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Internet is an empowering tool (Merle Marsh, Ed.D, 2005) of today’s modern world and with the passage of time, the numbers of internet users are continuously increasing. According to an estimate by the Internet World Stats Group, as of Mar. 10, 2007, there were total 1,114,274,426 internet users all over the world and in America, there were about 211,108,086 Internet users (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2007). These figures show the rising trend of people to move towards the internet for satisfying their different needs like business, information gathering, education and entertainment etc. This technology has built up a global communication network that has connected people belonging to different regions, cultures, age group and professions together.
Along with so many advantages of the internet, there are some very serious disadvantages that are associated with the usage of the internet and it is the responsibility of the internet users to be aware of these disadvantages and take steps to overcome these (Steven J. McDonald, 2005). There are some very important responsibilities that are led on the shoulders of internet users. They have to take care of certain matters to avoid the possible dangers of the internet. The rising dangers of online activities might lead people to think of avoiding this technology but at the same time internet offers such wonderful opportunities and advantages to the people that the better decision is to use the technology along with getting well aware of the online responsibilities so that one can take the maximum benefits from internet and at the same time he can also play a significant role in creating awareness among the people about the responsibilities of internet users (Steven J. McDonald, 2005).
In short, the online users must know about their responsibilities related to online Piracy, Pornography, Plagiarism and Propaganda (Merle Marsh, Ed.D, 2005) so that they can not only become responsible user of the internet but can also safeguard their rights online.
Dealing with Online Misinformation
The Internet has made the relevant and often irrelevant information on each and every topic available to the people just a click away (James Bessen and Eric Maskin, 2004). The internet users must know that a major proportion of information available on the internet might not be reliable and the majority of people whom they met online might also not be reliable (Steven J. McDonald, 2005). There is a lot of reading stuff available on the internet about a variety of topics but every time there is no surety that the material is provided by any authentic source or not, because there are so many ways that facilitate the people to share the information with other people and it becomes difficult to sort out the right information from the wrong one. Anyone can post comments and impart their ideas to the vast majority of people and there is always a great possibility that these ideas can be based on false judgments and limited knowledge (Bertelsmann Foundation, 1999). This situation demands the internet users develop critical thinking skills within themselves so that they can judge the accuracy of the online information (Steven J. McDonald, 2005).
Imparting authentic information is the moral responsibility of the writers of the web content however the users themselves have to distinguish between the right and wrong stuff available online (Bertelsmann Foundation, 1999) and they must know that there are many sources through which misinformation are being spread on the cyberspace. These should know that many hate sites promote extremely opposing viewpoints against a specific group of people, culture or religion and to make their argument weighty these sights openly spread misinformation (Steven J. McDonald, 2005). The commercial sites usually act as the main source of online misinformation because, in order to promote the products and attracting people to their sites, different tactics have been used by the advertisers that are based on wrong claims (Bertelsmann Foundation, 1999).
The spam emails also lead to misinforming people in so many ways as the people often get warning messages, bogus money making schemes and other misleading information through the email. In this context, the main responsibility of the internet user is to develop a sense of distinguishing the right from the wrong and also informing other people about any misleading wrong information available online so that they can also prevent themselves by taking any wrong action (Bertelsmann Foundation, 1999). The wrong information can lead to dangerous consequences and the responsible internet users must know their duties in dealing with the online misinformation (Steven J. McDonald, 2005).
In short choosing, the right from a variety of information available online is the main responsibility of the internet users and in the case of children this responsibility shifts to their parents to monitor that what is being accessed by their children (Bertelsmann Foundation, 1999). The internet users must feel the importance of this responsibility to stop the possible harms and dangers of misinformation propagated through the internet.
Intellectual Property on the Internet
An important concern for internet users is the protection of intellectual property online. The laws meant for safeguarding intellectual property are proved to be very old and outdated due to the advancement in technology because through the internet it becomes very easy to copy anything from anywhere. This facility gave rise to the dangers of insecurity of intellectual property online that includes the “unauthorized copying of text, images, and music and computer software” (John Weckert & Geoffrey Fellows, 1996). The rapid spread and growth of the internet are putting pressure on certain laws of intellectual property protection like copyright and patent etc (James Bessen and Eric Maskin, 2004).
Copying the material from online resources is generally considered to be theft and therefore morally wrong (John Weckert & Geoffrey Fellows, 1996). Internet users must respect the importance of one’s intellectual property for him and they should not go for copying the ideas presented by others in their websites, graphics, and text or by other means. The copying of the ideas and text may result in the decline of sales or popularity of the original idea builder or writer, this situation can lead to discouraging the people from creating original ideas and material (James Bessen and Eric Maskin, 2004). The responsibility lies on the makes of the law to formulate such restricted rules that can not allow the anonymous people to copy the material from the original source for their own use but at the same time, the general internet users must also respect someone idea and work.
Internet users have a responsibility to encourage creative ideas by praising them through feedback, comments and not to discourage the creation of ideas by copying them (John Weckert & Geoffrey Fellows, 1996). This responsibility must be fulfilled by the internet users not only to encourage the creators and writers of original ideas but in this way, they also benefit the society and can make positive changes in the society by enhancing the creativity of the people (James Bessen and Eric Maskin, 2004). The creativity is enhanced when the creators are not afraid of theft of their ideas and they remain willing to present their ideas in front of people to share with them and to get an appraisal on their work.
