Internet a forum in need of value system

MORE THAN 700 people have joined a Facebook page set up last week in support of two footballers accused of pack raping two teenage girls at Phillip Island in Victoria.

The site bandies about the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in an attempt to suspend judgment of the men accused of rape.

It is a fine sentiment and the cornerstone of our legal system.

However, it loses its integrity when the very same internet site defames the girls who were allegedly raped.

The internet is increasingly becoming a forum on which all manner of hateful sentiments get an airing.

The impact of this should not be underestimated, particularly in light of the evidence given over the course of the inquest into the suicide of Kadina High student Alex Wildman.

People often post comments on the internet they would never say to a person’s face.

Yet accusations, threats and taunts made on the internet do not remain in the realm of the internet. They cause real harm to real people in the real world.

The police are becoming more adept at prosecuting people involved in crimes facilitated by the internet, such as possession and distribution of child pornography.

But total regulation of what appears on the internet is not possible, even if it were deemed to be desirable.

The best way to regulate the forum is through the forum itself. Bloggers should not turn a blind eye to unacceptable sentiments just because they are aired in cyberspace.

As the internet now permeates modern life, so too must society’s values permeate the material which appears on the internet.

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