As a 50-year member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I prize the First Amendment right to free speech. But I have mixed feelings about the recent U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the conviction of a Pennsylvania man whose threatening online words, the court reasoned, did not have the true intent of violence.
He had repeatedly posted Facebook with threats to kill his wife, who had left him and taken their two children, as well as threats to kill an FBI agent and to shoot up a kindergarten class.
I use the Internet every day, benefiting from the positive things it can do for me. I will continue to do so. On balance, however, the Internet — with its infinite complexity — is an enabler of evil.
Count the ways. From use as a tool to recruit religious fanatics into barbaric terrorist organizations, to unstoppable hacking of privacy and identity, to making it possible for anonymous children to bully other children toward suicide. For every website containing information, a website with misinformation, disinformation or lies.
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Of the 20th century inventions only the airplane, which has dropped bombs on women and children from London to Hiroshima, has had, on balance, more negative impacts on humanity than the Internet.
John N. Rippey