products, and laundry detergent.
  • by lovegoat (24940) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:43PM (#522554)
    What you're missing is that companies only have to respond to the wishes of their shareholders and their consumers. Since I do not consume products from every company nor do I own shares of every company, I have no sway over most coporations except through government. Corporations are by definition amoral. (not necessarily immoral, but amoral). The government CAN be a balance to this. Sometimes it is.
  • To read ANYTHING without the benefit of our previous experiences in life...

    That's not what Michael said: He said to read it without preconceived ideas of whether you'll find it "good" or "bad." That doesn't imply ignoring your own experiences.

    "Here, drink this hemlock tea without any preconceived notions..."

    That's a silly analogy. How can reading something without any preconceived notions possibly harm you?


  • There is nothing quite as disgusting as an author willing to sacrifice others' freedom of speech.

    I can't remember the last time I saw someone so condescending to both his readers and towards the American public.

  • To avoid corporate control by voting with your $$ and your mouse clicks. By turning control over to the government though, we lose that ability - the government does not allow you to pick which laws and regulations you follow.

    [shameless ./ karma whoring mode on] As much as I hate to sound obvious, the Open Source movement is a perfect example of this. We can (and many of us have) choose to not do business with Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, Novell, etc. by developing and/or using open solutions. The 'Government' doesn't fall under the same category, we can't go write our own laws if we don't like the ones we end up with...

    Government regulation should always be a last resort, as we lose personal freedom with every law they enact. Others have already quoted Franklin here, but it's worth repeating:

    "Those who would sacrifice an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."
  • I was hoping to find a finely considered argument for regulation here, of the kind Lawrence Lessig generally produces. I did not. In fact, I found a short essay practicing what it claims to condemn. It pushes a couple of predictable buttons for the general public - paedophiles and large corporations - in order to scare people into buying the "dangerous information" argument in general, and they goes on to argue that the government should regulate the internet for accuracy because it is different (no attempt to made to explain how) to media for which that would be considered a gross violation of human rights. No attempt is made to explain how to avoid the inevitable corruption and contention involved in such regulation.

    I kind of agree, actually, that the public is in danger of poisoning its conciousness with inaccurate and oversimplified information, but thats been going on for years and the mass media have a lot more to answer for than the internet here. I believe our attitude to information is wrong: that we are too happy to sit back and absorb what is fed to us by people we never see and who'd motives we rarely know ? Is it surprising that some of what is fed to us is poison ? That attitude has been encourage by mass media, and in the age of the internet, we need to get over it. Someone suggested a kind of global moderation system: that seems like a good start. Ultimately, people need to accept that it is their responsibility to verify what they are told, and, if certain images disturb them, to control what they see. In my opinion, that means a change in our whole cultural attitude, starting with hwo we are taught in school.

    In the end, this is just another attempt to fudge an issue of private responsibility by declaring that the government must take care of us all.
  • If there was ever a reason to abolish the first amendment, it's the kiddie porn issue.



    Its unclear why. Its established precedent everywhere that I know of that freedom of speach protection does not apply in cases of obscenity. To an even greater extent, you have no freedom of speech where you're revealing that a criminal act took place (in this case statutory or actual rape of sexual assault). Thus kiddie porn (viewing, knowingly distributing, or making) is already illegal.

    On the ethical, rather than the legal, level, there are two arguments for making child pornography illegal. The first, and best, is that making (some of) it involves rape (statutory and actual), and sexual assault, and that these are crimes in themselves. The second, and weakest, is that being expose to such images is somehow a horrible trauma that adults and especially children who come across it accidentally will suffer harm from.

  • . . .in the race to earn profits, corporations have to please people. Only by pleasing people can corporations earn money.


    Only in an ideal world. In our world, corporations can use monopoly powers to crush opponents, send high-priced lawyers to silence critics, bribe government officials to write advantageous laws, etc. None of this "pleases people" in the sense you indicate.

