Steve Hall over at AdRants picked up on my post about Anonymous and the anti-Scientology movement online, and this got picked up by Ian Schafer over at IanSchafer.com. There's a lot of interesting stuff coming out of this. I've gotten some interesting comments. Digg this morning pointed to a new Anonymous video press release. And the discussion continues. One thing I wanted to address was Ian's comment from his post:
Free communication should never be limited Ã¢â‚¬â€ but we must thoroughly understand all methods of communication if we expect to be able to separate information from disinformation.
I'd argue that, despite all the misinformation it helps to perpetuate, an unrestricted Internet makes it easier to separate information from disinformation. The reason why this is goes hand in hand with all I've written about the Internet as Marketplace of Ideas on steroids. And I think the easiest way to understand it is to look at how a site like Snopes.com debunks common myths.
Snopes just happens to be a site with a particularly good reputation for debunking myths and confirming the questionable. Whenever someone starts a rumor about Bill Gates giving $1 to charity for every forwarded e-mail, Snopes spreads the word about it being bogus.
The truth of the matter, though, is that every Internet user can be a Snopes.com. The thing that is unique about the Internet is that it leaves tracks for others to follow. So, for instance, when there's Scientology misinformation afoot, a single Internet user can construct arguments to debunk the disinformation. Social news sites and the like can help do the rest. The Marketplace of Ideas tends to be self-correcting, as those with the time and inclination refute or confirm individual facts (see Fisking) and leave tracks for others to follow (blog posts, comments, tweets, whatever).
Where things start to get hairy, IMHO, is when people or organizations who are losing the battle choose legal threats or other forms of censorship to undermine the facts. If I had to guess, I would say this is why Anonymous has an 'all bets are off' approach to taking out Scientology. Scientology is trying to operate outside the system as well as abuse it.
I continue to be fascinated by a couple things:
- The continued support from participants in social news aggregation sites. This goes well beyond the latest and greatest Internet meme.
- The notion of the distributed strategy. If Anonymous truly has no leadership, it coulda fooled me. It's unbelievable how well-coordinated all the pieces are. You have people hacking, Digging, producing videos, participating in meatspace protests. That's a lot of moving parts.
So yeah, I'm still watching this carefully.