The Internet Can be a Dirty, Dirty Place

I frequently help people with technology.  Not surprisingly these days a lot of that help takes the form of showing people how to work with Social Media.  Most of the people I help are lawyers or business people. Sometimes I help friends and family but not as often.  My friends tend to be technologically savvy, many of my family members are too, and frankly the idea of trying to teach my father about social media makes my hair turn grayer.  Teaching is a passion of mine and I understand, without judging, that a lot of people are intimidated by technology and concerned about privacy.  It is ok to be intimidated there are minefields out there and no one wants to break something (even if you really can’t) or be embarrassed (which you most definitely can.)

Some of the people I assist come from a, shall we say, more genteel time or simply have an innocent mindset.  These people don’t realize that the Internet can be a dirty, dirty place.  Through my work with online research I have been exposed to things I never knew existed, and frankly would have preferred to remain in ignorance;  and yet when searching online the most extraordinary things can be found with the most innocent of searches.  I would like therefore to offer a word of warning to people just learning to utilize the Internet and to those teaching people how to navigate the Web.

The Internet can be a dirty, dirty place.

I often tell the following anecdote when I teach.  Back in the early part of the last decade my mother was visiting me and I was proudly showing her my new computer.  Having never been online my mother told me to please show her the Internet.  Not being sure exactly what she wanted to see I asked her what she meant.  My mother who was a professional dog handler/breeder asked me to show her sites about dog breeding.  I will leave it to your minds the links that showed up in response to my search. I will simply remind you. The Internet can be a dirty, dirty place.

Many of you will also remember the difference between (the Web site of the Whitehouse) and the old (which was a very explicit pornography site.)  Many a CLE attendee has told me about typing .com instead of .gov in front of their children and the resultant horror.

Many forms of technology, from the camera, to the VCR to the World Wide Web, can thank their initial success to pornography.  A lot of money is to be made through pornography and much of the ability to purchase things online, securely log in and so on began with pornography sites.  Therefore it is no surprise that with so much money to be made, advantage will be taken of mistyped names, misspelled links and the like.  And of course, it is easy enough to get in trouble by not understanding how what you put online may be received by those who don’t know you well.

As a result, there are risks online and even the more genteel amongst us need to understand this.  So please keep the following in mind:

  • When Facebook asks you in what you are interested, understand that the term interested…well remember the site began as a way for Harvard students to check each other out.  Interested in men, or interested in women or interested in both men and women doesn’t mean the same thing as looking for friends who are men, women or both men and women.
  • A joke or comment you mean to be completely clean might not be taken as such and that double entendre might get you in serious trouble
  • An innocent search can result in not so innocent results, be careful what you type and in front of whom you type it. Turning safe search on is a good idea
  • Typing a few wrong letters for a website address can cause visitation to a pornography site or a site that is in some other way inappropriate for those looking over your shoulder
  • Viruses can cause pictures to show up on your computer that will be most embarrassing (and can get you in trouble) should a co-worker or child see what you have on the screen.

I offer these gentle words of warning to assist those of us who are instructing people on use of the Internet or those just beginning to traverse its depths.  And in the end I say to you it isn’t particularly surprising that the Internet can be a dirty, dirty place.  After all, human beings can tend to have dirty, dirty minds, especially when no one can see what they are up to.

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