OPINION: Should the internet be regulated for our and others’ own safety?

In the past, or, to put it more directly, back when I wasn’t even an idea, the internet was an expansive canvas for people to use as a tool to reach and talk to others. This includes early precursors to some of our greatest areas of interest resided in technology across the World Wide Web. Many facets that reside on the internet platform include but aren’t limited to social networking and dating sites, stock prices, banking information and even games on sites that will age me like Poptropica, Webkinz and AddictingGames.com.

The internet was a haven, so to speak, for many to use, young and old generations alike, to engage and interact with the many facets of life that were once deemed only reachable in person. While nowadays we are more cognizant of the internet now that we can use it in more ways than ever before, 20-30 years ago things were looking up for the internet. Now, I’m a bit worried about the current state of the internet. Granted, the internet still acts as a platform for good in this world with social causes and awareness campaigns for many to give relief for causes like the Australian fires to racial injustice, but I’m still wary about what the internet has indirectly caused.

With our increased hours inside, increased tensions have been dispersed between people of all walks of life for issues big and small from topics in politics to Dr. Seuss of all things. I won’t talk about those specifically here because unlike a number of people on the internet, I’ll admit I know nothing about those topics and don’t wanna waste time on matters I don’t see in my control directly. What I want to bring up is the debate currently pertaining to if the internet currently in 2021 is used entirely for the right reasons.

Some aspects that we know of now are definitely looked at under tinted glasses, as when the WWW was invented decades ago issues such as cyberbullying, cybercrime, dark/deep web fostering and other issues weren’t “known of” back in the ’80s and ’90s. I get concerned when sometimes the internet and even social media work around the loudest voices first rather than the right ones. For instance, it’s because of the internet rather than news and newspapers of the past that many of us know figures on YouTube and celebrities from the likes of Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Alex Jones, the Paul brothers and others with eccentric personalities over people in high positions in science or industry. Figures like those aforementioned have garnered within themselves a cult of personality within themselves with their audience being across many different demographics across each of them (i.e such as the unethical and frankly loud former Disney stars and former Ohioans Logan and Jake Paul catching eyes of many pre-teens despite their adverse content against decency). I’m not saying we are at fault for this (completely at least), but the internet creates correlations across figures like Alex Jones and the Paul brothers or entertainers like Daniel “Tekashi 6ix9ine” Hernandez for what they represent and are a part of. As a result, platforms like YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud and other platforms that carry hip-hop or music took some hits from their connection to these people by proxy whenever a bad story came from the resolute celebrity/entertainer. 

I’m all for free speech as a former stand-up comic as it adheres to not promoting violence and hatred. I’m against blatant hatred and verbal abuse that the internet has overseen a great deal of over the past. It’s frankly very poor how the internet has tried to mitigate such actions as someone who is a part of the sometimes volatile online gaming and YouTube community.

The problem isn’t going away anytime soon with one-fifth of kids being bullied happens on social media and 59 percent of teens stating they’ve experienced it, per a 2018 survey. If you want to look into some cases as to how this all happens, you can check out and read about six cyberbullying cases here as these only account for the stories that were told and investigated, with many others who haven’t been looked into as the stigma around mental health persists in many. The veil the internet provides allows people to say the most venomous and flagrant things to complete strangers sometimes, and it is appalling to me that this is still going on and the best people can give in terms of advice is to walk it off. It’s never that easy sometimes, as some people I know have had long-term effects from this mantra and from constant cyberbullying. 

Other issues pertaining to other matters are kids seeing inappropriate content on accident or without merit on commercial platforms like YouTube and Facebook, a matter that caught even more fire after the rise of OnlyFans and inappropriate content on the former from the exploitative to the abusive. Part of me wants to place blame on the internet but also it’s up to the parents to not raise them with ample amounts of technology in contrast to face-to-face engagement, but that’s just what I think and other studies back up. In short, the internet should provide more motions toward stopping radicals from cultivating online through their capabilities, minimize cyberbullying activity across its widespread coverage space and above all mitigate the amount of damage that some cultivated figures can do thanks to the internet’s services and ability to push what is shared rather than what’s right.

Regulating the internet via the government has many caveats to it, as worry may arise in how much they regulate it and what may be “censored” potentially. Some would say that current organizations trying to regulate content are inhibiting its content creators such as YouTube, Spotify and Twitch, but those can be solved on a more direct level with them instead of a slower government-based process. What I want is for the derived parties on the internet to take ownership of its faults within its platform that used to be completely safe and sound and now resembles, in some areas, a wasteland of what it used to be and hold.

Gregory Hess is an opinion writer. Contact him at [email protected]