  • by Chewie (24912) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:47PM (#522579)
    Well, Russ, I'd agree with you for the most part. However, as we've seen with the RIAA/MPAA, once corporations and corporate groups get to a certain size and pervasiveness (real word?), people tend to accept whatever crap the corps force down their throats. The problem as I see it is that when we have corporate control of the net (which we pretty much do through litigation, patents, etc.), they can easily buy governmental control for their own ends (DMCA, anyone?). Now, let me state for the record that while I agree with the main point of the essay, that corporations are only to serve their own interests and bottom lines, I do not agree that government regulation is the answer. Unfortunately, I do not have an acceptable plan to win back information rights. Again, the problem we face now is that corps are in control, and are winning (or have won) the government to their side. Then we will be stuck fighting them both, and that will be a bad day for all. I'm hoping someone smarter than I am has an answer for this problem, otherwise we're all hosed.
  • For instance, when the free market had absolute control over employee salaries

    When was this?

    Hint: It wasn't during the Gilded Age of robber barons, when government artificially depressed wages by forcibly suppressing unionization efforts (either directly sending in the troops or giving the Pinkertons a de facto license to kill).
    /.

  • Look at the public schools. They are set up to turn children into obedient little consumers. And now we complain that kids cannot assimilate information into knowledge. Does anyone want to know why? Here it is.

    To accomplish this requires an ability that 12+ years of public school drives out of most people. Critical thinking. The ability to think for yourself. Yes, the audience here on /. is more likely to have made it through with this ability intact. And as a result we often had to endure being made fun of and otherwise abused. Yes, it's a tired refrain, but it is the typical situation.

    The thing is, critical thinking is not good for educators. It makes it harder to control thier charges. Kids are born thinking for themselves. At least all the kids I have worked with. And teaching someone that constantly questions you is difficult at best. Not to mention a whole classroom full of them. But it can be done. And it's eaiser without all the government restrictions educators must put up with now.

    This situation was not the case in the past. It is a relitively new attitude. Talking with people from previous generations will tell you that. Yes, old people have usefull stuff to teach us. Much as it pains me to admit it. ;)

    Now this guy says we should limit the big bad corporations with strict government control of the net and IT in general. If we taught our kids properly, they would see right through all this corporate BS and call them on it. Just like typical /.ers do. Government isn't the answer. It is the problem. As usual, EDUCATION is the answer. Problem is, it's much harder to educate than to legislate. And people are lazy and pick what appears to be the easy way. Problem is, it actually turns out to be worse in the long run. But of course, by then the people that wrote the law are gone and the new guys have to deal with the fallout from it. Interesting, that.

    One more thing. The net, like real life, can be a dangerous place. There is a lot of content that is not for children. It's life. Deal with it. Watch your kids' use of the net just like you do when they are outside, in real life. If they can steal a credit card and fill in the forms correctly to make it work, then they can steal a "license" and password. Just like how they can get drugs, alcohol, and tobacco without too much hassle. You educate them on those issues, why is this different? Again, the soultion is education and responsibility. Two things serriously lacking in American society.
  • by perdida (251676) <thethreatproject&yahoo,com> on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:56PM (#522589) Homepage Journal
    With apologies to Blair et al, there is a third option regarding "Internet vetting." I will preface this by saying that I agree with the author that there should be some kind of system to rate and interpret information. Although the raters would have some kind of control, this kind of system would allow for people who are not independent experts to get first time information from the Internet, rather than just confirming things read in far more exclusive venues of knowledge.

    Ok, here is the third alternative between government and corporate control:

    Popular control.

    The reason we have government and corporations fighting over the domination of the Internet is most easily illustrated by imagining two lion prides fighting over a water hole while antelopes and zebras die of thirst. Although everyone, including the lions, would benefit from free access to the water for the zebras, only the lions are strong enough to wage the war.

    In the case of information on the Internet, the entire system is organized towards marketing; the most valuable information, such as that on Lexis [lexis.com], is for pay. But, as many slashdotters are aware, freedom of information would encourage innovation.

