Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Internet is Evil!

The internet is evil! Or at least, Facebook is, according to the Daily Mail in its latest knee-jerk reaction passing as investigative reporting. Spurred on by the widely reported convictions of two killers whose crimes had involved the social networking site - in one case the victim had been contacted by her eventual murderer via Facebook, in the other the victim's ex-boyfriend was so enraged at seeing a picture of her with another man on the site, he flew to the UK and killed her - the Mail set out to 'prove' the site was populated entirely by potential rapists, murderers and general perverts. However, the trouble with getting an adult male reporter to pose as a fourteen year old girl on Facebook in the hope that 'she' will be accosted by perverts proves very little about the site itself. She could equally well be wolf-whistled at by builders as she passes a building site. Does that mean building sites should be closed down? Sadly, the perverts will always be amongst us. Similarly, the unfortunate girl murdered by a sex offender she befriended on Facebook could equally well have met him through a dating agency, in a pub or in a bus queue. Just as the jealous man who killed his former girlfriend could have been shown that photo of her with another man by a friend, rather than seeing it on Facebook .

Ironically, of course, the object of the Mail's current ire, Facebook, is fast becoming a hub for exactly the kind of people who read the paper. As a Guardian journalist this week observed, nowadays a Facebook group exists for every form of hate. Of late groups have inevitably sprung up to bring together like-minded idiots who want to see John Venables hanged, for instance. Indeed, this is one of the things that I hate about the web - the way in which it enables the mob mentality to be so easily harnessed by extremists. There's no doubt that the web makes it so much easier for bigots and hate mongers to find their own kind and to mount their distasteful campaigns. In that respect, perhaps the internet is evil. But, once again, the truth is that all this hate and bigotry existed before the web. Until recently local radio phone-ins seemed to be the preferred vehicle for these morons to disseminate their bile. Before that there were newspapers, pamphlets, public rallies and marches. If the Daily Mail succeeded in getting the internet shut down tomorrow, the sex offenders, murderers, racists, bigots and general idiots would still be there. They'd just find another means to pursue their ends. But until then, the web remains a convenient scapegoat for the ills of society.

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