Time to grow up Master W W Web

by John Darvall

The internet is a quarter of a century old and has changed our lives in ways few could have imagined, including those who created it. From the desk top to the lap top, from the tablet to the smart phone and Smart TV if it’s not connected and you are not connected then what is the point? None. The next big thing is the ‘Internet Of Things’ and we are all nodding in agreement, hurtling to a brave new digital world. But are were actually understanding it or taking a breath to consider whether we should?

The Internet we know now has gone through many evolutions since the switch was first flicked in 1989. The chirpy chirp of dial-up and websites that took forever to load to the revelation of broadband to the expectations of ‘I want it NOW’ super fast broadband. What next? Wicked Super fast broadband with gold bar and oak leaf cluster? Whatever it will be it will never now be enough and the next change will be but moments away. You will have just got your head around all the latest technology and wallop it is all new, again.

The Internet is truly democratic, as intended from the outset. It’s beyond government control and even those governments that try to control it fail. The Internet and it’s offspring Social Media are also home and voice to the angry, unhinged or obsessed. On line they can be found venting their frustrations, conspiracy theories and hounding their victims. There are those who seek to expose others a la Ashley Madison. The Internet gives form and expression to anyone who wants to use it with very few consequences to the user. The target, on the other hand, can be all but destroyed. Some who have been targeted and trolled on-line have taken their own lives. I’m pretty sure Sir Tim Berners-Lee didn’t envisage that back in 1989 when the World Wide Web began.

The Ashley Madison hack and subsequent ‘data dump’ is a very interesting moment for the web. It’s not that all personal data taken and now available to anyone with a computer. No. This is proof once again how vulnerable we are by putting such personal data on-line in the first place. If you think putting anything on-line is safe then you’re a fool.

Millions use the web for sex and, of course, there is a ‘dark Internet’ because any market place will develop a black market. The big and very real digital problem is our reliance on the web combined with our trusting nature. This hacking event shows us all what will be our undoing. Next time it could be Facebook, Twitter or your bank.

If you want to have an affair, sex or watch some weird stuff on-line then it really is all but a click away. And you’re not alone in doing that either. Some of those clicks are illegal and those who do make them to watch stuff illegally or view stuff that is illegal should face the full force of the law. The rest of us? Maybe we need to think about what we are doing. Would you put up your name, address, email details and pictures of your children in the front window of the house for all the street to see? The internet is way bigger than you front window and you can never take it down.

So how to make the Internet grow up? Simple. Remove the ability to have any fake identity that so many wish to hide behind when on-line. I would admire those who hacked Ashley Madison and what they are trying to achieve if they were actually brave enough to put their real names to their cause. Whatever you may think of the alleged rapist Julian Assange, still hiding out in fear in a London embassy broom cupboard refusing to face justice, at least he has he put his name to his on-line work with Wikileaks. Same can also be said for Edward Snowdon, although I don’t think he’s been a ‘naughty boy’ too, allegedly. You may not agree with what they did but they did put their name to their actions. If you are going to cry freedom and free speech then you have the courage to put your name to it otherwise it’s not free. If you believe it, stand by it with your name.

The simplest way to make the Internet grow up would be to make everyone have a real profile using their real name and details. No more hiding, no more trolling and no more extremism, vile intent and perversion hiding behind a shroud of anonymity, freedoms and, ultimately, sheer bloody cowardice.