Earth to Craig Newmark: what Internet are you on?

Earth to Craig Newmark: what Internet are you on?

Summary: Craig Newmark things people on the Internet is trustworthy and "deeply okay". He obviously hasn't been reading the news recently. What, we wonder, would Craig have to say about live suicides on the Internet or the quadrupling of serious child abuse cases online. Earth to Craig -- what Internet are you on?

TOPICS: Browser

I heard Craig Newmark on the radio today. Schlumpy Craig, as New York magazine calls him, was on NPR's All Things Considered laying out his theory of human nature. Humans are OK, a  smiling Craig reassures us:

 I used to share the cynicism common to many nerds: that people were frequently malicious and opportunistic. But, of course, you don't get treated well wearing a plastic pocket protector and thick, black glasses taped together, and now, I get that. Years of customer service have changed the way I think about people. Now I believe that people are overwhelmingly trustworthy and deeply OK. I don't want to sound sanctimonious or syrupy....

No, Craig, you don't sound either sanctimonious or syrupy. You just sound as clueless as George Bush in the Green Zone. What Internet, I wonder, are you on?  Because it sure isn't the same Internet that the rest of us are looking at. Are you so Craigslist-centric, so intoxicated with your own self-congratulatory communitarianism, that you've failed to notice that the Internet is overflowing with malicious and opportunistic people ripping each off, spamming innocent e-mailers to death, buying and selling hard-core pornography, gambling illegally, flaming each other with hideous rhetorical violence on the blogosphere. 

So, for the sake of Craigslist-centric Craig, here's just a couple of news items from today's Guardian online which show, once and for all, that humans, particularly humans on the Internet, aren't OK:

1) Bobbie Johnson reports that serious online child abuse cases has quadrupled over the last three years. The Internet Watch Foundation processed 31,776 cases of illegal images on more than 3,000 websites (82% hosted in the US and Russia). Most of the images are of kids under 12. To be fair to Craig, he is making a serious effort to crack down on the exploitation of minors on Craigslist. But having just browsed the erotic services section of the Bay Area Craigslist, the word "young" comes up with a creepy frequency: New Asia Young Girls, Young Asian Nympho, Any Young Asian Gal like some assistance once in a while? etc etc. Craig might be convinced that the Internet provides us with that "sense of neighborhood and community" which we apparently "crave". But it's pretty obvious that many of us use the Internet to satisfy more primeval cravings. And not all of those cravings are legal.

2) James Harkin reports the story of Kevin Whitlock, a father of two who committed suicide live on the Internet last month. Whitlock hung himself in real-time, broadcasting the event on his webcam to an Internet chatroom. So much for user-generated-content. "Is this real" one chatroom spectator typed while others, apparently, "goaded" Whitlock on. Harkin links this hideous spectacle with Web 2.0"s "orgy of self-expression" which, he believes, is creating a "Cyburbia" that "thrives on feverish rumor and illicit sexual liaisons,populated by voyeurs, exhibitionists, amateur enthusiasts and even trainee terrorists."

So who's to blame for Cyburbia? Who is morally responsible for today's immoral Internet? In part, Harkin blames the Silicon Valley guys in charge of the Web 2.0 show:

 Partly to blame are the middle-aged men who run the media and business worlds, whose biggest fear is that technology might leave them and their careers behind. Then there are the disillusioned lefties, who have found in the rhetorical activism of the internet a new and less troublesome kind of politics than that which involved real people.

Craig is one of these middle-aged men -- part media mogul, part abstract leftie. Like Tim O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales and the other libertarian fathers of the Web 2.0 movement, Craig has got to take more moral responsibility for his own creation. Craig might be half saint and half cuddly nerd, but it's irresponsible for him to believe that the rest of the human race can live up to his alpine moral standards. All we need is a code of ethics, guys like Tim and Craig tell us. Meanwhile, the erotic services section of Craigslist attracts more than double the postings on any other category. Meanwhile, people are self-broadcasting their own suicides to Internet chatrooms. Meanwhile, serious child abuse on the Internet has tripled over the last three years. Meanwhile, bloggers threaten to sexually mutilate Kathy Sierra.