    How do we do it?

    Michael Albert and others [zmag.org] have outlined models of participatory economics (parecon) which rightly puts a high premium on knowledge, and the organization of knowledge, as something which is of very high value and is very political.

    It also requires that experts abandon intellectual property and the exclusive rights accorded thereby, instead making propsperity dependent on free and easily accessible information for all people.

    The model of educated, democratic input works on a small or a large scale, in capitalist or socialist economic systems, or as an economic system.

    Sorry for the overly theoretical response, but I do not know enough about indexing, databases, or networks to be technical on this issue.
  • Below is a letter I sent to Salon

    Well, I'd say that a mass market novel has more reach than any one web site, so we should start with novels, right?

    How many people believe what they read in novels? (Think Tom Clancy) How about TV (Star Trek). They reach many more people than even the most popular web sites, and a lot of people believe in them.

    Perhaps the answer is for use to teach people to THINK. Maybe going back to teaching the Trivium? Heck, most people wouldn't know logic or retoric if it hit them on the head.
  • by Masem (1171) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:50PM (#522592)
    IMO, the US government does abide by the initial concept of this contry wrt to companies, the idea that the gov't should do little to control those companies in order to keep a free market, and for the most part they have (Now, unfortunately, the reverse is not true, with corps controlling the gov't with soft money). Certainly, any business owner is going to B&M over all the various regulations that the US gov't has on operating a business, from OSHA to wage laws to anti-trust legislation, for the most part, as long as the business pays it's taxes, does not screw the consumer, and treats it's employees well, the gov't is not going to care what happens. So most of the time, whenever something that involves the operating of a business is passed, it's generally a gentle push and not strict demands, hoping that the corporate culture will provide the rest of the momentum.

    The interaction between the gov't and the net has mostly this way. While we did have problems with CDA and kin, the end picture was that the gov't wanted those sites with inappropriate material for children to take necessary steps to make it harder for children to access them while still allowing easy access by adults. There are certainly a few stragglers of adult content sites that don't care if they push to kids, but most are intelligent enough to plaster warnings up all over their sites.

    Privacy is a similar beast; the gov't has been dropping hints that consumer privacy on the net is very important to them, and corps that need privacy policies should start implementing them appropriately. But unlike the child-blocking of sites above, there a numerous examples of late where privacy was not treated highly or ignored; credit card lists thefts, aburpt changes in privacy policies without opt-outs, etc. The gov't is dropping more and more hints, but these big sites do not seem to be picking up on this. And when the gov't cannot succeed with hints, the next step is to pass legislation. Which is going to happen within the next 2 years, IMO. The technology is there to set up a privacy framework, where consumers can easily opt-out any information that they don't want a site to have, and the legislation is going to require that sites do this. And the businesses are going to complain and the like, but I think the gov't with the current political nature is going to put their foot down and tell them to do it or be punished with civil punishments.

    Privacy policy WILL happen, the question is, how restrictive is it going to be -- will the net companies try to make amends now or later?

  • From the article:

    This pervasiveness is even more true of the Internet, not least because the Internet sells itself as, and in fact is, so very much more than a mere entertainment or news medium: it is also a research library, a marketplace, and a schoolroom. Given these additional roles, there is no reason to maintain that the Internet is entitled to the same First Amendment protection as print or even radio and television.

    It is precisely this pervasiveness that _requires_ us to afford the Internet First Ammendment protection. If we only apply freedoms to some mediums, they lose all of their value.
  • by Malor (3658) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:58PM (#522596) Journal
    I don't think his arguments are sound at all.

    Consider: the very first example he uses is 'pedophiles'. At the moment, there is no more hated and reviled group on the planet. (Personally, I don't really buy most of the noise -- I strongly, strongly suspect that it is nowhere near as bad as the politicians want you to believe.) There is no button that is hotter. Feelings on this matter run so strong that (so far) I have yet to see any rational discourse on the topic at all -- and that's his leadoff example. Not a good sign.

