Compared to America’s Wild West, the internet slowly moved from laboratories, government offices, and college campuses to home computers. The internet, known as a lawless land, spread around the world when programming languages other than MSDOS appeared. The flow of information and the pioneers of cyberspace let everyone use it for free and the rules of the internet did not exist.
The birth of the internet
Search engines appeared and made finding information fast and easy, especially when Google went online. With Google, a new World Wide Web opened to everyone with a computer and internet service provider (ISP).
Then, in 1994, a new kind of website began popping up in the search results. A website that sold mostly books at discount prices: Amazon.com opened the internet to eCommerce in a big way. In 1994, the internet grew by an estimated 2300-percent.
Lawless and unorganized, the internet grew as dial-up connections and affordable home computers opened the World Wide Web for the masses. The changes started slowly but built momentum and e-commerce became the fastest growing industry in recorded history. In 1992, the internet had about 26 websites. By 1998, more than 750,000 commercial websites called the internet home.
The outlaws, hackers, spammers, and predators, found anonymity on the web and cyber criminals broke the laws of the land but went untouched on the internet.
Rules to define the internet’s free nature
In 2006, the group Anonymous posted the first rules of the internet. First, the list held 18-rules
Some of the rules are jokes that take lines from movies, music, and television. Other rules describe the darker side of the internet and a few, written by math geeks, are strings of equations or numbers.
The meme created by these internet pioneers and frequent cyber travellers tries to put meaning and boundaries to a world that grows larger each day. The original, rule of the internet:
- Do not talk about /b/
- Do NOT talk about /b/
These rules probably come from The Fight Club. Brad Pitt’s character tells newcomers to follow two rules: Do not talk about the fight club and see rule 1.
- We are Anonymous
- Anonymous is legion
- Anonymous never forgives
- Anonymous can be a senseless, horrible; an uncaring monster
These rules make up the group’s signature and motto for hacking raids and releases to the press.
They also speak of the deep web where anyone can roam anonymously and find anything from marijuana, a hit man, or child pornography. The users of the deep web exchange their country’s money for bitcoins, which cannot be traced and use them for online shopping,
Rule 8: There are no real rules about posting
Anyone can post anonymously or with a fake name on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many other websites. Although rule 8 of the internet talks about posting to specific sites, like 4chan and online roll-playing gaming sites, during which, a moderator may ban anyone whose posts do not meet their guidelines, it holds true for almost any website.
Social sites like Facebook and Twitter have made posting anonymously harder, but not impossible. Users can choose who can see their accounts by choosing one of three settings:
- Private: Only the account owner and accepted friends can see or post to the page
- Friends only: Accepted friends can see the page but no one else unless the owner accepts their friend request
- Public: Anyone can see the page and posts on it
Teenagers who use social media sites with these settings should always choose the private setting, and a parent needs to check the page often. Predators target teens who seem vulnerable and often teens post their life stories. A private profile protects kids from these criminals.
Rule 16: There are no GIRLS on the internet
The writer of this rule says paedophiles, perverts or cops use female screen names. No one can trust a person using a female screen name in chat rooms, gaming sites, or anywhere on the internet. Even today, more harassment and threats follow a post written under a female screen name than those with male screen names. They also draw the attention of cyberstalkers.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) defines cyberstalking as:
A pattern of threatening or malicious behaviours a person uses on the internet, through email or other means of electronic communications to stalk.
Anyone can become a victim of cyberstalking, bullying or harassment, but celebrities and women have a higher chance.
Cyberstalkers, like other stalkers, believe a celebrity speaks to them intimately through social media sites or picture posting websites. Some of the celebrities who had cyber stalkers include:
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Mila Kunis
Without international stalking treaties, Colin Mak Yew Loong ruined the careers of three women. Loong began cyberstalking opera singer Leandra Ramm in 2005 after watching her on television. The victim tried getting the help of United States authorities who said they could do nothing because the stalker lived in Singapore.
