Sometime around last week, I came across a comment made by one of the politicians in Singapore in his Facebook comment. To put it briefly, he asks if there should be “codes of conduct for internet usage, to ensure that the internet can be a trusted platform for collaborating and sharing.”
I believe this comment could have come in the aftermath of rumors spreading around rapidly about him on various websites and social media platforms. As we all know how powerful the viral effect of the online world can be nowadays, a simple picture or video online, speak more than a thousand, or even a million words. However, the truth has been revealed that the rumor is false.
When he made the comment on Facebook, I am actually quite surprised that he though of having codes of conduct on internet usage, with main purpose to
get people to share ‘TRUE’ information, and not spread rumors virally around, till it seems to be true. I did actually commented to his status, but i think it is deeply buried in the 400+ replies by other netizens too.
Why Codes of Conduct does not work online
Actually, I don’t know what kind of codes of conduct can be implemented to internet usage. By we can safely assume that some conduct may include ‘don’t spread baseless rumors’, ‘share only the truth, and only the truth’,’only share information from trusted sources’.
However, regardless of how many codes of conduct we might come up with, I don’t think it will work in anyway in ensuring ‘only the truth, and only the truth’ to be shared online. Simply because we are in an online world where there are virtually NO boundaries!
Alright, there might be some obvious boundaries, like no insulting or defaming a public figure, no writing of posts that mark spark racial or religious controversies, or anything that threatens the security and stability of a country. But for sharing of reliable information, how useful can the codes of conduct be? Firstly, who will follow these codes of conduct so closely? What if they don’t follow them?
Truths are useless if there are no rumors!
Let’s be honest here. Who don’t like to listen to rumors, false information or conspiracy theories? Even though I can say that these things are stupid, and doesn’t add any value to our lives, but it is something we want to have in our lives! Our lives are just so boring if we are only allowed to read those ‘politically correct’ stuffs in our national newspaper of new channels.
There are lots of companies, online or offline, which write content which are baseless, and mostly are just pure assumptions, to attract readers to read them. There are hundreds of such companies and websites online that write purely on gossips and rumors, and attract millions of viewers worldwide, because they know people love to read these kind of stuffs, and they spread further and faster than normal news.
Furthermore, rumors are important too, because without them, how can we know the truths? I may sound illogical here, but you see, without people starting to spread rumors that Barack Obama is not a US citizen, how would we know that Barack Obama is a true US citizen, when he showed up his birth certificate in public? This probably goes the same for Mr Chan. If there’s no rumors spread about him if he’s related to the Lee family, how would he know he is not?
But sharing rumors may influence decisions of others!
No doubt that baseless facts and rumors can cause damage, in terms of losing trust in that person or losing sales from customers. A simple rumor that says that using iPhone4 can cause brain and breast cancer can cost Apple to lose millions of dollars (Don’t believe me, this is just an example!!)
But what we need here to prevent someone from being influenced by baseless information, is not to set up internet code of conduct or guidelines. Rather, we should educate people on how to think and absorb information critically, everywhere, not just online.
Whether a piece of information is true or not is not determined by the writer who writes it, but is determined by the reader who reads it. So what if the writer follows the internet code of conduct and share information that he thought is true, it can be considered as a false piece of information by the reader who absorbs the information. (He can say that Osama bin laden is still alive, and all the news in the world are just lying about his death!!)
Coming to this era when you can find almost anything you want online (probably except countries’ top secret information), it is really hard to put guidelines on what should be shared and what’s not. Instead, emphasis can be put on how to educate our people, starting from the youths, to think critically into certain information and not accept the information just from its surface value.
Why I write this post
The reason I write this post, is not mainly to highlight the issue about codes of conduct of internet usage, but is more of learning how to think critically and make wise decisions. The online world is full of information today and it has the power to shape our thoughts if we chose to absorb the wrong type of information.
So with me writing thus far, please do not accept all that I have written here. You may or may not know me personally, but either way, it is still wiser for you to gather your own thoughts and opinions, and think deeper into the information I’ve shared here, ‘cos I know you are a critical thinker. 🙂