Internet Safety Day: An effort to coddle the naive

BY ZACHARY COLOMBO

Staff Writer

February 9 was international Safer Internet Day, an annual event “committed to creating a safer and better internet for children and young people.”

This year, sponsors of the event included Google, AT&T, Facebook, No Hate Speech Movement and many others. In theory, there is nothing wrong with promoting internet safety, but realistically, practicing safety on the internet is like practicing safety while going shark cage diving.

The internet is a cesspool of all kinds of dangerous and unsafe content and vigilance can only go so far, particularly if a person are very active on multiple social media platforms.

One of SID’s sponsors is Better Internet for Kids which supports children’s right to online privacy. Its website aimed at kids that use social media states “Not only are children entitled to keep secrets from their parents or other adults, they also have a right to keep their personal data safe when using social networks or other online services.”

Their page goes on to explain why a person should protect their privacy on the internet, what safe privacy settings are and what a person can do to protect their sensitive information on the various social media websites. Interestingly enough, Better Internet for Kids does not suggest that perhaps young children should not be using social media, or that they should even limit the number of social media sites they use.

No, in fact kids are “entitled” to privacy despite the fact they post information from their personal life like clockwork to every public forum imaginable. Why exercise discretion when you are entitled to privacy?

One of the big supporters of SID was Twitter, and this year they announced the formation of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council which includes over 40 additional supporters at this event. Their goal states that “to ensure people can continue to express themselves freely and safely on Twitter, we must provide more tools and policies.”

The key word here is “policies” that will help people to freely express themselves. No one can tell Twitter not to enact policies on their own website, but doing it under the guise of free speech is oxymoronic.

Looking at the members of their Trust and Safety Council will show that Twitter is not the only one in favor of more policies regarding free speech.

Dangerous Speech Project is one such group.

On their website the Dangerous Speech Project states that they “study dangerous speech and ways to counteract it . . . Violence may be prevented by diminishing such speech, or by making it less compelling to audiences – without harming freedom of expression.”

Yes, speech is dangerous, that is good to know and everyone can agree that we need to diminish this dangerous speech. There seems to just be a little bit of Orwellian in that. In fairness, one must give these organizations credit for their blatant use of doublethink.

On the surface, Safer Internet Day seems like a benign event, but it does not seem to touch upon the fact that the internet is and always will be an unsafe forum. Its entire existence was built upon the free exchange of ideas; all of them.

Giving children a false sense of security on such a forum is probably more dangerous than using the internet itself. Trying to censor certain speech is not only futile, but blatantly hypocritical. A more realistic approach to internet safety should be that of discretion, something that seems lost amongst many people.

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