“I am a sovereign individual, entire of myself; thus free to do whatever I want ,whenever ; any attempt to constrain me is an intolerable assault on liberty.” Noble sentiments; but also the creed of every polluter, and their supporters in media and government, who wish to dump the consequences of their lucrative operations into someone else’s life. And death.
Historically the worse pollution happens with the sudden appearance of new, rapidly changing industries. For the simple reason that old established legislation was quite inadequate to meet the threats. The new cities of the industrial revolution were famous for smoke, disease and contaminated water. It took decades and centuries of bitterly contested legislation to bring even minimal standards of health and safety. But no one would deny that it was worth it. An even better example was food purity legislation. Early mass produced foods were full of questionable ingredients including strychnine and lead (which helped with flavour and appearance) or just bulkers like water and chalk. It took the efforts of reformers like Arthur Hill Hassall (1817-1894) *and many others, in many countries, to effect reforms.
The massive explosion in information technology has allowed anyone and everyone to dump whatever they want into the common pool of human knowledge. All cry the same “I am free to say want-my opinion is as good as yours!” The damage effected has been clear for all to see.
The need for legislation to control the quality of what is put into the public domain is now overwhelming. Oddly enough, examples of good practice exist, which might give us a clue as to how standards might evolve. Let’s take the Scientific Journal Nature as an example. Anyone is free to send anything to it. They may expound on an almost infinite number of topics from Archaeology to Zoology. However, the Editor sets certain limits before he will publish. These include standards on proof, evidence, verifiability and logic. Intolerable affronts to many, no doubt. But they have made Nature a byword for trustworthiness-and therefor a product of high value. Try a subscription if you don’t believe us. And these standards can be found across many journals.
Parliamentary legislation need not stand in the way of free speech or liberty. But a common space needs common rules of behaviour. The internet is no different.
Arthur Hill Hassall – Wikipedia
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