Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Watercooler Conversation?

Via Nosemonkey, this article from the Times which comments on yesterday's legal ruling that found someone guilty of libel in an internet chatroom.

The internet is a valuable means of exchanging information, ideas and, yes, sometimes abuse. But anyone who reads an abusive web posting will treat it with the weight it deserves: very little. It is watercooler conversation that does no real damage.

I don't agree with talking the internet down like this. After all, it is basically a publishing medium. A particular form of publishing that allows for constant interaction, granted, but publishing nonetheless. And that means that communication that takes place via the internet is written. Moreover, it is written and published in a way that means it is open to viewing by everyone. Far from being a watercooler conversation where you know who you are speaking to and have some means of controlling the spread of information. And as it's written communication available to everyone, it follows that it should be subject to proper laws. The real grey and worrying area over laws policing internet communication concern international jurisdiction.