A social contract for the internet?
It’s the phenomenon that has taken control of our daily lives: the virtual haven where we access to get entertained, socialize and learn; the powerful gateway through which almost everyone around the world can interact with one another and a digital world of anonymity and freedom.
It’s the place where one can access without having to feel governed, controlled or scrutinized as everyone who accesses the internet are anonymous. Perhaps it is this anonymity, or the seemingly unrestrained freedom provided that there are often cases cyber bullying and other offensive, or intrusive material like viruses and spam.
In many ways the internet is like the state of nature. As Locke described,
The state of nature involves men living together according to reason without a common superior with authority to judge among them. In the state of nature there is an absence of a common judge and the absence of any law except the law of nature.
On the internet, everyone is a man for himself. Each internet user must be aware of the problems present and protect himself. You have to purchase anti-virus software, install anti-spam features and download numerous other programs just to stay safe. Every time you log on to the internet, you are like a warrior entering an unknown territory, constantly watching out for possible enemies that could harm you.
In order to make the internet a safer place, perhaps its is necessary to join together in a social contract.
As Locke puts it:
To avoid these inconveniences, which disorder men’s propperties in the state of nature, men unite into societies, that they may have the united strength of the whole society to secure and defend their properties
There may be numerous problems arising, however, from this social contract. One difference between the internet and the state of nature is the scope of the internet. The internet is comprised of many geographical locations, cultural identities and ages. What makes this issue even more complicated is that the ‘purpose’ of the internet is very ambiguous. For a social contract to come together, there has to be a clear direction, a clear understanding of the purpose of the internet.
So although a social contract sounds like it may help with the problems caused by the internet, I am still at a lost.
Perhaps this is why despite all the problems that have risen, the best all of us can do is to do the best we can to protect ourselves: purchase the anti-virus program, download the anti-spam features, and always be cautious of what harms may come our way.