August 8, 2015 1:34 pm

There’s Hope for the Internet. Find Out Why this Sunday.

A cartoon of an Internet Troll who is trying to seem pleasant, for StarTalk's blog post on the digital age. Image Credit: ssstep/iStock/Thinkstock.

Image Credit: ssstep/iStock/Thinkstock.

As StarTalk Radio’s Social Media Director, I love when we do a show about the Internet. Hearing Biz Stone tell Neil deGrasse Tyson his war stories about co-founding Twitter or, in tomorrow night’s podcast, listening to Arianna Huffington describe how The Huffington Post elevated blogging, is right in my wheelhouse. (I wanted to use ‘bailiwick’ but who even knows what that word means anymore?)

In a world that can be given to techno panic, when it’s easy to think that all your secrets are about to be exposed by the government, your bank accounts drained by hackers, your comments attacked by trolls, and your private photographs spread across the Internet by your ex, it’s nice to hear hopeful optimism from informed sources like Arianna Huffington or from Jeff Jarvis, our in-studio guest.

Jarvis is the founder of the BuzzMachine blog, and a professor of Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. (You may also know him for one of his books, What Would Google Do?)

In addressing the concerns from Neil and comic co-host Chuck Nice about online security, credit card breaches, and privacy, Jeff explains that we need a new approach to deal with cybercrime, not to throw up our hands helplessly and abandon the Internet.

“It was 50 years after the invention of the printing press before the book took on the form we know now. It was 150 years before anyone invented the idea of a newspaper. It was 400 years before we got mass media. We don’t know what the Internet is yet. It is too young. It is too soon to define it and limit it and regulate it. We need to understand what this wonderful new thing can do.”

And then there are the trolls. Arianna explained how, in spite of great comment management algorithms and 30 human moderators, The Huffington Post was losing their war on trolls. So they simply stopped allowing anonymous comments.

Jeff took it in a different direction, explaining Godwin’s Law, and that “Don’t Feed the Trolls” isn’t just a message to moderators, but that everyone has to share in the responsibility of not encouraging trolling by not directing attention to their comments, however entertaining they might be.

One idea that emerges clearly from this episode is that the Internet is just another stage on which the human drama plays out in all its forms. Yes, it has unique aspects that create both challenges and benefits, but for all that, it’s just a tool, and what we do online says more about who we are as a species than it does about the specifics of the Internet itself.

My favorite quote of the entire episode also came from Jeff, who said, “There have always been bozos, fools and idiots on Earth. You can hear them a little easier now.”

Join us for The Digital Revolution with Arianna Huffington this Sunday, August 9 at 7:00 PM EDT on our website, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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