• “A mollycoddling internet policy is just feeding the trolls”

    Mar 29 2010, 6:30

    In an op-ed piece in The Age today, EFA Vice-Chair Colin Jacobs looks at the unfortunate practice of “trolling” on the internet and wonders if the public response to this phenomenon means we are becoming comfortable with being mollycoddled:

    One reading of these developments might be that an outraged public has finally got tired of offensive internet content and has decided to take a stand. However, I think there is another interpretation, one that isn’t quite as flattering of our society. Have we simply become too comfortable with being mollycoddled?

    Never mind the manifest impracticality of staffing a government department to investigate offensive web pages. Politicians sometimes pretend the internet is like a fancy new type of TV station or electronic magazine; most of us know better, that it is more like a global, instant post office, the vast majority of which lies beyond the reach of our laws. And let’s ignore for the moment the risks to our freedom of speech that such a system of government-controlled censorship would entail. Let us ask instead: since when is an offensive Facebook page an emergency worthy of prime ministerial attention?

    Being offended, or knowing that offensive material is out there in the vast sea of ideas that is the internet, is certainly unpleasant. Directed at yourself or somebody you love, words and images can cause serious upset. More often, they cause a momentary distraction, quickly forgotten. Where real harm occurs – such as defamation or child abuse – we already have strong legal remedies. So why does a sense of proportion seem to disappear the moment the discussion moves online?

    Read the his piece here.