There is a beauty in the fact, that every person now can effect their ripple of influence in the ocean of human activity, the digital revolution is effecting the democratization of the people in an unprecedented way, as there is less opportunity now to withhold, shape or obstruct information flow to the masses by the established. We have moved from Walter Cronkite to the flash mob, from bastions of credibility to authority in question, from Lord Beaverbrook to the personal website - this transformation in media, in the same way that life imitates art and life gives birth to art - is disrupting the entire social construct. No other event in history has fragmented the meta narrative so rapidly - it has replaced the idol rockstar with the a rebirthed traveling mistral, it has given rise to the digital artisan, it has given wings to the tradition artisans, it has given the individual access to the masses.
This powerful dynamic, the dynamic that has made every person a National Network, is threatened however. There is a trend emerging that has greater control being placed on the internet by governments and by a consolidation in influence by key corporate players. Google, by way of example, has been as a whole a liberating force in the internet space, its company creed it to distribute and share information. Google has interests that find expression by its functionality, these interests will be served because Google has critical mass in the space. I am an enthusiastic user of Google’s services on the internet, I appreciate what the company offers and understand that in exchange for their services I share my search data and get exposed to relevant materials, and for the most part this is a good thing.
This information is directed to me by artificial intelligence, so no human perusal of my habits is made, no judgement past – just like data begets like data – or one anonymous entity directing data to another anonymous entity. The Challenge comes when me, my person, is attached to data and a profile emerges with a name attached to it – from there, there is no longer meta data, this is me and my personal data, private information. Governments increasingly want to access this data and or control this data. The consolidation of influence and the interests innate in internet service providers is facilitating the confluence of data related to my person with government scrutiny and scrutiny by other third parties. That is to say, the natural process in any human interface (market) to have influence consolidate is conspiring to concentrate data related to the individual.
When I was first exposed to the internet, I used Net Scape as my interface with the World Wide Web. When I typed in a search, I would get to pertinent data instantly, really substantive data on a given subject. I am finding now that I am getting a lot of “non-information” and or miss information, or that commercial data is obviating my ability to get at “source data” or perhaps critical data. I am an ardent promoter of free market actions, and I want the internet to be a place that facilitates enterprise, there is a paradox evolving however, that has dominate players in effect choking out access to all data with what seems to be exponential force. The internet is still greatly superior to the old media environment and is facilitating entrepreneurship – I am referring to this in the context of an emerging trend. My mention of Google here as a point of consolidation is in the context of the evolution of influence, we can be grateful that Google has taken many steps to ensure individual net liberty, Open Source operating systems and the like – the challenge is the consolidation of influence and the resulting capacity for governments to access and or take control of personal data.
The internet is a reflection of humanity at large; if what you find there is offensive, it is us you’re looking at. The full spectrum of humanity is represented there, tolerance is required. The prospect of the government choosing what is moral or immoral on my behalf is a grossly offensive prospect. At what point does government stop this sort of intervention into the private lives of the populace; it may be “pornography” today and depictions of gluttony tomorrow, a sin after all, is a sin, no one is enthusiastic about a child eating themselves to obesity. These sorts of technical interventions have proven dangerous, China’s persecution of Fallen Gong for example. Once an institution starts down the path of dropping a blanket of judgment over the populace at large, the society becomes a dull and indistinguishable place of being. Cultural or life modality variance, is healthy; government is very ineffective at managing the personal lives of people; information is what defines people.
We do have the obligation to keep the PUBLIC SQUARE as influence natural as possible, I should be able to walk down the street with my child and have them arrive at the other end unaffected morally; they should remain in the state of morality I, as a parent, have provided. The family is the only appropriate mechanism for the delivery of moral concern or organizations that parents voluntarily choose to expose their children to.