    And then he goes on to say that information is dangerous, and that the state should be in the business of prior restraint of speech. Many people, he says, are incapable of separating fact from fiction, so that's why the content of the Internet should be regulated.

    Well, gee. This is news? Most people I know just take the pap they're spoon fed by the media. So far, this hasn't been enough of a reason to license news agencies (to my knowledge) or to create a review board that would approve/deny any particular story or stories. We all know how quickly that would start being abused.

    Consider: what if pedophilia actually isn't as bad as it's painted? (I"m not making that assertion, I'm just positing a hypothetical case.) In a system of prior restraint, that kind of topic would be very, very likely to be suppressed, or to be forced to take a label of 'fiction' rather than 'fact'. But ideas that are close to the mainstream, like 'The Internet is full of dangerous ideas and children shouldn't be exposed to them without content restrictions' would most likely be allowed to use a 'fact' tag. (heh, [FACT] [/FACT] :-) )

    I can't imagine any better way to create even more of a feedback loop than we already have. Popular ideas get repeated, and dissenting ideas tend to be ignored. This has absolutely nothing to do with their actual truth or merit, just their popularity.

    Any kind of governmental board would serve only to amplify this feedback loop. I can't imagine a faster way to destroy all possibility of rational discourse on truly disputed topics. It's a great way to make sure that the fundamental values remain unchallenged and that nothing ever REALLY changes.

    As an aside, this guy also pisses me off. I'm perfectly capable of separating fact from fiction, and I'm quite capable of assembling a body of knowledge from disparate bits. The fact that there are people out there who cannot is simply no excuse to cripple my ability to gather information and decide for myself. It's just censorship in a slightly different form.

    We can't run the Internet for stupid people. To do so will make everyone stupid.

  • Before the printing press, books were luxuries
    costing years of an average person's income.
    It was thought dangerous for the average person
    to read the Bible in their own language- they
    might get the wrong ideas. For better or worse,
    the press changed things. New ideas and their
    applications acceleration- first religion, then
    science, and new concepts of government. It
    created a means and market for new authors,
    plus increased reader literacy and customer base.
    The Net continues and further accelerates this process.
    Everyone can be an author,
    not only in print but multiple medias.

  • Indeed, there are many areas of the Net for which application and licensing should perhaps be required. Pornography is too rampant and too available to any kid who can "borrow" a credit card or simply surf the web, as are gambling sites, sketchy chat rooms, etc. Licenses and passwords could help a lot of this.

    So far so good: We are talking about material that is obviously dangerous and has been criminalized in other areas.

    "Too much pornography" is "obviously dangerous" [violence.de]?! This guy scares me. I plan on raising my daughter to be comfortable with nudity and pornography.

    Screw the prudes!

  • by adubey (82183) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:52PM (#522610)
    ..can be found here [thecomicreader.com]. The best part is, the essay is a comic strip.

    I was going to submit this, along with the Salon article, pointing out how much more insightful the comic writer was (hmm... is this always the case?).

    What SalonBoy misses (and ComicBoy gets) is that if you directly paid the artist, "corporate" interests are silently subverted.

    And if there was a micropayment system, you would be more likely to pay the artist rather than demand free content.

    The question becomes: is the lack of a micropayment system a technological problem, or a political one?

  • If he's so worried about government regulation, why doesn't he propose an actual solution: a "government approved truth proxy"?

    It would solve all his problems: only web pages that have grade-A USWA (U.S. Web Authority) factual content are available from this proxy. It won't link to any non-true web pages. The USWA would bless each page they host. Advertise the heck out of it: "Think about it: COMMUNISTS don't use the USWA.GOV proxy!" or "If it isn't USWA approved, IT'S ALL LIES. " They wouldn't have to link to pictures of the human body, and they wouldn't have to link to MP3s. Netscape and I.E.6 could come preconfigured to use the USWA.GOV proxy.

