Internet and the abuse of freedom of speech

By The Curry Coastal Pilot September 14, 2012 09:21 pm

 

Free speech reigns supreme on the Internet – so much so that anything goes: libel, defamation, revenge, meanness.

By comparison, the stories, photos and especially letters to the editor in the Curry Coastal Pilot seem tame.

Fortunately, this newspaper others still adhere to something called standards of decency. These long-standing guidelines are designed to facilitate the sharing of ideas, thoughts and feelings about community issues while preventing a knock-down free-for-all battle of insults, innuendo and mean-spiritedness.

Old fashioned?

Perhaps. But we believe people can still passionately discuss issues without resorting to name-calling. 

Not so much on the Internet, especially social websites and Twitter accounts, where ill-informed people use keyboards and smartphones –instead of torches and pitchforks – to take down a target.

These self-styled online vigilantes rush to judgment on whatever issue happens to be bothering them at the time, often without considering all the facts. The allegations, and the nasty tone, are often shocking.

These folks seem unaware of the potential harm they are doing to the targeted individual or business. Worse yet, they wash their hands of any actual responsibility, and savor the moment when they can type another venomous rant about a fellow human being.

Please don’t misunderstand: We appreciate the power that social media puts into the hands of people.  But when that power is abused – with the instant nature of the Internet acting as fuel for the fire – it’s disheartening to watch from the outside, and likely terrifying for those caught in the crosshairs.

Call us old old-fashioned, but we still believe in getting all the facts before saying anything potentially negative or damaging to someone. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than joining a digital mob hell-bent on destroying people’s lives and livelihoods.