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Online Principles and the online world

Freedom to Tinker has a post
on Online Principles. While it is interesting to see people throw up
proposals for what people should do. I’m skeptical. However, there
was an excellent comment from Hal regarding the online world. I am
quoting it below since it is so good it can stand on its own. I really
agree with the poster’s thoughts on cyberspace which I’ve spent a long
time hanging around on.

There really is no “group” of online people. There are no “netizens”. The set of people online is not different in any material way from the entire body of the people. This is becoming more true every day.

Our principles and goals, to the extent that “we” can be said to have any such thing, are merely those principles and goals which guide every person in their life. They do not differ when one goes online.

What matters, then, is not defining special principles for being online; but rather, examining how our existing goals are best implemented given this new communications technology.

Online communications differs from older methods in degree, not in kind. People have always had free and universal communications with their nearest neighbors and close friends. The net expands this capability by many orders of magnitude, which raises new problems. Where communications before were largely confined to small and relatively uniform groups, where there was a certain amount of public visibility and awareness of the activities of others, the net spreads communications around the world, and allows the formation of groupings which are anonymous and relatively invisible to others.

These are the challenges of online communications: new forms of anti-social and harmful behavior; and communications which cross cultural and jurisdictional boundaries. Our existing policies and principles are not well adapted to the worldwide scale of today’s net. I suspect it will take many years before we learn how to incorporate these new capabilities into our lives in a way which is beneficial and harmonizes with our goals and principles. It is premature at best to begin writing the rules today.

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that started this all.

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