The presence of adult content available for access by one’s own discretion is only accessed as an act of free will, parents have the option to exercise that free will in the interests of their children. For the government to intervene in that process in a manner that forces one to identify them self, puts information in the hands of government that could in some way subject these individuals to discrimination or be accessed illegitimately as a filter for other societal endeavors. By way of example, Safeway in the US once sold pharmaceutical data to insurance companies absent that knowledge of the person’s concerned; there are thousands of examples of data abuse, not the least of which was the recent breach of Revenue Canada’s data.
There are elements of widely held taboo, child pornography is illegal and is wholly offensive. Subjection of a child to sexual abuse has a clear harm, physically and mentally, and the full weight of government, of all of us, must come to bear on protecting children. Prior to the internet this element of society was embedded and dispersed. As a result of the Internet, the perpetrators of this type of conduct congregated and gave authorities a means by which to detect and locate them. Had the system blocked the traffic related to this subject matter, this despicable element of society would have remained undetectable. As a Toronto policemen said “I can’t walk down the street and ask if someone if they are a pedophile, but I can on the internet.” The Toronto Police were able to identify groups of pedophiles the world over and were able to safe and guard children as a result. As grossly offensive as this subject matter is, it offered resolution to the challenge for police and provided an observable target. Clearly, child pornography is a scourge, to know its point of origin we need to know its there.
Adult content is at the discretion of adults to access. As adults we need to protect our children’s innocence so they can grow to adults with the full spectrum of choice in life modality. When government puts a blanket filler on adult content and forces one to identify them self to access it, is a breach of their personal liberty for reasons stated above and no different than forcing me to give my name to access the United Church website. The only practical means to filter content is at the point of consumption. The government should be working at provisioning tools for parents to filter content on personal devices, the government should invest in the enabling of parents to control minors access to content.
Recently the UK government is want to take steps to restrict control to adult content by forcing people to identify themselves in order to access sites the government has “blocked” general access to. The government offers as justification for this the protection of children from premature exposure to adult content. Of course we all share their concern; exposure to many types of Adult content can “corrupt” a young mind. When I say “corrupt”, I mean provision access to unhealthy sexuality, as opposed to sexuality that is an extension of human love. I offer this to clarify, to make distinct from religious concern, that mine is other than a puritanical concern, but rather a protective concern to ensure an appropriate introduction to a healthy view of human sexuality. While I share the need to direct children’s access to the web, and by extension adult content – I vehemently oppose the methods proposed by the government and the forced association of individuals with data this is judged harshly from a puritanical perspective. It is safer and healthier to have the point of control for this data in the hands of parents at the device level – to control access to adult content by government perusal brings government into a place that is highly intimate and by extension provisions functionality that allows government to peruse other data as well.
The world of entertainment is full of depiction of evil, by seeing evil we become acquainted with it – we come to understand it. Only by exposure to it can we gain the insight we need to wage war against it. There are just too many instances where government has been the evil, or religious institutions have burnt people at the stake for “adult content”. There is no clear distinction between censorship and good old fashioned book burning; curtailing information in anyway curtails progress. Evil has always been with us, it raises its head as often at the hands of the ostensibly righteous as it does the sinister; the only thing that has ever stopped evil is the good judgment of an enlightened individual.
The exploitation of women is a concern, to attach exploitation of women to adult content in general is an errant path of thought, it carries inherent in it 2000 years of distortion around the perception of female sexuality and the dumping of a distorted perception of virtue in women’s laps. We are all eager to protect women in vulnerable circumstance from exploitation. It is my sense that the physiological coupling of violence and sexuality is a dangerous path. I believe violent depictions of adult activity is most often associated with female exploitation, if women are being forced into these circumstances it requires functionality on the ground to address it, internet censorship has no means to determine the presence or absence of coercion. To presume a woman is being exploited because she is shown in adult entertainment is a product of a prevalent bias, a bias I believe feminists are fighting to eradicate.
My personal use of the internet and the content and information I garner as a resource there, no one could have imagined just a few years ago. The openness of the information highway has facilitated the distribution of information to so many and has democratized almost every element of modern life. There is both promise and peril in openness, openness regardless of the risks is the only path to enlightenment and may the enlightenment continue.