    And those of us who scoff at their idiot mind-set can continue to ignore them.

    The article is not worth reading, and therefore his books surely aren't. Even Jon Katz reviews more interesting and/or useful books than this one. It's barely worth the time to read the /. comments... :-)

    John

  • As far as I can tell there are a few fundamental flaws with Mr. Carr's arguments. He forgets the nature of the internet right off the bat: global and distributed. That fact alone makes much of what he's suggesting utterly infeasable without a level of international cooperation which would be, quite frankely, utterly unprecedented - to say nothing of the terrifyingly difficult technology problems. Mr. Carr furthur assumes that government is "on our side"... while this is ostensibly true in most countries, the reality is usually pretty far from that ideal. And let's not forget that there are still quite a few countries that are only "on our side" (as a population) if we are on theirs. And then there's the big assumption which is, to my mind, completely flawed: Mr. Carr seems to believe that individuals can not and should not retain personal responsibility for their own intellectual safty. He goes as far as suggesting that the US should "suspend" the First Ammendment in the case of the interenet because people have too much access to "dangerous" information. I'm going to sidestep the whole "what qualifies as dangerous" issue for a moment (though I think we all know it's a big one) and focus rather on the issue of personal responsibility. While I can appreciate the desire to have speech of certain types (ie. corporate advertising) regulated in certain ways (ie. you can't say Goop X will make you fly unless it really will) the laws which exist to protect consumers from deceitful corporations are not media dependent, and still apply to internet adverstising. So the corporate argument is handled. As for individuals lying on the net, well, let 'em. They can lie in print, they can lie on TV, they can lie on the radio, and they can lie in person. Somehow society has gone on.

    Up until now I have been personally responsibly for determining the veracity of information I receive, and I like it that way. It means that I can choose to disbelieve whatever I like, and cling to beliefs that everyone be me thinks are so stupidly ill-concieved it causes them physical pain... exactly the sort of mentality that one tends to adopt when making great intellectual advances. Being able to promote, publish, and discuss my fringe ideas is at the heart of intellectual advancement, and shouldn't ever be regulated - you lose too much when you do.

    There are a great many other issues I could raise about the article: use of inflamatory language in exactly the manner he claims needs regulating, shameless use of a controversial op-ed piece to promote his book (and he was so down on corporations for being money-grubbing!), etc. But I think that the basic issues are nothing new, so I've decided to focus on them. Mr. Carr has made the classic mistake of assuming that the internet is more than it is... it's just an information medium, nothing more. Sure people can be stupid, believe things that they shouldn't and make poor choices, but tha't certainly not a new problem and we've managed to get by somehow.
    --

  • by Fat Rat Bastard (170520) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:53PM (#522618) Homepage
    Government regulation is admittedly imperfect and often infuriating; but it must at least try to work toward the public good, or its authors will lose their power.

    I disagree. All a government has to do is try to look like it's working toward the public good.... In the same vein as my post to earlier story on "Truth in Science" government is run by people, people who are just as likely to be bought and sold as those in the corp. life. A government's job (IMHO) is to do the minimum to preserve fundamental rights (now just what that "minimum" is is the $50K question...). Corps will, to an extent, screw with you mainly because they're run by people (I don't buy the people are better than corps line. People run corps. There are corps out there that have, in my opinion, very good ethics and there are those out there who are frigging lousy... just like people). Its the nature of the beast. At least with a corportation I can choose not to do business with them. I'm much more afraid of a government with too much power.

    Just look at all of the /. favorite topics of late

    DCMA - Gov't Backed, Corp Bought
    UCTIA - Gov't Backed, Corp Bought
    Tax on recordable media in Canada/Germany - Gov't Backed, Corp Bought
    etc....

    It costs a hell of a lot less money to throw some cash around to the Pols and get legislation passed to protect your market than it is to improve your product. The great paradox is the more control you give the gov't the more control you hand over to those with very large pocketbooks.

