When I think back to the first few days of class and starting up my first Twitter account, I vividly remember how aware I was of what I was posting. I wouldn’t allow myself to type anything vulgar or make statements that I wouldn’t want my grandmother to see someday. I self regulated my posts, and while I think I’m still going strong with that self discipline, users of other social media certainly are not.
Simon Waldman’s article “Harmful Content on the Internet: Self-Regulation is the Best Way Forward,” makes his best point merely in the title. But, in addition to his arguments, I would like to ask the question, “Best for whom?” Like the author said, regulation is not easy. Despite the amount of effort it takes, self-regulation benefits the social networking sites as much as it benefits the users.
Take Facebook for example, if its users strictly monitored their own behavior there would be little to no need for the “Report” button. Clearly this is not the case. Facebook’s initiative to regulate content on the site keeps it a clean and enjoyable environment for its users. Conversely, a site that has neither the regulation of the service nor that of the users can quickly become a hostile environment. I often hear stories from friends about sites they call “the sewer of the Internet.” I’ve never seen them, but that’s based solely on fact that no one is self-regulating anything on those sites.
Think about it like a business, if careful monitoring and regulation are utilized in a site, the interference of government becomes less likely. Similarly, if users self regulate their posts then there will be less of a need for the site to do it for them. Nobody wants to be told what to do, but like Waldman said, it’s not always the content that defies the terms of service that makes us want to exit the site. Only the user can truly regulate this content. Additionally, Waldman makes a strong point when he states, “the ‘dark side’ of the internet is actually the ‘dark side’ of society.” Despite all efforts, there will still be a “dark side.” Whether it is in society or the Internet, it is still there.
If I had to offer up my own personal information to encourage self-regulating activity on the Internet, it would be to enhance the education of proper use. That is, like everything else in life, we need to learn about it before we use it. Also, considering the possible negative consequences of no self-regulation may encourage people to think twice before making a post. Again, like the author said, we should not simply wait around until something terrible happens on the Internet.
The Internet, when self regulated, can be an awesome thing. So here are a few questions for you to think about. Would you trust yourself to monitor and regulate your own content? How about the content of others? Or are you like me and think that we can trust ourselves but not totally everyone else?