NPR: On the Media – The Internet’s Future

In this podcast, there are a number of themes included, all having to do with the way the Internet is changing the way we live and the way we perceive the world.

The themes are all based on one characteristic of the Internet: its sheer volume of potential content creation.

This is described first as details of Internet profiling, wherein businesses can gather information on an individual due to their searches, purchases, health and insurance interactions, and other categories of Internet use.

This transitions to the common practice of libel and slander on the Internet, and the total lack of recourse that exists due to the brash anonymity the Internet affords. The podcast names several cases of libel against individuals that sought recourse for their wrongs, but were unable to receive it because they simply could not find the people they needed to sue for damages.

This begs the question of how much we could potentially suffer from falsehoods about ourselves posted online. They don’t go away; they’ll never stop causing damages, especially if they ever go viral. They’ll never stop causing us to lose job opportunities, friends, and reputation. Our social life will always bear the stigma if the libel becomes famous.

The scariest part about this is that once something hits a popular message board or blog, then it is nearly impossible to eradicate as people bookmark, copy, save, and share the indemnifying content. Certain memes, featuring individuals in a particularly negative light, began years ago and are still commonplace on Google. Examples of this are Star Wars Kid, a young man who decided he would tape some ungraceful lightsaber moves for a class project. His friends found the video, put it online, and it hit everywhere.

News reports that feature glaring errors are the same way. Another instance, from the advertising sector, is the Shamwow ad campaign. It was so embarrassing, but so memorable, that once it hit the Internet it could not die, at least for some time.

Is Internet notoriety something we have to worry about, or is it just more a question of behaving ourselves in public so as to avoid public ridicule?

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