Editorial: Can the beast be tamed?

Last updated 11:11 28/06/2012

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The internet is a two-edged sword.

It provides a platform to speed information around the world, linking people in ways we never imagined. From the comfort of our desks we can perform many tasks and transactions that previously would have required crossing town and standing in a queue.

We Skype, we click, we gawp, we laugh, we forward the links to friends and family hoping that they, too, will be amused and entertained.

There's no denying it – the web has woven our world together in a way we could never have imagined.

But there is a dark side, too.

Sceptic and writer Evgeny Morozov, in his 2011 book The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, explodes the notion that technology leads to liberation.

He warns that dictators, despots and totalitarian regimes can and do use the internet for their own nefarious purposes, which includes hunting down critics and dissidents through their online presence. The autocrats also hire their own online bloggers to drown out those pressing for democracy.

Further, he points out another stark reality that we would probably rather ignore: that most young people using the new technology are not pursuing higher learning, but are "watching pornography, Sex and the City or funny videos of cats".

They are also networking in destructive ways.

Just recently a North Shore family went away for a weekend, leaving their 18-year-old daughter in charge. She told a couple of friends and somewhere along the line the power of Facebook was unleashed. The result: about 100 uninvited guests, several calls to the police and one family home trashed.

And we've all heard the many stories of people falling prey to internet scams, offering up their money and love only to be left scarred and angry as some scoundrel on the other side of the world makes off with the spoils.

Yes, the technology can be liberating, it can be lifesaving, it can be empowering. But it can also be demeaning, degrading and destructive.

We have created a silicon-powered beast, we have let it out of its cage and we may be too late in trying to tame it.

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- The Marlborough Express


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