  • by ninjaz (1202) on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:54PM (#522619)
    Here are some of the tastier morsels:

    The Internet sells itself as, and in fact is, so very much more than a mere entertainment or news medium: it is also a research library, a marketplace, and a schoolroom. Given these additional roles, there is no reason to maintain that the Internet is entitled to the same First Amendment protection as print or even radio and television.

    The Internet should therefore cease to be governed by such undeniably loose rules and instead be overseen by an agency that would more closely resemble the FCC but have even broader power, specifically the power of prior restraint.

    It therefore requires unprecedented attempts to assure the veracity of the content it purveys and to protect those who use it. And if that means suspending full First Amendment protection from the Internet, so be it.

    The power of prior restraint he speaks of essentially means that the government can choose to review each document that goes on-line, and prevent posting "because it said so" (I'm the mommy, that's why).

    It should be fairly obvious after the parade of censorware blocks on legitimate sites, that any organization who gets that type of power will immediately procede to misuse it. And, were the net not protected by the first amendment, there would be no real way of defending against such things.

    The odd thing is that the author appears to view the net as a read-only medium controlled by a few corporate interests. This is especially absurd considering TV and radio, being limited by the small number of channels available are necessarily controlled by corporate interests, while the Net is the great equalizer.

    If I recall correctly, the reason for "balanced reporting" requirements and "operating in the public interest" broadcasters are helded were put in place for the very reason of limited bandwidth and corporate monopoly over what is transmitted on said bandwidth.

  • by majcher (26219) <{moc.rehcjam} {ta} {todhsals}> on Monday January 08, 2001 @12:54PM (#522623) Homepage
    Interesting article, but fundamentally flawed. Carr bases the whole of his reasoning on this statement:

    I could not escape one central dilemma: Only two forms of regulation are available in the United States: governmental and corporate.

    This strikes me as similar to a religious person trying to convince an atheist that everyone should live under the rule of the Church, because after all, you're either going to live under God, or under Satan, and at least God is on your side... ignoring, of course, that the third possibility that neither God nor the Devil are on your side (much less exist at all) and that people can damn well take care of themselves.

  • Interesting idea, but how will it work?

    If you're asking, "How could something like this be made to work so that it achieves its declared objectives without unacceptable negative effects?" -- damned if I know.

    If you're asking for a prediction, "How will this in fact work if actually implemented?" the answer is quite simple and known beyond reasonable doubt: Information which is inconvenient to the people in power will be suppressed.
    /.

  • by joshv (13017) on Monday January 08, 2001 @01:33PM (#522630)
    I am continually stunned by the number of pundits (and yes, this author has firmly stepped into the realm of punditry with this fluff piece) who think that the Internet is somehow fundamentally different than any other 'legacy' information sources we utilize.

    Somehow we get along just fine in the print world without his draconian governmentally enforced and verified 'truth'. People seem to sort it all out just fine for themselves. When I want good, reliable news I read the New York times, or CNN.com. These are names I have grown to trust over the course of my years of interaction with these organizations as a consumer of their content.

    When I want sensationalism or schlock journalism I go to the Weekly World News or Matt Drudge, other outlets which have acquired a quite different reputation in my mind.

    What is so different about the Internet as a source of information that somehow we now need to be protected from ourselves?

    Regardless of the question of the need for such regulation, he utterly fails to address the consitutional issues that his regulations would create. I dare him to stop me from publishing lies on my own web site, via any law consistent with the US consitution. As long as I stay away from libel, slander, and inciting riots I think I will be well protected by the consitution.

    -josh

  • We demand that /. stop the dissemination of all the bleading-heart liberal opinion.

    Just because the Manongehela river caught fire, we blew up parts of Texas, your cars were death-traps before the damn guvmint got involved and made us have collapsible steering columns, doesn't mean we don't care.

    Okay we don't, but we'll sue your ass off for defamation and even if you're right, we have more money than you so we'll win. Bwahahahahaa.

What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind. -- Thomas Hewitt Key, 1799-1875

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