Now That Chat Rooms Are Banned, Let's Get Rid Of Mobile Phones Too

from the calm-down,-people dept

It seems that some people will never understand the difference between the technology itself and doing something bad with the technology. They love to blame the technology for the action – and that’s why we end up with policies banning useful technologies just because some people might misuse them. Following yesterday’s news that MSN was shutting down its chat rooms, childrens’ watchdog groups started cheering – without thinking through what they were saying. As we mentioned at the time, it’s not like kids (and the “bad elements” MSN says caused this) won’t go find other places to chat where there will be even less monitoring. Now, however, one of the groups proudly welcoming Microsoft’s move is now saying that we need to go further and deal with the “problem” presented by children using mobile phones – which are described as being even more dangerous than chat rooms. It seems that these mobile phones are simply evil because they allow pedophiles to contact children all the time. Notice that it’s the mobile phones and the mobile internet that are being blamed and not the pedophiles who deserve the blame. Whatever happened to educating children on potential dangers and raising them in a way that they know better than to end up dealing with pedophiles? People need to remember it’s not the technology that is the problem, but the people using it for such reasons.

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Comments on “Now That Chat Rooms Are Banned, Let's Get Rid Of Mobile Phones Too”

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MissinLnk says:


What gets me about people that fight against stuff like this (new technology) is that a lot of times, they won’t even argue their point. They’ll just go and say “no, you’re wrong and I’m right” without ever saying WHY they’re right and debating why they think you’re wrong. It’s like debating a talking parrot; it’s just repeating what it’s supposed to repeat without really understanding what it’s saying. Frustrates the hell out of me.

Patrick says:

Protect us from ourselves

This is a common theme across the board, not just with technology. The underlying assumption is that people are stupid, and need to be protected from themselves. Forget about responsibility. Look at the current state of tort law in this country–where people have successfully sued for spilling hot coffee in their laps!? Unfortunately, too many in the government are happy to jump on this bandwagon. Pedophiles contacting children in chat rooms? Shut down the chat rooms. People shooting others with guns? No, don’t hold them accountable–give them a lighter sentence than a computer hacker would receive, and outlaw the guns.

In a free society individuals must be held responsible. Freedom can’t exist without responsibility.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Protect us from ourselves

I’m not sure if saying, whoa, let’s not go after technology and blame the criminals instead is such a good idea in ALL cases.

Does the argument that chat rooms don’t molest kids but people molest kids hold any water? Sure. What about guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Uh, not really. I think most people realize that the gun one is pretty weak.

Treating all technologies the same with respect to the danger they might pose versus how useful they are otherwise seems like a poor idea. I think it just makes the argument for saving chat rooms that much easier to attack sucessfully.

And the responsibility thing is really just one step from saying, hey, why is driving drunk illegal? When are people gonna learn to take responsibility for their actions and just walk home? Obviously, there are some things the government has to do to protect us from ourselves.

Patrick says:

Re: Re: Protect us from ourselves

First of all, I was not lumping everything under ‘technology’, nor was I advocating that all technology should be treated the same. My point was that taking away responsibility and freedom in the name of public safety is not a phenomenon exclusive to technology; it’s a widespread problem.

Secondly, guns DON’T kill people. People kill people. Yeah, really. Maybe people in certain circles think this is a weak argument; however, it’s an even weaker argument that guns are the cause, as opposed to being a tool.

The real issue is a question of balance between an individual’s rights and the public interest. These two sides can be seen as a constant, where more sway for one necessitates a corresponding lesser amount for the other. In a society that attempts to maintain freedom for the individual, I believe we should always error on the side of caution when negating rights in the public interest.

Finally, the expectation is not that all people should take responsibility for their actions (this would be ideal, but unlikely to occur). It’s about having a philosophy governing the edicts of society in which the individual is held accountable, and the blame isn’t shifted to a technology or inanimate object. Blaming chat rooms and guns is the equivalent of holding the car and/or the alcohol responsible for drunk driving.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Protect us from ourselves

First of all, to Mrs. Education and/or Enlightment, I’m sorry, you’re totally right. Your insulting one-line cliche of a response has totally changed my opinion on this matter. For that, I thank you.