Yet on planet Newmark, people remain "overwhelmingly trustworthy and deeply OK." Earth to Craig: what Internet are you on?


Topic: Browser

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  • So what are you saying?

    You don't trust your own readers, friends, peers, comrades, etc.? Because those are the people using the "internet" of which you speak. You referred to some extreme, and disgusting, misuses of the internet. And when it comes to malware on the web, there is obviously a LOT! But, for all the "bad" people using the web for malicious purposes, there are millions more "good" people using the web for ... whatever suits their fancy.

    Everyone has their "dark side", but that doesn't make them a bad person. You speak as if there isn't a well-meaning soul alive. I urge you to rethink just what you are accusing your own readers of. I urge you to give deserving people the benefit of the doubt that you would certainly appreciate being given.
    • I agree

      The Internet just allows a minority of evil people to have a much greater voice.
  • The problem with the internet...

    ... is a substantial one. Tech-people, who are riding the cutting edge of the web technology and leading us into the future are not suitably prepared to solve the crisis. This problem is also a manifestation of more general and tradional social and political problems, which have been around since the beginning of history. New technology, like the web and tv, are sexposing the situation wolrdwide.

    We are not prepared as a society to deal with this. We are not prepared to study the problem thoroughly and orchestrate a global responce. We are not prepared to tell people like Tim O'Reilly, Bill Gates, Tim Berners Lee "Thank you for your contributions in technology and business, but you can't solve this so be quiet.". Tim's Code of conduct is a perfect example of how naive tech and business people are when it comes to social-political issues of major importance. Bill Gates' business profile is classified as 'heroic', but in his effort for world domination he held back OS technology and security by several decades. And, the father of internet, Berners Lee, in an interview in channel 4, UK, a couple of years ago stated that the internet is a great means for collaboration and research and exchanging ideas, and that he was not aware of all these pop-up windows with indescent content people are getting all the time!

    While out technology is currently in the 21st century, our human and political sciences are way behind - and frankly, they seem to be going backwards. We are in desperate need of intellectuals to take us out of the darkness once more. Anyone up for the role.

    PS: Mr Keen, I perticularly enjoyed 'You just sound as clueless as George Bush in the Green Zone'. Superb!
  • So long as no one thinks there's a solution.

    How often does it happen that people who want to protect their children spend a lot of time away from the children advocating for new restrictions their children will be proud to evade?

    If the internet is open to anyone who shows up, some of those who show up will not be welcomed by most people. Restrictions are challenges, not solutions, of course.

    That said, most people are not dangerous, nor toxic to those who encounter them. Recognizing that at least helps form a sense of proportion.

    People on the web are still people, even if some are more or less inhibited because of the connection.
    Anton Philidor
  • Was he talking about the Internet?

    If so, it doesn't show up in his quote. Turns out that I agree with the quote. While there are millions of slimeballs worldwide (many of whom prowl the Internet), I don't think they constitute more than a small percentage of the total population. Most people I run across are reasonably civil, even if I don't approve of everything they do, and remarkably few appear to be malicious. I still have yet to personally meet somebody that I thought was evil; I know they exist, but I don't think I've personally encountered one.

    Maybe Andrew needs to cultivate some old fashioned virtues of his own... like courtesy.
    John L. Ries
  • lop-sided analysis

    Let's take the numbers in raw... what percentage of traffic is performing illegal activity vs. legal activity? Thought so.

    What's the number of criminals to law abiding cits? Thought so.

    Unless you've worked for the secret service (my friend does), or NSA (I have), you probably will never have access to these hard numbers, so who are you to give anyone a reality check?

    Just another ranting blogger-- and this rant is lop sided at best, providing no comparative statistics to support or negate either argument.
  • That was nice of you....

    to use a good picture of him.