For 6-years, Ramm received threatening and intimidating emails. Loong also:
- Created hate-filled Facebook pages devoted to Ramm
- Harassed a Hungarian singer and Ukrainian musician during the same time
- Escalated his threats of violence through the 6-year period
With the help of a former FBI agent and perseverance, the international stalker will spend 3-years in prison and pay $5,000 in fines.
Statistics show the internet as a male dominant place where women often find harassment and threats. A post by a woman will receive 100 sexual or threatening messages daily while posts by men receive an average of 3.7.
A 2012 report by the United States Department of Justice on stalking and harassment studied responses from 113,981,000 women and 107,014,170 men, the results show:
- 5.3-million people reported stalking or harassment experiences in 2011
- 2.5-percent of those were women who reported experiencing at least one stalking or harassment incident
- 1.6 –percent of the men said they had a stalking or harassment experience
In reality, anonymous posters can harass whomever they choose; including children, this happens can end tragically.
Rules 34 and 35
Parental and moral concerns about the amount of pornography online bring these rules to the list. Rules 34 and 35 deal with internet porn:
- There is porn of it, no exceptions
- If no porn is found on it, it will be made
In September 2014, the internet reached 1-billion websites and the total continues to grow. An estimated 4-percent of these are pornography sites. Daily, an estimated 13-percent of all internet users go to pornography websites.
The rules of the internet give a true picture of how porn on the internet stays popular. On the deep web, only reachable with special software and browsers, child pornography sites have reported more than 500-views per second.
Traditional police methods cannot find the sites hidden on the deep web. Weapons to fight the child porn industry on the web now include algorithms that bring back information regarding the number of visitors, their location and other facts that indicate a child pornography website.
“For any given male character, there is a female character.” The two exceptions to the rule:
- If the male character already looks so feminine that others mistake him for her, a female version will not make a difference
- No one has made a female version
Rule 63 of the internet means that a female version of every anime, cartoon, or male in a game has a female counterpart or, the male version cross-dresses.
It applies to females who dress as males in either real life or fantasy.
When the rule contains a trap, a male character will find himself in a sexual situation and learn the hard way his partner is really a male.
In chat rooms and on social media, children and teenagers need to know people hide their identities and sex. An online predator will spend time gaining the victim’s trust before suggesting a meeting.
Predators choose kids who have family problems and they know the words to use to lure them into a meeting. Parents need to teach children to only friend kids they know from school or who they know personally.
Checking social media pages and emails frequently for signs of danger needs to start the day a child begins using the computer. When parents make a habit of checking their children’s digital travels, the children take it as a part of life instead of an invasion of privacy.
From chat rooms to Facebook
Chat rooms boomed in 1998 when America Online (AOL) launched. For several weeks, the only CD production worldwide went to burning the AOL online services. Approximately 17-million people subscribed to AOL’s monthly service.
In chat rooms, people used screen names and stayed anonymous, which attracted people like:
- Child predators
- Human traffickers
- Sexual predators
In a chat room, no one knew another’s identity. The internet changed from an information highway to a more social technology as MySpace (2003) and Facebook (2004) launched.
Today, internet service reaches some of the most remote places on earth and everyone can access it with a smartphone and a Wi-Fi signal. Though very little on the web remains free, some call the internet a lawless place that needs taming. Others fight for the internet to stay an unregulated expanse of good and evil.
The internet’s good side includes:
- Educational information on almost any subject imaginable
- Convenient shopping without leaving home
- Great deals on things for the house, clothes, shoes and more
- Comparison websites for home or car insurance, hotel rooms and flights
- Online games that people around the world compete in
- Social networking to keep track of friends and family
- The instantaneous transmission of information by email, news aggregate websites or social websites
Kids use the internet for socializing; studying and some even go to school on the internet. Two generations have never known life without the internet and have always had instant access to vast amounts of information on any subject they want.
Taken in the tone in which written, the 100 rules of the internet have comedy, some math and many truths with sharp double edges. Predators, stalkers and thieves still roam the internet as anonymous. Protecting identities and privacy online keeps users safe. Teaching children parental internet rules and monitoring their use keeps them safe and the internet’s value as an information highway stays that way.