The Murky Underbelly of The Web
Cleaning Up The Internet
As the Webmaster and Editor of Savvy
Women's Magazine, I love my job. Like most other
savvy webmasters, my days are taken up with tweaking
pages, adding content, reading all the newsletters I
subscribe to, and the myriad other little chores we
webmasters get up to during the day - taking coffee
breaks, playing with the cat, twiddling our thumbs and
thinking up grandiose new schemes to rocket us into the
So most of the time I exist in my own blissful little webmaster world, oblivious of the murky waters that lie just below the wafer-thin surface of my otherwise peaceful, ethical and righteous vocation.
But scratch the surface - and mark my words, you don't have to scratch it very hard - you'll find a whole other dimension under your fingernails. Like climbing through a portal, you are presented with an alternate universe. A grotesque, disturbing, degrading smutty world of um, how shall I say it? utter degeneracy. What I'm talking about is the OTHER side of the Internet - the side where every fetish, every indecent, humiliating and obscene notion ever dreamed up by us humans is catered for.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a knockabout, shoot-from-the-hip kinda gal that likes my coffee straight up. I'm also a firm believer in the notion of "whatever gets you going is fine by me", as long as you stay out of my territory. I AM NOT a bible-thumping wowser by any stretch of the imagination.
But therein lies the problem - this OTHER Web World that is constantly shoved in my face, whether I like it or not. To paraphrase Peter Finch in the movie 'Network', "I don't want to take this anymore!" And the reason I don't want to take this anymore has nothing to do with any quaint notions about my delicate femaleness, or the fact that I'm a wife and mother, or that I consider myself to have gathered a few brownie points throughout my life. It's because in the offline world I wouldn't have to put up with the murkiness.
Sure, I understand we human beings are a pretty mixed
bag and have all sorts of foibles and fetishes, but they
are usually catered for behind closed doors, in back
alleys or wrapped inside plain brown paper packages
delivered by the UPS guy. They ARE NOT and SHOULD NOT be
on display every couple of days when I check my junk
mail for misdirected emails. They SHOULD NOT be on
display when I inadvertently mistype a URL and end up on
a page with animals participating in activities human
nature obviously never intended, and they SHOULDN'T be
available when I (in my naivet') type a simple word like
"woman" into a keyword search tool.
But the point that saddens and frightens me the most is that as an adult I can deal with it and move on, but what about our children? My son is at an age where I have no doubt he either has or will very soon be looking up porn images on screen when he thinks I'm not looking (don't kids realize mothers have eyes in the back of their heads?) Sure, we've had the mother/son talk about it and what it all means and it's degrading to humans etc etc, but am I being a wowser (or even worse - a hypocrite) by begging him not to do it? Gosh, I'd be happy - although frightfully embarrassed - to go out and buy him a plastic wrapped girlie magazine before I'd give him my blessings to search porn on the Internet.
And it's not just porn we're talking here, it's all the other degrading, humiliating and, let's face it, dangerous stuff we're trying to tackle. I can't quote figures or statistics because I dare not go there, but you only have to look at the percentage of acceptable versus non-acceptable phrases you uncover in any keyword search tool for a seemingly innocuous word like "business woman" to know this is BIG. This is BIGGER than BIG. And that's with the Adult Filter turned ON. Heaven only knows what I'd be exposed to if I turned the filter off -- and it makes me very angry.
So my question is : Where are the watchdogs? Unlike the offline world where controls and legislations supposedly keep us under control, who polices the Internet? No matter how dangerous, how cruel, inhumane, offbeat, grotesque or any one of a hundred other adjectives you may wish to apply, and no matter that its illegal or immoral in the real world, online it's a free for all. Why do I and thousands of others like me, have to be exposed to this simply because I've chosen a fascinating career on the Internet? Is that the price we have to pay?
I don't have the answers, heck, I don't even fully understand the question. But what I do know is that the Internet cannot continue to operate as it has done and is continuing to do. When asked the question recently at a business meeting being held for Webmasters, "Where is the Internet headed in 5 or 10 years time?" I raised some of the points I've mentioned, to the shock and indignation of some members present. Like ostriches, I think they (like so many other webpreneurs who could make such an impact) would prefer to keep their heads firmly planted in the sand. The classic "if I ignore it I can pretend it's not really happening" scenario.
Note: I feel very strongly about this issue and have launched my own one-woman campaign at Petition Online. If you feel as I do, go to this link: http://new.PetitionOnline.com/murky56/petition.html and add your name in support of this cause.