TODAY -

Editorial of the week

NET TRASH

Practically anything under the sun can be found on the internet. As a matter of fact, this is one area where even the law still has not been able to cover or catch up comprehensively enough. This is so because the technology did not merely develop, but literally exploded into existence and still continues to open up possibilities. We are here not talking about the law in the developing world where even areas of it covering libel, sedition, damage compensation, consumer protection etc., are still somewhat nebulous, but of the advanced West itself which had ushered in the world wide web. There does not seem to be much of a choice but to wait till the law catches up and sets things in order. This should come about in the years ahead, for the net expansion is nearing saturation point and will soon hit the ceiling.

The point is, the internet is uncharted territory. There is a lot to learn and discover from it. It is also definitely a very versatile medium of information dissemination. Still because it is uncharted and hence virtually uncontrolled territory, it can still hardly be the alibi for proving any point of law. We bring up this point, because certain provocative material on the-present crisis, sent up on various websites are being downloaded by various parties and copies of these are being distributed to the public as part of each's agenda. This is unfortunate, for as we have said before, just as the net is a source for a lot of useful information and academic material, it is also a storehouse of a lot of trash. Let us mind what is happening on the net and get the beneficial material out of it, but let us also keep in mind that everything on it is not worth serious attention. Although we are for free speech and free expression of thought, we think there is a point to ponder in the recent news item that of the closing of more than 2000 websites in China by the Chinese authorities. Although such blatant exercise of authority seems frightening, we do feel there ought to be some sort of licencing mechanism.

To get to the point, letters published in a Manipur based website are indeed provocative. As if this is not bad enough, others are downloading these unsigned letters and using them as sweeping proofs of communal intents of the present turmoil in the state. Another point to be noted here is that such letter writers are bold because of the anonymity of the internet. Furthermore, the letters may actually be written by the opposite camps to portray their rivals in the image they would want the world to see. Because of the anonymity of the net, disinformation campaigns too can be unrestrained. The only solution is restraint on the part of those operating these websites. News and information dissimilation is a serious business. And at least until relevant, suitable and proportionate legislation come up, the net, is an unlicensed weapon. In unscrupulous hands it can be extremely dangerous. Those hurt by what they read on the net also must realize these are nothing to lose sleep over. Some unwritten law must be evolved before the written ones become available: If at all there must be a propaganda war on this field, let it not go out of it. The government should also in the meantime do its bit to neutralize all the venom generated on the net, at least as long as the present crisis lasts.

Courtesy: The Imphal Free Press

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