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Don’t shoot the messenger

/ 05:07 AM December 12, 2019

I don’t understand this internet thing very much. I still much prefer fountain pen (if you remember those) and paper, but as I understand it, we’re asking Mark Zuckerberg to take part in and control our communications. Isn’t that like asking the mailman to read all letters before delivering them?

Isn’t Facebook purely the messenger? I don’t want them controlling what I say. Heaven knows we get angry enough when a democratically elected government tries — as the US government is discovering with a federal court banning random search of the content of electronic products of passengers. Good for them. The intrusion into our lives the internet has brought is bad enough, so opening the doors even more can’t be good. Are we now to allow a private individual to vet what we say?

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It’s estimated there are some 100,000 content moderators in the world checking what’s on Facebook and all the other providers. And if you ask me, it’s too massive a job. Over 500 hours of video are posted and uploaded on YouTube every minute. Thousands of tweets are posted every second. How on earth do you control all that? And, anyway, surely it’s the sender that is the culprit, not the messenger.

Yet that’s the way much of the world is moving. Country after country is introducing laws that will penalize the messenger for allowing the posting of fake news or hate speech. But if it’s to be anybody, it should be the government itself, certainly not a private individual. The risk is we end up like China with its pervasive censorship of the internet.

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Mind you, there are some stuff that should never be there, such as child pornography and ISIS ranting, but where is the line drawn, and who decides it based on what criteria? I don’t think it should be Mark Zuckerberg.

The proliferation of fake news is a result of the ease of access to a wide, wide audience. Fake news has always existed, it’s just that before, it was limited to small schools of influence. Filipinos are particularly vulnerable because they love “tsismis,” they relish scurrilous news.

The solution to fake news is education. Educate people so they’re knowledgeable enough to distinguish the real from the false. Or, at the very least, to question it. Or do what I do: Don’t subscribe to Facebook.

The book “1984” by George Orwell was prescient to a frightening degree. It didn’t happen in 1984, but it is happening in 2019. Big Brother is watching us ever more intimately. CCTVs are ubiquitous and proliferating—into our bedrooms next? Based on some of the movies I’ve watched, maybe they already are, through ever-so-smart TVs or cellphones having built-in and remotely accessible cameras.

It’s not inconceivable.

I admit we must address the terrorism threat, but I don’t see control of the freedom of our ways of life as an acceptable way to do it. And it’s not just in what we say, it’s increasingly in how we live. You have to take your belt off at the airport? Come on. A belt buckle is going to blow up a plane? I had a 2-inch jeweler’s screwdriver taken off me because it was “a screwdriver.” Was I going to unscrew the fuselage of the plane? We missed a flight out of New Zealand because our Kindle smelled of explosives. A sniffer dog disagreed, but a machine said two elderly people were terrorists. A Kindle held by an 80-year-old can blow up a plane? Next you know, we’ll be required to go naked to board a plane, and given some of the bodies I’ve seen in tight clothing, I don’t think I’d enjoy that.

If the billions — or is it now trillions? — of dollars were spent on far better intelligence and the ruthless slaying of terror leaders, we might be a freer people.

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Look at the brave people in Hong Kong; they are resisting Big Brother China. The controls China exert on its people aren’t acceptable to the youth of Hong Kong. Well, they aren’t acceptable to us either, yet insidiously they are being slowly introduced. Like the frog in heating water, we adapt as our personal freedoms get slowly whittled away until we find ourselves dead.

It’s time to look at the cost benefit of the controls that are being increasingly imposed on our lives, and the real risk of misuse of those controls to manipulate people or persecute an individual. I don’t want Big Brother looking over my shoulder and dictating my life.

[Email: [email protected]]

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