To Mr. Patrick, I think I agree with you on most counts. Except for a couple things:

You say we should always err on the side of caution. That’s just it. I don’t think we should always do anything. Every situation is different. Guns are different from chat rooms, although both can be grouped under the umbrella of technology. We should probably consider each situation separately and avoid rules of thumb such as this one where we always do one thing over the other.

So maybe in case of drunk driving we should error on the side of negating rights and in the case of chat rooms we shouldn’t. They’re two completely different things and no blanket answer works all of the time.

Oh, and to really open this old bucket of worms. Guns do too kill people. I mean, that’s what they’re for. It says so on the box. Uses: shoot people or make them think that you might. Whereas chat rooms are not explicitly designed for purposes of child abuse. Obviously, this is an old worn-out argument. Next up: abortion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Protect us from ourselves

By saying we should error on the side of caution, I didn’t intend this statement in the sense you mean. I refer to a general tendency to hold individual rights in (slightly) higher esteem than the public interest, if only because it is so difficult to regain those rights once lost. They can always be taken away by the overzealous.
Speaking in an entirely literal sense, I will grant that guns kill people. As do cars, alcohol, knives, cigarettes, fatty foods, etc. What I speak of is intent and accountability, something we can not attribute to these items. In some cases, after weighing the loss to individual freedom versus the public good, we may choose to limit access to such items. However, since individual rights are far easier taken away than granted or restored, I believe this should give some added weight to the side of individual freedom.
Also, guns are not manufactured solely for the purpose of killing people. However, even were that the case, consider the following.
A primary function of society is the equalization of its individual members, a function of the individual’s rights. Rights are not inherent or intrinsic to a person. These are only granted by the general agreement of society that it is wrong for the strongest to dominate and take away the property or infringe upon the will of others. Would Bill Gates be a billionaire in an anarchic world? Most likely not–geeks in general would get their asses kicked. Guns are, therefore, a physical manifestation that upholds this principal, without which an equal society would be a much more difficult proposition. Take away tools that offer the threat of harm, and what are you left with? We could still have a police force, but not one with any women, or any men for that matter that wouldn’t be in the running for professional football. Thus, guns (or other life-threatening/harming items) are necessary for our society to exist. And, it’s not enough they be granted only to governmental agencies, unless we’re willing to concede the infallibility of such.
Finally, I don’t buy the ‘old bucket of worms’. I found an abundance of this kind of thinking in college, and I find it no less repulsive now. “There’s no sense arguing politics, abortion, religion, etc, because these are people’s basic beliefs and shouldn’t be trodden on” or some such hogwash. Ethical relativism can be used to justify any sort of behaviour. What’s right for us may not be right for others?–well, maybe it was OK for the Germans to attempt to exterminate the Jews, then. Without some absolutes, and people willing to take a stand on such, apathy will reign supreme. Many times people cling dogmatically to an ideology merely because it was presented to them at an early age, and they never had the independance of thought to question it. Since you bring it up, abortion is a very good example. On one hand we have the pro-lifers screaming “how can we allow these babies to be murdered?” and on the other the pro-choice “how can we allow the government to dictate what we do with our bodies?”. Both sides are “pro”, an irrational, emotional appeal–they could be anti-baby and anti-choice. I would bet fewer than one in one hundred activists on either side could express the real issues–as in, the true definition of a “person”, i.e., under what circumstances is abortion the removal of undesired tissue from the woman’s body, and under what circumstances is it the killing of a human being? Or, does the fact that the tissue will develop into a human being change the situation?–and countless other takes. I have read some very good essays on the subject from both sides, and found them fascinating, and far from ‘an old worn-out argument’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Protect us from ourselves

You’ve made a lot of points, some of them pertained to what I was saying, some didn’t. Let’s start from the top.

Individual rights should always be held in higher esteem because it’s so difficult to regain them once they’re lost. You state that as an absolute truth without backing it up. What is the evidence that individual rights are more difficult to regain than the rights of the public? Obivously, they’re hard to regain. But harder than going too far the other way? That’s something you’ll need to prove if you’re going to state it as fact.

For example. Can you try to imagine the public outcry if the government decided to introduce license plates today? It would absolutely never happen. But the benefit of having license plates is huge.

