Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Internet, For Better Or For Worse

The Internet has been used as a tool to connect the people all over the world. Every corner of the earth has been tied together, and the world seems just a little bit smaller because of it.

The global system of interconnecting computers has transformed the way we think, learn, and live in our society today. And like with any other advancement in technology, the Internet has both benefited and impaired every person on this planet.

Its origins, which reach back to the 1960’s, up till now has propelled the world into the digital age, and it isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress and the American public on Tuesday, Jan. 25, Obama mentioned that we are a nation of Google and Facebook.

"We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook,” said Obama. “In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make a living.

It's about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

The birth of the Internet has created an entirely new category of jobs such as online journalism, professional blogging, web graphic design and development and professional vlogging, or video blogging, which you see on Web sites such as YouTube.

Billions of individuals can upload and download information instantaneously with the push of a button, and it has helped people like those who have participated in the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen that began last week.

The citizen activists there used social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to protest their retrospective governments and countered government disinformation.

But the Internet has also stirred trouble by ruining careers, ending lives and starting debates on whether or not it should be restricted.

Net neutrality, the principle proposed for users' access to networks participating in the Internet, is now the subject of debate. On the one hand, there are advocates who believe that there should be no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.

Opponents believe the Internet should be regulated and controlled. They also believe that Internet providers can determine the quality of Internet service you can receive by what the individual pays. The belief that the age of equally accessing whatever Web site you wanted regardless of the Internet provider should be terminated for profitable gain.

Supporters of net neutrality are currently fighting the FCC’s decision that took place on Dec. 21 to approve new broadband regulations covering Web site blocking, traffic discrimination, and network management transparency.

The Internet has also challenged the definition of the First Amendment’s right of the freedom of speech.

Individuals like Simon Singh, who decided to tell the chiropractic community just exactly what he thought of it in an article demoting the entire profession. His comments only add to the disruption in how we can determine what we can say on the Internet.

Singh had targeted chiropractors' claims that their services could help children with asthma or colic, causing the chiropractic community to sue the man for libel and take him to court. When the courts began to investigate Singh they found his accusers didn't have a case. Attention was turned back to the chiropractors and as a result, about 1 in 4 chiropractors in the UK went under investigation by regulators for making backless claims back in March.

Issues such as cyber bullying and anonymous hate speech on forum chats that at times lead to suicide get added to the long list of crimes that could be committed as well.

Arguments about how the Internet has hurt students academically have also come up. The days of searching for information in large encyclopedias located at local libraries have been replaced by Wikipedia and Google.

Plagiarism has plagued the universities as it now has become easier to just copy and paste someone else’s work onto a word document, type your name at the top and just hit print, and yet at the same time people can access information and educate themselves whenever or wherever they wanted to.

The Internet has become an endless frontier of vast capabilities and endless problems. We have changed as species because of it and continue to change along with it. In the social and economic globalization, that primarily took place in the 21st Century, we have “flattened” the world because of the Internet, according to international bestselling author, Thomas Friedman, and for now we will continue to use the Internet for better or for worse.

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