Never underestimate the Power of the Internets


And while you’re at it, don’t underestimate the power of a LOLcat, either. Those beasties can eat your soul and poop it out vastly improved–if you are lucky.

But enough about the cats. The humans are still in control of this whole shebang, for whatever it may be worth. Here are a few uneasy pieces about the power of people on the Internets. First, the Great Facebook Spank:

In an about-face following a torrent of online protests, Facebook is backing off a change in its user policies while it figures how best to resolve questions like who controls the information shared on the social networking site.

The site, which boasts 175 million users from around the world, had quietly updated its terms of use – its governing document – a couple of weeks ago. The changes sparked an uproar after popular consumer rights advocacy blog pointed them out Sunday, in a post titled “Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: ‘We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.”‘

Facebook has since sought to reassure its users – tens of thousands of whom had joined protest groups on the site – that this is not the case. And on Wednesday morning, users who logged on to Facebook were greeted by a message saying that the site is reverting to its previous terms of use policies while it resolves the issues raised.

Linkage added; the Toronto Star is a very popular paper up here, but it hasn’t yet gotten the hang of this newfangled hotlinking thingie that’s all the rage in Blogovia.

And let’s not forget the other little bit of power-to-the-people on Facebook, in which an Evo-hater got his hate group pulled. Moral of these two Facebook stories? If enough little guys make a big stink, the big guys listen; sometimes they belatedly pull what ought to be a no-brainer, and sometimes they even back off. Little people of the world, you know what to do now, eh?

But it’s not just about backing ’em off; sometimes, it’s about busting ’em wide open. Via Otto at IncaKolaNews, I’ve been watching the scandal of the Stanford International Bank unfold. Otto, modest to a fault, doesn’t take personal credit for breaking this one; he credits Alex Dalmady, mainly, for noticing a small detail that all those oh-so-brilliant Hi-Finance types out there in the big bizmedia missed. A small detail that, like a loose thread in a knitted sweater, can unravel the whole thing if pulled.

Well, Alex & Co. pulled it, and sure enough, something big came undone. Stanford International Bank is now in damage-control mode, but they’re too late; the nuke has gone off, and now it’s all over but the investigations, the lawsuits, the criminal prosecutions, the ruined reputations, and maybe, if we’re lucky, even the suicides of the Big Players–you know, the cooling of the crater. Which, like all things radioactive, is gonna take a loooooong time. (That’s not economics; that’s basic high-school science, kiddies. Go look up Chernobyl, it’s a pretty good metaphor. BTW, metaphors are the stuff for ink-stained, wretched English majors like me.)

So, now you know: The Internets are a dangerous place. Not just because they’re full of spammers out to sell you “natural” stuff that promises to (but won’t) enlarge your breasts/penis/brains/whatever without surgery. Not just because they’re full of pedophiles trolling for kiddies to grind into porn. Not just because they’re full of ideological wingnuts looking to dominate the world. They’re also dangerous–most dangerous, in fact–because they’re full of watchful eyes, and some of those eyes are attached to brains that think, and hands that can seriously type up a storm.

Can we finally say that the medium has come of age, now that it’s demonstrated itself as a means of revealing truth and sometimes even securing justice?

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