The Boston bombers and the ‘digital river’

April 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

The most read essay on this young blog was one I wrote just two weeks ago titled, “How your child will be kidnapped.” I gave it a provocative name to capture attention and convey the seriousness of the subject matter. My subject was

one kind of virtual kidnapping that hasn’t gained much attention. It doesn’t involve any direct human contact; it doesn’t involve any dramatic arrest captured on camera. It’s not physical theft; it is soul theft. It is the trauma to a child’s psychology, self-image and worldview that comes from browsing the Internet. It is the result of roaming online unsupervised, without warnings about whom to run from or avoid.

Today in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman discusses basically the exact same phenomenon in the context of the Boston bombings. In his column titled “Judgment Not Included,” he writes:

“As for the role that Web sites apparently played in the ‘self-radicalization’ of the two Chechen brothers, it is yet another reminder that the Internet is a digital river that carries incredible sources of wisdom and hate along the same current. It’s all there together. And our kids and citizens usually interact with this flow nakedly, with no supervision.” Friedman calls for us to “build the internal software, the internal filters, into every citizen to sift out fact from fiction in this electronic torrent, which offers so much information that has never been touched by an editor, a censor or a libel lawyer.”

It’s a compelling column, and it adds a further point to my own: These Internet kidnappings not only the harm the captives; they have the capacity to radicalize them into a murderous menace to society. Read his full text here.


Posted by Matt Emerson.


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