Increasing Trends of Plagiarism
The Internet gives people unlimited access to unlimited information and the students find many ways to complete their essays, reports, research studies and term papers without putting their actual efforts into it (James Bessen and Eric Maskin, 2004). In this way the internet has changed the way students do their academic work and relying on the internet is increasing day by day (Brian Henry, 2001). The internet facility has given momentum to plagiarism which is rising along with time and college and university students are taking undue advantage of the internet facility (Sara Rimer, 2003). Plagiarism is to take someone else’s work and passing it off as one’s own without proper acknowledgement or documentation (Patience Simmonds, 2003). This copying of text, sound, and graphics is easy to do and hard to detect (Jason Gebhardt, 1997).
Plagiarism, plagiarism detection, and plagiarism prevention are some very important and sensitive issues for people related to the field of education. The Internet has added to the sensitivity of this issue (Patience Simmonds, 2003). A study showed that a big majority of undergraduate students use the internet and cut paste the material from the internet to their assignments and they possess the thinking that the material available online is public knowledge and its not necessary to cite it always (Sara Rimer, 2003). Teachers and professors often blame the internet for the rising trend of plagiarism in the students and up to a certain extent, this blame is right because the internet has made it very easy to access and copy the required information (Brian Henry, 2001).
Plagiarism is a moral, ethical as well as a legal issue (Patience Simmonds, 2003). Teachers are getting the help of internet sites and software to detect the plagiarized work done by the students (Brian Henry, 2001) but it is not only the duty of teachers and professors to work for the decline of plagiarism but the students and writers are equally responsible for reducing the evils of plagiarism. In this regard, an important responsibility lays on the internet users to utilize the information and ideas available online in a fair manner and give proper references to cite the origin of that idea or information so that the credit could be given to the actual writer. Awareness is the key to fight the evils of plagiarism because if the students are taking advantage of internet sites to get the material, on the other hand, the teachers and supervisors also have deep knowledge of the plagiarism detection tools so that they can overcome this problem (Brian Henry, 2001).
The language issue can be viewed from different perspectives with regard to the internet. Language plays an important role in the communication between the people chatting online, at the same time the information available online on different sites and search engines are mainly in the English language and the articles and content are also used to be in English most of the time (Steven J. McDonald, 2005). The governance of the English language on the internet has given rise to biases among people and some people think that the “Internet is an English language zone; if you don’t know English then you should get out” (Steven J. McDonald, 2005).
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In this context, internet users have the responsibility to accept the universal importance of the English language and they don’t have to make it a biased issue. At the same time, the users belonging to other languages have the responsibility to come forward and work for the promotion of their own language on the internet. At present one has to know English to search in the search engines and search online; the experts of other language need to develop a comprehensive record of information in their own language so that the people can be benefited from the information in another language also.
Another problem related to the language is encountered in reading different articles or other information online. Sometimes the writers don’t respect the universality of the internet and use the words and terms in their writing which are common in their own culture or background (Steven J. McDonald, 2005). This way the people belonging to other cultures and areas find it difficult to get the idea presented by the writer. It is the responsibility of the writers who write for online sources that they must be aware of the fact that the internet is being accessed by people of all the languages, cultures and regions so they mush develop a common platform for them where everyone can get the information.
The message board and chat rooms are centres for the propagation of biased language but the users must have respect for other people’s feelings and it is not only the responsibility of the administrator to keep an eye on the language but the participant should know themselves that they much act in a sophisticated and civilized manner so that nobody can be hurt through their words. Many people don’t feel the importance of using appropriate language online but awareness must be developed among the internet users and they must know that they have a responsibility to use polite and unbiased language on the internet.
We can sum up the discussion with the conclusion that the main responsibility of internet users is to use this technology fairly so that the negative consequences that often came out of it, can be minimized. There are many other responsibilities also and the internet users must be aware that internet is not only a source of getting information, education and entertainment but when they start using the internet they are obliged to many responsibilities that they have to perform to justify their usage.
- Brian Henry (2001), The Impact the Internet has on Plagiarism.
- Bertelsmann Foundation (1999), Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Memorandum for the Internet Content Summit 1999. Web.
- James Bessen and Eric Maskin (2004), Intellectual Property on the Internet:What’s Wrong with Conventional Wisdom? Web.
- John Weckert & Geoffrey Fellows (1996), Intellectual Property on the Internet: some technical and moral issues, Charles Sturt University
- Jason Gebhardt (1997), Intellectual Property on the Internet
- Merle Marsh, Ed.D (2005) Piracy, Pornography, Plagiarism, Propaganda, Privacy
- Miniwatts Marketing Group (2007), Internet World Stats, TOP 20 Countries with the highest number of internet users
- Patience Simmonds (2003), Plagiarism and cyber-plagiarism: A guide to selected resources on the Web, C&RL News, 2003, Vol. 64 No. 6
- Steven J. McDonald (2005), Overview and Tufts’ Information Technology Responsible Use Policy, Ohio State University
- Sara Rimer (2003), Study finds a rise in Internet plagiarism at college level
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, issue: 2003, ProQuest Information and Learning Company