The horrific and grisly tale of Luca Rocco Magnotta's murder, dismemberment, violation and cannibalistic act, captured perversely on video and put online has not only revealed a side of the Internet community that is the underbelly and attuned to the perverse; it's also raised the question of whether complete democracy can or should be permitted online.
In the case of Luca's sick and twisted acts, the reaction of the public has come as a shock as much as the act itself. Netizens have been commenting, not on the horror of the acts, but on the quality of the violence. With these viewers, death is now reality television. The behaviour of these netizens, inured to violence as they are, certainly causes worry. Does the Internet get away with amorality, and is there a resulting lasting effect on its audience? If so, perhaps freedom of speech isn't necessarily the wisest thing online.
Browse online and any number of websites that raise concern are quickly observed. Bomb-making sites, violent fetishistic websites and other questionable material are easily accessible to anyone with a smartphone. These are materials I really would not prefer to be made easily accessible to any in the general public, regardless of my personal opinions on censorship.
As an editor of an online website and magazine, however, I question the need for responsibility to my audience, and to what extent I should enforce that responsibility without patronising the viewers of our website. Surely readers can distinguish what is right or wrong and what is acceptable and not when it comes to material of questionable natures. But that assumes that everyone has the same perception of 'good' and 'bad'. On the Internet, there is no scale to measure values. So Magnotta's perverse acts, which have turned my stomach and horrified the majority of the world, is merely some authentic version of a snuff film to a small but very real group getting its kicks online.
Terrorist organisations and extremist groups likewise justify their actions on sites which may seduce the unwitting or ignorant. Should we police the Internet and control what goes on there, or should we encourage autonomy, trusting to reasonable intelligence to counter the extensive range of provocative websites online?
What do you think? Should we be watching what we write online?