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Business - Written by on Thursday, June 26, 2008 9:43 - 9 Comments

Should the Government Regulate the Internet?

A survey published by the Rasmussen Reports, “an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information,” found that 49% of Americans believe that the federal government should regulate the Internet the same way as radio and television.

This was in response to a Missouri woman pleading “not guilty to charges in an Internet hoax blamed for a 13-year-old girl’s suicide.” Lori Drew, a 49-year old mother, allegedly created a fake Myspace account “to send cruel messages to a 13-year-old neighbor Megan Meier, a friend of Drew’s daughter, including one stating the world would be better off without her.” Meier committed suicide after these messages were received. You can read about the incident here.

With huge talks about Internet piracy it seems that Internet harassment is an issue we haven’t discussed. According to the survey, 73% of Americas believe that it is a crime to harass someone over the Internet. So what will the impact of this trial lead. I believe their will be substantial consequences to this trial because:

1) This is the first federal charge involving the well-known social networking website, Myspace.com, and

2) The decision of this trial will push law makers to address the issue of Internet harassment on not just a local level, but a national one

Now, I know that this is my second post about security (my first one covered internet infrastructure in Estonia but I believe it should be spread across the blogosphere. How can a parent sink so low to use a social networking site teens use to express themselves to emotionally hurt one of her daughter’s friends? If Ms. Drew is convicted it will be interesting to see what implications this decision will have. I will keep a close eye on this trial to see the final verdict. This just shows the Web 2.0 has evolved parenting. It appears that cyber-bullying is starting to get more attention and will soon raise concerns among parents.

So do you think the government should step up and pass policies to stop Internet harassment and cyber-bullying? How should social networking websites such as Myspace and Facebook address this issue?


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Jun 26, 2008 10:06


Liken it to trying to regulate telephone calls. While sad, the child should have brought this to the attention of a parent. We don’t try to police the telephone network because people receive harassing phone calls.

We’re already seeing the beginning of heavy internet censorship. On June 15th, Verizon blocked access to 90,000 newsgroups because the New York State Attorney General found child porn on 88 of them. I am completely against child porn, but catch the perpetrators rather than censor everything for the actions of 0.00097% of groups.

Its ludicrous and should not be tolerated.

Komail Mithani
Jun 26, 2008 11:00

You make a very interesting point. She did bring this attention to her parents and this was the response: “After telling her mother, Christina “Tina” Meier, about the increasing number of hurtful messages, the two got into an argument over the vulgar language Megan used in response to the messages and the fact that she did not log off when her mother told her to.” – Click on the second link in the second paragraph.

Maybe the mother should have notified Myspace or the authorities. Speaking of police should social networks create a division to attack this Internet harassment?

Jeff DeChambeau
Jun 26, 2008 12:11

I agree with Adam.

Alan and I were talking about making a “kid safe” internet, wherein instead of allowing the government to censor stuff, you have a company make a mirror of the internet based on whitelisted sites.

How many sites do you go to on a daily basis? I’m sure that kids find themselves in fewer nooks and crannies of the internet than I do.

I suppose that the counterpoint is that if you have a kid-only internet, you have a prime location for child-predators, I guess it depends on how much interactivity you want to give this internet.

Ultimately I think this is kind of similar to what google is doing: google is the defacto lense through which I see the internet — and they could be leaving all sorts of stuff out.

Allowing the government to regulate the internet is the first step on a very slippery slope, families should be given the tools (vis-a-vis companies/search engines/whitelisted internet mirrors) to keep their kids safe.

Jul 1, 2008 7:14

My take is that it depends on how you view the Internet. If you view it as simply a ‘communication tool’ (yet another telephone, for example) then one could argue that censorship is a no-no.

On the other hand, if one were to accept the “social networking”, “web2.0″, “extension of self”, “extra google brain” blather, clearly the Internet has become more than just a ‘communication tool’. One could then argue that there is a need for regulation.

Lisa Berk
Nov 23, 2008 17:45

I beleive that we do not neeed another death of a girl. Megan was harrasses and the woman who did this horible thing should Think of the little girls mother and family!!!!!! What would this women do if her own child killed herself because of a bully???

Mar 19, 2009 14:40

That is ridiculous for any one person or group to regulate something so huge. Besdies, how would they decide what is and is not appropriate? Every person has their opinion. Age also shouldn’t decide which sites are viewed because not every 13 year old has the same maturity level. I think it is to much for anyone to regulate.

Jun 30, 2009 15:04

It is absurd to even ask such a question. The internet is the single most diverse, complete, and free information source available to the public. Even libraries do not contain as much information as the internet.

Yes, with unlimited free information to all, comes some potential risks. But this is true for most things. However the benefits of free information vastly outweigh these risks. We already cannot rely too heavily on the media as an information source as it delivers twisted and very filtered information. If we allow the government to regulate and filter our one true source of information and knowledge, the internet, we are digging our own graves.

Imagine a world overrun by corruption, where the people don’t even have access to the free communication and information that could save them. We’re already a world with lots of corruption, the last thing we need is to allow Big Brother to control our internet. Big Brother is already way bigger than our founding fathers wanted, and getting bigger.

Like Adam said, catch the perpetrators rather than censor everything for the benefit of less than a percent of the population.

“Those willing to sacrifice essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither, and will lose both.” -Benjamin Franklin

Penny Wabich
May 13, 2010 10:29

How can one government regulate a world wide internet? I don’t think they should. Once again, parents should be diligently watching what their children are looking at which isn’t hard to do. Check the cookies after your child has been on and just go to that website and block it. Period. Parents need to step back up to the plate and take charge of teaching their children and supervising them. This is a real problem in America. I don’t understand why people are so anxious and thrilled to have children and then do not supervise their well being. My thing is, if you have an internet problem, report it to the website and anyone else involved. They will help you, seriously. I’ve had hijacking problems yet my ISP and mail websites are working diligently to find this person. It isn’t any different than being in public and having someone threaten you. Do you stand around and wait? No you don’t – you leave and then report the crime. What’s wrong with people anyway??? Do you want the government to do everything for you????Take some responsibility for yourself and your family the way you are suppose to and leave the internet alone. If that little girl’s parents would have saved those emails from that woman and then reported her, the same thing would have happened to her and maybe that child would still be alive.

May 18, 2010 14:24

No one should regulate the internet, it is the freedom of information.

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