In defence of the virtual “Wild-West”

There’s a new chief in town and apparently it’s Canada’s Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould.

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa Montreal QC

There’s a new chief in town and apparently it’s Canada’s Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould.

Yesterday, Gould announced that the “Wild-West online era cannot continue” to the dismay of  billions of internet outlaws and cowboys around the world.

In its attempt to tame the digital frontier that is the world wide web, the Canadian government hopes to wrangle social media tycoons into signing onto the “Canada Declaration on Electoral Integrity Online”.

Except, unsurprisingly, some of them are not willing to take the bait. Twitter has not signed onto the agreement and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a wanted man after giving Ottawa politicians the proverbial middle-finger by not showing up to a summon to appear before the Canadian parliament.

I say good on them. The truth is I have a special fondness for this wretched hive of scum and villainy which I call home.

I am one of the growing number of people who grew up on the internet. Albeit, as a child my only access to wireless internet were local internet cafes, the virtual universe has become a familiar, yet disembodied life for me and many others like me.

Of course I don’t dispute the ugly, if not criminal underbelly of the online world– which I suspect could be traced directly to a dusty server maintained by the devil himself. What I hope to defend is the wild sanctity of the binary landscape that connects billions of computer-lit and over-caffeinated faces world wide.

Think of me as an American buffalo conservationist, if you will, but in this case the roaming buffalo are viral and wildly offensive memes.

The internet is the wild-west because it is the true and final frontier (on this point, I totally disagree with Star Trek). It is a place of unrestricted freedom.

It is a place where pirates smuggle data, hackers creep through back doors and vigilante justice is often the only kind of justice.

Nowhere else in this life can somebody go and create their own frontier town, where they are not themselves, but somebody else entirely, somebody new, somebody better, or somebody worse.

The truth is, you can’t regulate this chaos, because there are infinite places for retreat.  Internet outlaws are like a virus: if the host develops anti-bodies they either jump ship or they adapt to circumvent regulation.

Regulating the internet is like trying to hold the tide back.

It is shapeless, formless, like water.

Of course, the caveat is that the federal government hopes to rein in monopolies which serve as dominant places of public discourse, but in this they err. While Facebook, for example, might serve as the setting in which bad actors might organize, political interference can be just as effective through the medium of memes, viral videos or external links. Simply put, the possibilities are endless and extremely volatile in their ability to spread.

As John Wayne once said: “It’s getting to be ri-goddamn-diculous.”

What I suspect will happen instead is that the lawman will be chasing the rumor of interference while sending many innocent and dissenting townsfolk to the internet county jail in their attempt to root out the bandits.

But then again, I suspect that might be Gould’s intention.

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