Guns. Let’s try this again. When you buy a car, nowhere on the sticker does it say “to kill people or make them think that you might”. I believe the same applies to knives, baseball bats, safety pins and 20 inch rubber dildos. Handguns are the only item on this list that are made to kill people or make them think that you will. Note that I never said their sole purpose was to kill, I did mention that they’re also made to intimidate.

What I also did not say is that I am advocating a gun-free society, although maybe it appeared that I implied that. I agree with that stuff about Bill Gates.

However, at the end of that paragraph you bring out another argument as inalienable truth. Namely, that the only way to make sure authorities don’t get out of hand is by owning guns ourselves. Why do people always state this as if it were handed down to them on a stone tablet from God? No other way can ever exist? It’s incocievable? Why do people feel no need to prove that?

Alright, what else we got. Ah, yes, the bucket of worms. Well, of course it’s useful to discuss stuff like that, and in an ideal world it might make a difference. But it rarely does. Not that basic beliefs shouldn’t be trodden on. I never said that. But, really, you’re not gonna change anyone’s mind. That’s all I was acknowledging by saying that.

And, really, do I need to bring up the old adage that the first person to bring up Hitler or the Nazis in an argument automatically loses? I’m sure you’re familiar with that one. I think your point could’ve been as easily made without it.

Patrick says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Protect us from ourselves

You are correct–the statements about rights being more difficult to regain requires support/clarification. An important part of this argument lies in the inseparable nature of rights and responsibility; as you have not disputed this point, I will assume you agree. An analogy that immediately comes to mind is that of an employee’s relationship with their supervisor. There is a basic distinction that can be made of most all supervisors–namely, if they “micromanage”. By constantly issuing nitpick orders and looking over shoulders, the micromanager is directly assuming responsibility for their employees’ job functions, rather than letting the employees take on a measure of this responsibility themselves. A non-micro type of manager taking over these employees would likely be dissatisfied with many of them. It’s difficult, at best, to return this sense of individual responsibility. Maybe some of this behaviour could be attributed to laziness; after all, having big brother looking over your shoulder and taking on all responsibility makes life simpler and easier in many ways. However, it seems to me to be more than that. Another example–the speed limits on Montana highways, as in 4 or 5 other states I believe, were not posted with a set limit until the 55 mph federal conservation limit was imposed. When the federal limit was lifted, Montana speed limits reverted to “reasonable and prudent”. Prior to set limits, this had not been a problem. After, however, a small minority of people insisted that 110+ mph was reasonable for them, and they should not have been ticketed. Eventually the r&p limit was declared unenforceable by the courts, and set limits were imposed. While these examples deal with rights or responsibility indirectly, they illustrate how limitations, once set, seem to lessen the ability of individuals to set reasonable limits themselves, and require governmental limits to be enforced in perpetuity. These are simplifications, but I believe the basic tenets can be applied to individual rights. I don’t see complications of any comparable sort in the regaining of rights in the public interest. Also, it seems that our legislative processes are far more conducive to the restriction of individual rights than the restoration thereof.

Next–I might concede, in certain circumstances, that the primary purpose of some HAND-guns is homocide, or the threat of such. However, I fail to see how this is relevant if we agree that some means is necessary to provide for the physical inequities among individuals.

I was not advocating that the only way to keep authorities in line is to own guns ourselves. I will stipulate that it does provide an effective deterrent from the abuse of power, however. This was not handed down on a stone tablet from God, but from the framers of the Constitution, who seemed to think it necessary for the preservation of state and individual rights. But, I abhor ‘founder/framer’ arguments for the same reasons you expound above. I could add the adage of ‘power corrupts’, but instead we can look to history and human nature. By allowing only those in power, or positions of authority, access to the means of enforcing their will–then yes, I do believe we open ourselves up to all kinds of corruption and abuses of power.

Also, by calling the infallibility of government enforcement into question, I was not just referring to authorities ‘getting out of hand’, but to their inability to protect every one all the time, and the right of the individual to protect him- or herself. I think I have established, per my earlier post, the necessity of a tool to make up for physical inequalities in the enforcement of society’s laws. As the western movie cliche goes–God may have created man, but Sam Colt made them all equal.

Finally, I see no problem using the spectre of genocide to combat ethical relativism and apathy. If you prefer, substitute the Bosnia conflict for Hitler/Nazism.

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