Regulators…Mount Up [DIGC335]

As the Internet continues to grow at more than one million new single pages a day, the issue of filtration of content remains an important issue in today’s modern world. Every day we leave our digital ‘footprints’ around cyberspace. These footprints, through every keystroke create a level of information that we can only being to imagine.

In this weeks discussion we examined the role of governments in ‘protecting’ users of the Internet, with some interesting conclusions. What was most interesting was the debate about the morality issue of filtering content on the Internet. With over 1.23 billion users, Facebook has fast become a presence that has bought countless morality issues into the public agenda.

“We work to foster an environment where everyone can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights of others,” This is key statement taken from Facebook’s community standards. This community standards guide sets boundaries for content posted within Facebook and has recently been condemned for the use of use of third party, outsourced workers who have to sift through the millions of indecent material uploaded to Facebook every hour.

“They did mention that the job was not for the light of heart before hiring me,” said the moderator who quit after three weeks. “I think it’s ultimately my fault for underestimating just how disturbing it’d be.” This was a claim from a previous employee of oDesk who also described the millions of unsuitable content as “Think like that there is a sewer channel,” one moderator explained during a recent Skype chat, “and all of the mess/dirt/ waste/shit of the world flow towards you and you have to clean it.” As a user of Facebook, I know first hand some of the horrifying posts that escape the filter and couldn’t possibly even being to imagine the psychological impact that filtering this filth would have on an individual.

The right to upload content to the Internet is governed at a national level, with many Governments having different levels of control over user-generated information. In Australia our use of the World Wide Web is governed by ACMA (Australian Communications & Media Authority).

It is most interesting to note that ACMA at present is only in the business of investigating content that users deem as a breach of Internet safety, with most importance if the content is likely to harm children.

In China however, there is a level of control so powerful and precise, that content must adhere to strict Government regulations. Zhang defines these as;

  • Any information that goes against the basic principles set down in the Constitution.
  • Information that endangers national security, divulges state secrets, subverts the government, or undermines national unification.
  • Information that is detrimental to the honor and interests of the state;
  • information that disseminates rumors, disturbs social order, or undermines social stability (pp.266 2006)

As described throughout our discussion, the Internet is a “wild beast” and any attempts to filter or restrict content will always be issue high on the public agenda.

References

ACMA. (2014). Internet Regulation. Available: http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/About/The-ACMA-story/Regulating/internet-regulation. Last accessed 15th May 2014.

Chen, A. (2012). Inside Facebook’s Outsourced Anti-Porn and Gore Brigade, Where ‘Camel Toes’ are More Offensive Than ‘Crushed Heads’. Available: http://gawker.com/5885714/inside-facebooks-outsourced-anti-porn-and-gore-brigade-where-camel-toes-are-more-offensive-than-crushed-heads. Last accessed 15th May 2014.

Zhang, L 2006, Behind the ‘Great Firewall’: Decoding China’s Internet Media Policies from the Inside, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol 12, no 271, pp.271-291, Summons Database

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