Tag Archives: Internet

When the Internet is Stupid

This would have been a few-line comment on G+, but I’m noting some things that I’m not comfortable saying without sourcing, and google plus’ stupid one-link-per-post system makes it impossible to do that. This is all, at the very least, uncomfortable to think about.

I’ve been watching the reddit/kiddie porn kerfuffle today, and it is a nice framework to think about some recurring social issues. Just to put a summary and disclaimer up front exploiting children is unequivocally bad but that is never what the discussion ends up being about.

It makes a fabulous internet microcosm example of the usual course of pedophilia accusations: There are some distasteful (but, apparently, for the most part not illegal) things posted, someone notices, and it immediately turns into axe-grinding, bandwagoning, and trying to shut down an entire site because OMG think of the children irreparably harmed by possibly sexualized images of possibly minors. I’ll go ahead and note that there was some genuinely bad shit showing up, but the standard “take down anything that is illegal in the jurisdiction our servers are in” mechanism that has to be handled anywhere there is user submitted content should have been catching that – and justly needs to be fixed anywhere it wasn’t.
The fact that SomethingAwful is leading the charge, and is a for-pay internet community (notably, one that used to be a big hub of ‘net culture and …isn’t very relevant lately) even gets the ubiquitous “using accusations for ulterior purposes” aspect in.

The related discussions are rolling into the various corners of
Legalizing child pornography is linked to lower rates of child sex abuse and Australia banning pornography featuring small-breasted women as CP messes (both from 2010), and the whole “why the fuck is Toddlers in Tiaras OK” issue that remind us how stupid the whole area has become.

It also makes an interesting study about legality and the Internet. Pretty much every part of the Internet condones things that are regionally illegal, be it political speech, prohibited drugs, copyright infringement, various flavors of hate speech, or pornography. Different sections of our global society feel differently about all those things, and calls for selective condemnation tend to lack the self-awareness to note that the same moralizing applied to the parts they approve of would be reprehensible. To pick the easiest example: the United States cheering online political speech and social modernization/liberalization in the middle east during the “Arab Spring” while advancing Internet censorship in most other circles.
The fact that international law still can’t handle telecommunications too often makes concerns about legality of publicly visible content into a race to the most restrictive – or at least race to the biggest bully – situation. I have no idea what the solution to that is, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it will have to be a technical solution with resignment to a certain acceptable level of transgression by all parties.

Once again, I hate how Richard Stallman keeps being right (I’ve seen better versions of the point, but can’t find a link) about horrible things.

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Dear web designers: Stop breaking my browser.

I’ve been running in to more and more sites which attempt to override browser features for no apparent reason. We know you can do all kinds of fancy things with CSS and EMCAScript, but that doesn’t mean you should. To pick out two examples I’ve hit in the last few minutes:

The Verge: Uses some sort of dynamic scrolling mechanism, so my scrollbars (and hence indication of length and position) disappear. There is no reason to do that, and it removes features you would otherwise get for free from the browser.

Gmail: For some reason, searches are done with a dynamic page, so the browser’s back button doesn’t take you back to where you were before the search, and even worse, hitting back from a message in the search results doesn’t take you back to the search results. They even replicated the back button in the interface bar because this is obviously how it should work. I leave a persistent Gmail tab up, and probably 1/3 of its reloads are because of this misfeature.

As my adviser is fond of reminding us, you could build a car with a tiller and throttle as easily as a wheel and pedals, and in the early days people did, but we (as a society) picked some acceptable standard interface elements to ease adoption and transitioning between vehicles. Until recently, browsers were one of the few places in computing like that: it didn’t matter what (GUI) platform you were on: the scroll bar moved you around in the page content, and the forward and back buttons moved you between pages you visited in chronological order. Now, the net is full of pages that break that paradigm, and I can’t find any compelling reason to do so beyond “Because we can.” Please stop.

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