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Everyone Has A Voice On The Internet

July 2007
Everyone Has A Voice On The Internet

The N-word is forbidden in many places and rightly so. But it doesn't take long to come across it online. Just Google it and you'll get four million hits, almost as many as Mike Tyson endured in his last fight.

Racism, it seems, is alive and well on the Internet, where leaving hateful messages on a website is easier than burning a cross and you don't need a white sheet to hide your identity. This isn't your grandfather's KKK. This is your out-of-work cousin's WWW (Wired White Whackos).

They aren't all white, of course, the people who spew their hatred all over the Net. You can find black whackos, brown whackos, even green whackos with pointy ears who won't rest until they achieve green supremacy.

The Internet is all about freedom of speech. Everyone has a voice and some people have three or four: their own and the ones in their head.

Most news and blog sites allow readers to leave comments. They can usually remain anonymous and say whatever's on their mind. The "discussions" on some sites can get quite heated, with plenty of foul language and name-calling. It's like the British Parliament, but slightly more civilized.

Some articles and blog posts attract hundreds of comments. I have no idea who has the time to read them all. Some folks really need to get a life. I mean, I usually lose interest around comment No. 243. (That's usually the point where it's clear that all the problems in the world—crime, global warming, male pattern baldness—can be blamed on one thing: illegal immigration. If we could just close the border, life would be so much better for everyone, except perhaps the toupee salesmen.)

Thanks to some hard-working WWW members, CBSNews.com recently stopped allowing readers to leave comments on stories about presidential candidate Barack Obama. The stories had been generating far too many racist comments, even when Michael Richards was offline.

"It's very simple," Mike Sims, director of News and Operations for CBSNews.com, told one of their bloggers. "We have our Rules of Engagement. They prohibit personal attacks, especially racist attacks. Stories about Obama have been problematic, and we won't tolerate it."

CBSNews.com does indeed have ‘Rules of Engagement,' which state: "No libel, no slander, no lying, no swearing at all, no words that teenagers use a lot, no words that are used by rappers, hip-hop artists or Don Imus, no words that might offend any group or person or member of the animal kingdom, no ethnic slurs and/or epithets, no religious bigotry, no bathroom humor, no bedroom humor either, no comparing anyone to Hitler, Stalin or Ann Coulter, no references whatsoever to Katie Couric's weight or Andy Rooney's age."

The ‘Rules of Engagement' may seem strict, but you can still get away with a lot. You can still compare someone to Osama bin Laden or make references to Mike Wallace's age or say something nasty about a cucumber.

CBSNews.com is aware, obviously, that it's not just racism that thrives on the Net. It's all kinds of bigotry and incivility. People write almost anything they want. But isn't that what freedom of speech is all about?

Perhaps so, but I wish they'd exercise this type of freedom of speech on websites I don't visit, websites that are designed specially for them, such as InternetIdiots.com and ImbecilesUnited.com.

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