Over the past few years, the debate over internet regulation has become more heated. There are many different ways to approach regulating the internet but enforcing the regulations is the part that would be difficult, if even possible. Most people agree that there does need to be some form of regulation for the internet, but how can something that is used all the time, all around the world, and used by billions of people be regulated?
There are two main competing views on how to approach this problem. One approach is that the government should establish laws to regulate certain content on the internet. This approach runs into stiff criticism from people due to limitations on free speech. Who would determine whether something would be allowed to be posted online? I find the government to be a vague and unsatisfactory answer. Another problem that arises with government regulation of the internet and social media is that the government works to slowly, especially if it would be dealing with something as fast and ever changing as the internet. The government is not adaptable enough to keep up with the speed in which new technology arrive and the way in which people use it. Another problem that comes up with government regulation is that the internet is a worldwide product. Would each country come up with their own set of regulations? Some countries already heavily regulate the internet content inside their borders, such as North Korea and China. Once you start down the path of government regulation, where would would it stop? Where would the line be for acceptable material and not acceptable material?
The other popular approach to regulation is self regulation. This means that the social media sites and the like monitor and regulate themselves before the government decides to do it for them. It would be easier for administrators of sites to regulate themselves than having people from the government regulate all the sites. Of course the problem of where the line would be still would exist, but it would be up to the people who created and operate the site to determine the content they will allow instead of having someone else decide for them. Only the government is prohibited from blocking speech, not the administrators of particular sites.
There is always the option of what John Palfrey calls the open internet. This is very few restrictions and regulations, if any at all. It is almost like an anything goes attitude. This is a risky approach because all kinds of violent, graphic, and sexual content would be available to anyone, including children who should not be allowed to view it.
I tend to think self regulation is the best approach but in reality there is no perfect way to solve this problem. Some people will be upset no matter what approach is taken. Enforcing the regulations is a problem as well. Would there be a punishment for posting material deemed unfit for viewing? Self regulation sounds like a nice theory but in practice would it really work?