The Internet is really a good thing. Using the Internet, people can find meanings of new words through online dictionaries and figure out many things through search engines. People can record their lives and contact each other through social networking sites, such as blogs and microblogs, and can also get help from fellow Internet users when they are in trouble.
However, is the Internet a “utopia” where everyone upholds morality? Ma Yun, a staunch supporter of “Being Digital,” whose company Alibaba just cleaned out more than 1,000 suppliers under suspicion of fraud from its trading platform, will say no. Yan Deli will agree because someone opened a blog with her name to spread false rumors that she was infected with HIV and exposed the mobile numbers of 279 so-called “sexual contacts,” causing a great disturbance. So, too, would Li Jun, an Internet hacker, because his virus affected millions of computers and also put him in prison.
When the Internet was first developed, a group of intellectual elites had dreamed of establishing a free Internet kingdom based on the moral self-discipline of human beings. However, they failed. This is not surprising. There are real lives living in the real world behind each piece of information and each address.
The number of Internet users has reached nearly 2.1 billion worldwide by the end of 2010, and if coupled with nearly 5.3 billion mobile phone users, almost all of the world’s population is connected somehow.
From personal privacy to national security and from e-commerce to intellectual property rights, all lawful acts, legitimate interests and reasonable demands will be affected and damaged once there is a management leak, which might cause chaos or even disasters.
It has become a consensus worldwide that government should play the role of the Internet “administrator” and set examples in Internet governance because it possesses the most management resources and management tools. The United States has more than 130 Internet regulations, ranking first worldwide, and other countries, such as Britain, Japan and Australia, also have legally empowered investigative authorities to monitor Internet information when necessary. Many governments definitely forbid behaviors ranging from posting one’s weight on the Internet to hacker attacks.
Some suppose that managing the Internet means restraining the thoughts of Internet users, curbing the freedom of speech and repressing the flow of information. This is untrue. The government management of the Internet mainly aims to monitor harmful information, crack down on cyber crimes, maintain order in the cyber world as well as fill the network gap, lift information use efficiency and bring more people the convenience of the Internet.
The Internet has promoted crackdowns on counterfeit goods, the microblog-based rescue of abducted children and the cultivation of the spirit of citizenship. The online public participation in state affairs and online exposure of corrupted officials have helped the government to enhance its governing capacity along with the progress of the times.
The Internet advocates and advances freedom, but absolute freedom does not exist in the cyber world. The freedom on the Internet is also subject to laws and morality. Expressing opinions and making transactions online should observe laws and regulations, follow social morality and assume social obligations, which is the “bottom line.”
Therefore, managing the Internet requires not only the roles played by the government, but also the participation of Internet users and the support of people from all walks of life. Every word or behavior within the typical public space of the Internet can possibly enter into the eyes of millions of people. An online rumor can possibly result in a panic.
Every careless duplication and transmission of a work can possibly cause a serious copyright infringement. Internet users should be cautious about their words and behaviors on the Internet and observe rules in the virtual world as they do in the real world. The freedom and rights for the majority of people can only be safeguarded through the joint efforts by Internet administrators and users.
Following less than 20 years of development in the Internet sector, China has become world’s No.1 in terms of the number of both Internet users and country code top-level domains. Such a development speed is both the achievement of online “administrators” and the challenges facing the online “administrators.”
The government cannot actually lay the foundation for the establishment of an “online utopia” unless it continuously adapts to new developments of the Internet and performs its duty as an online “administrator.”