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The Power of the Internet

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The Power of the Internet

Anabell Xu, Staff Writer

April 15, 2013—the Boston Bombing. Following the horrific attack, Internet users around the country set out on a hunt to find the perpetrators. One site where they conglomerated was Reddit, where users quickly accused Sunil Tripathi, a Boston University student, of the crime. His family received hundreds of death threats, were forced to change their names, and harassed on the streets—until it was revealed that Tripathi was completely innocent. The Reddit community decided to lay low afterwards.

Conversely, on Nov. 22, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its plan to repeal net neutrality, essentially allowing companies to paywall and censor certain parts of the Internet. Of course, this outraged thousands of Internet users, who took to social media websites to protest—including Reddit. Users urged others to call their senators and even started a bot that would fax messages to Congress dubbed “ResistBot”.

The Internet is a powerful force—but not always for good. Its users are swayed very easily by eye-catching headlines and nobody is safe from accusation. Certain social media sites like Reddit and 4chan promise users anonymity, perfect for those wanting to attack others without facing repercussions.

However, it’s not right to label the Internet as completely horrible, either. Because of how quickly information can spread, crucial movements and actions can be exposed to millions of people by just a few determined people—whether it be exposing politicians breaking laws or to inform people about the FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality.

Many Internet users rely on a constant stream of information. No matter what is being displayed to them, users lose attention almost instantly once something new comes along. Pushing for anything to be spread on the Internet is almost completely up to luck—reach a few of the right people and you can make hundreds of people interested, but fail and nobody will never know about your cause. Negative press by a few users can permanently ruin any attempt to spark a movement or popularize a product, but a few positive reviews can go a long way.

Whenever a controversy occurs or false news is spread, major news sources tend to blame the “Internet”, a nebulous term meant to encapsulate both the Internet itself and its users. However, what we should be focusing instead is on the people who use the Internet—they determine whether it’s a tool for good or bad.

While many may have believed that the Internet would a force for good at its inception, the reality is that the Internet is merely a tool for advocating its users’ beliefs. We should all be cautious of attempting to blame the Internet, a complicated mesh of digital connections, for causing our problems for many of them go far past it—and straight to the people behind the screen.

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The Power of the Internet