There is a neat squaring of the circle when you notice that, on this issue, those who say “Things cannot change” are, in the overwhelming majority, men – and that the people they are trying to shut down who are saying, repeatedly, “Things must change,” are women.
And this is all particularly inappropriate when the conversation is about how, of all things, it is the internet that cannot change. The internet, which was invented, within our lifetimes, by hippies. Tim Berners-Lee, who gave away the coding for free, with the words “This is for everyone” – the sentence that was so astonishing and inspiring when it lit up the stadium at the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
In short, the internet was invented, very recently, for people, by people, and founded in optimism and idealism.
For this odd new groundswell of commentators to start claiming that the internet is inherently dark, cruel and cynical is a gross misappropriation of one of the wonders of the modern age. It misunderstands what it was, is and, most importantly, could be.
Shame on anyone whose argument basically boils down to saying that “The thing about the internet is, it’s a place where hundreds of anonymous men can threaten to rape women – and that is how it will always be.”
That is in an odd, dark denial of the fundamental decency of human nature and the law. It is illegal to act in this manner on the internet, and the social networking sites on which it happens need to be reminded of that unambiguously. As Andy Trotter said on Monday, of internet platform providers, such as Twitter, “ You can’t just set them up, and then walk away.”