Do We Want a Free Internet?
On the fall of Kiwifarms, internet censorship and freedom in the #MeToo era.
The campaign to drop Kiwifarms began a few weeks ago when Keffals, a streamer, was "SWAT"-ed and doxed by members of the website. People have been murdered in SWAT-ing incidents. This leads me to wonder why groups of adolescents are able to order small battalion hits on internet streamers. Why and how is this even possible?
There is a notion in our society that anonymous discussion forums such as 4chan and Kiwifarms are responsible for the radicalization of disenfranchised young men. In fact, many mass shooters have used these platforms to post their manifestos. I am in no way lauding the culture of these platforms. However, it's apparent that they are a symptom of a large, unaddressed issue rather than the cause. The solution to this problem is tricky.
Disgraced British Television presenter, Jimmy Savile, was able to assault hundreds of children for decades. He was protected by the British Monarchy, Government officials like PM Thatcher, and ultimately centralized state media--BBC. It was only until victims shared their experiences on decentralized anonymous web forums that the truth was unleashed.
Most recently under #MeToo scrutiny is Nickelodeon's Dan Schneider. For the past decade, the producer has become a meme on websites like 4chan. It was on the anonymous forum that rumors about his harassment of child starlets first came to light. These rumors were denounced as 'conspiracy theories' and bullying of Schneider. Only recently, as Jeanette McCurdy and other child starlets have come out, has there been mainstream attention to the actions of Schneider.
While these are outlier examples, they highlight the power that the internet has. Most importantly, small-hosted anonymous communication platforms.
For the first time in human history, we are able to communicate with one another and share information freely. Without the constraints of land borders or media censorship. It is unfortunate that bad elements on the internet target people like Keffals, children, and other minorities. These hate campaigns are horrifying.
I am ambivalent about the fall of Kiwifarms. It probably caused far more harm than good. I'm sure the dozens of people the website harassed are relieved that Cloudflare has dropped them. Yet I can't help but worry that in the pursuit of safety that we'll gladly give up freedom. Perhaps in a truly free society, we have to sacrifice safety. On the flip side, we probably have to give up freedoms for overall comfort. As we(humans) navigate this new technology-driven world, this issue is only going to become more prevalent.
Our society is in a pivotal stage. The internet is the greatest invention in the modern age. It rivals fire, written language, and the wheel in its importance. It will change the world in ways we don't fully understand yet.