I have been meaning to write about this subject pretty much since I started blogging, but the fact I have held off has given me some more thought for pause.
Since the day SIr Tim-Berners Lee invented or, more accurately, discovered the internet and launched it into the ether like a tiny sparkling firefly, it has set the world ablaze with the exchange of ideas and knowledge. It is no cliche to argue that it has become one of the greatest revolutions mankind has ever seen, certainly the greatest I have seen and will probably see in my lifetime. His subsequent plaudits and knighthood would be no surprise to us sitting smack bang within this digital revolution, but could he have ever envisaged the huge impact this free gift would have on mankind and ,moreover, just what the world would do with it?
Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology states: “Technology is neither good nor bad, but nor is it neutral.” Therefore, the internet, being no exception to this is merely a conduit of whatever the user wants it to be. Since mankind can fall within a wide range of spectrums from magnanimous saints to dangerous psychopaths, inevitable then that with all the cute pictures of cats and babies and reams and reams of helpful information littering the net, a deeply more sinister side has evolved within its digital walls.
I first heard of the darknet while reading about the phenomenon known as bitcoins. This untraceable crypto currency was first created for some long outmoded game. a news article had reported that someone had cashed in on a small holding they had bought years ago and had become a multi millionaire through their sale on the darknet and the fact that their value had inflated at an incomparable rate. It then went on to say that due to their untraceable nature, it was the favoured currency on the darknet for criminals, terrorists and paedophiles.
This was news to me, as while I knew there were dark corners of the net where illegal or taboo subjects were discussed or even encouraged, up to then I did not there was a specific area with its very own currency. The darknet though is a very guarded area of the net, with invite by invitation only websites of people who are aware their activity is at best immoral and more often than not completely criminal. It is by its very nature secretive, but you don’t need to delve into the dark reaches of the darknet to stumble upon the darker aspects of the net.
A lot of times the tone of the written word can be misinterpreted. Social media is certainly no exception this. The trouble is human beings don’t just communicate with words; body language and tone of speech are also key factors in reading what someone actually means behind what they are actually saying. Sometimes that misinterpretation is just that- no offence intended, which goes back to the point that not everyone ticks the same way. But there are times when it is quite clear that offence is the sole intention intended- Trolling.
Simply put, trolling is the act of eliciting a negative emotion by searching the net or social media and saying or posting something so outrageous that it raises a negative response in the vast majority of reasonable people which the troll can then capitalise on for their own and other troll’s amusement. The troll will very often state that they are a bastion for free speech, but the troll will shift stances on any issue to the one that will cause the most outrage. Most of you will have come across a troll somewhere on line. Trolling can amount to anything from stalking online, visiting grieving family websites and posting distasteful or offensive comments, or even setting up sites themselves. Queen of the trolls in the UK is Katie Hopkins, a woman who has forged a career in being a celebrity troll, but she deserves a whole blog post of her own and I wont delve too much on here.
Recently the phrase “It’s only banter!” has come into popular phraseology. This seems to be a blanket term for any comment or post designed to cause offence, but not enough offence to elicit some form of legal action again the source of the comment. But those that bandy it around very often are not the best judge of what banter actually is. As I write, there was news yesterday that 6 members of HSBC bank were sacked due to re-enacting an ISIS inspired execution on a team building course. Banter? Harmless fun? They clearly thought so at the time, even posting it online before getting cold feet and removing it, but not before someone who did not find it in the least bit funny, saw and it ended up on the front page of a national paper.
These guys were probably not terrorists and were probably not have even been terrorist sympathisers, but their banter was a very cliquey one that not a lot of people would find funny. It’s like when you watch the apprentice around about week four and some of the business brains suddenly think they can make a comedy video or advertising reel that will rival the Farley brothers in terms of humour and originality. Swept along by each other, and their growing bond, they seem unable to take a step backwards to see that what they are making is usually drivel. Very often the first they know is when they show it to the prospective clients who sit stony faced while the team sniggers.Even then sometimes its only in the boardroom when Sir Alan fires the wanabee filmmaker that they realise they’ve made a huge error in judgement.
Simply put, in the anniversary of 7/7 and a few weeks after a massacre in Tunisia it was never going to end well for these HSBC staff. Their biggest mistake was in thinking that something like that online would not cause a backlash at the best of times let alone when emotions are running high and 30 british holidaymakers are coming home in coffins instead of return flights. Sometimes, we all need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and lay our banter down for the sake of not causing offence. Then maybe the internet, at least the non dark part, would be a nicer place for all.