Leave the Internet alone

Posted on 27 April 2012

“…there is nothing any government, policymaker or even Jesus, can do about politically-incorrect speech.”

By Belmont Lay

All attempts at online regulation will be futile. Because all problems start from real life offline. Try fixing those first.

For those of you who don’t know, the Institute of Policy Studies held a closed-door discussion with bloggers and some misfits on April 26.

The topic? “Civility in Cyberspace: Going Beyond Self-Regulation?”

I mean, what gives, right?

Basically, if you ask me, what the government and policymakers really want to know today is how palatable it is to impose a code of conduct to regulate how people communicate online.

And to what extent they would look like gormless twats for making something like this come to pass, if they ever do.

They are, essentially, testing water.

For the record, I wasn’t there at the IPS.

I couldn’t attend the session at 3 p.m. because I had to work (to earn a salary that is getting so quickly eroded by inflation) so I have no idea what went down.

But if I was there, and regardless of what the topic was and where the direction of the discussion was heading at that point in time, I would have stood up and raised these four points:

1. Every piece of communication device or new app that is developed today is made so that more forms of expression and interaction exist. Not less.

2. People on the Internet will increasingly find new uses for meta-languages to communicate with one another. For instance, if you know what a meme is, how it works and why it evolves to take on a life of its own, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you are ridiculous. Worse, if you think that the spirit that produces the conversations online is something that can be regulated, you are utterly hopeless.

3. The government and policymakers should spend their time dealing with REAL problems, such as coming up with REAL rescue plans to salvage our economy, what’s left of our MRT system and to overhaul our domestic industries. Fiddling around with the Internet in the face of insurmountable problems is like trying to put a plaster on this guy after putting out his fire:

No, contrary to popular belief, emotional pain is not the worst pain you can feel.

It is pointless.

4. Last but not least, there is nothing any government, policymaker or even Jesus, can do about politically-incorrect speech. Live with it. The end.

And here’s where we need to stand the problem on its head: Because if the government can take care of people’s problems and govern effectively, why worry about what’s happening on the Internet?

The only reason there are problems on the Internet is because there are problems in REAL life. Like in times when people are offline, they experience difficulty with the cost of living, for example.

And then they go online and tell their friends about it, who end up telling other friends.

As far as I can tell, people rarely spend all their days making things up.

So, as a rule of thumb, dealing with the REAL problems and leaving the Internet alone should be the way to go.

— —

To end, here’s some real-life advice you can use: I was once told by someone quite famous to always judge any forum or discussion or round table yada yada by the refreshments that get served, especially if you’re a guest.

Because, seriously, if your views are THAT important, and your ideas THAT brilliant to the people seeking them, you wouldn’t be subjected to drinking out of a Styrofoam cup:

Institute of Policy Studies refreshment that was served to bloggers and some misfits on April 26.

It is a sobering thought, and a highly fruitful exercise to engage in.

It lets you know how unimportant are the things being discussed and where the dialogue is headed for before it even gets started.

True story.

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