An unfettered internet best serves democracy at a price!

Response by Kenneth Myers, Vice President, to An unfettered Internet best serves democracy Free speech is, of course, one of the most vital guarantees for a strong democracy. So anyone who chooses to cavil at the ease of communication on the internet is surely wrong or worse. But while we celebrate the wonders of (virtually) free bandwidth and the most populist invention ever, we need to ponder the dark side. “Even the reformers' worst fears of anonymous smears or attack videos being distributed online by campaign operatives raise little real concern” declares the paean to internet, but where are the facts or logic to support this statement? The very ease and anonymity of communication on the internet seems to bring out the worst in some people. From the swift boat campaign, forward to the many scurrilous attacks on Senator Obama this winter, the internet invites all kinds of nutty and objectionable content. Content that almost no print or broadcast media would carry. Comments that would be dismissed as racist in any other place flow forth on the internet. Sadly, something about the small screen leads astray many who should be too bright to be taken in. This is not to argue that the internet should be a closed shop. The time honored answer to the problem of mischievous speech is not less speech, but rather, more speech responding and disproving fallacies. Yet that may not be the whole need. The present glut of information (and disinformation) that surrounds us tests our training: do we question each “revelation”? Do we consider the source and, if it is not one that is inherently worthy of our trust, do we insist on confirmation from a reliable source? For many, this exercise is simply too tiring. Ultimately the need is to train our kids, and big kids too, never to be without that grain of salt. Could the internet be adapted with reminders to keep us on our mistrusting toes? We put all kinds of technology into anti-virus protection that confirms daily that we are protected. How about a daily reminder flashed on the small screen that we are not protected against being shnookered?