Spam, Constitution And Forums Aka Random Ramblings Of A spammed Victim
Can we be protected from spam/spammers by the laws of the land? Or rather, is it ok constitutionally to get angry and feel frustrated when you get bombarded with spam? Does my anger violate the freedom of speech of another individual?
When I was a software engineer back home, I was troubled by incessant phone calls for a new credit card/or a new home. On one hand I was rejected by Citibank when I applied for one and on the other they would call my cell/mobile and my office line, during my working hours.
Once I was in an important meeting with my project manager, I got a call from one of those fine young women in HSBC asking me whether I needed a credit card. Under normal circumstances I would not have bothered to take the call, but since I was expecting an important call, I decided that the call should be attended to, only to find someone asking me to apply for a credit card. I knew at that particular point that I was having a bad day and after giving her an earful on privacy, I let her have it too.
After a few days the calls stopped because of this, but they resumed soon, because they found some new loopholes to get past the law.
Call it plagiarism, the Ancient Greeks wrote most of our constitution. Whether our founding fathers had a notion of freedom is a debatable issue. It is debatable albeit without a resolution and without much of pragmatic utility.
The Indian Constitution's Preamble is given in the next paragraph. I have highlighted those words which have been violated from virtually the first day. It is also of interest to note the word socialist in the first line of the preamble. I would say that this is a philosophical error, the same mistake that U.S.S.R made. Socialism is a philosophy in itself and so is any constitution. The preamble represents the metaphysics/axioms of the constitution and it is easy to run into inconsistencies if they themselves state an abstract and not well defined term such as socialism. In short this preamble needs another preamble which defines what they mean by socialism. All the other terms are pretty axiomatic and well defined. Contrast this with the US constitution. The word dignity is also of a questionable nature, in the sense it has to be objectively defined to avoid inconsistencies.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
When I first saw the constitution I was really amused at the level at which the preamble was violated. The issue about socialism was pointed out by my Professor:- Prof.Bart Kosko, who is also a lawyer. It is interesting to note that socialism also prevents economic liberty. It also kills much of economic justice, by assuming the society to be primary over the individual. This assumption is what created the USSR and it is the same flawed assumption that made it go down the drain.
Arguing over something that is inherently prone to inconsistencies will never yield any constructive outcomes. Neverthless, let us try to analyse spam in a constitutional manner.
Does SPAM represent freedom of speech? Does it represent the exercizing the right of an individual to shout what he wants on any forum that he wants to shout on? Before we argue further, let us try to define the terms in the question.
Freedom of speech can be constructed in a consistent manner from our preamble combine Justice and Liberty:- translated into concrete terms it says:- I believe in what I believe and I dont get shot for saying it out.
All this breaks down on the Internet. In one case it destroys the boundaries set by nature and the society (like geographical distance, religion etc), on the other it also destroys the definition of an Individual. Viewed from that angle our constition would be erring in the FIRST word i.e. the word "WE". Who are we? How many identiies can an individual have? Does "WE" include all those identities? Does "WE" include the chat bots and the automatic bulk emailers?.
Our preamble assumes that "WE" are a set of individuals associated in the formation, and the running of a society called nation. "WE", our constitution assumes, are mature enough to understand what our constitution means.
In a press conference, you have to be really cranky to go and boo at someone like say, Deve Gowda. You know that consequences of such an event and you would not be doing it. Nor would you go and boo at a press conference of someone like Arundhati Roy or Medha Patkar. The main problem there is the individual identity, which gets exposed! It is a risky thing to do though our constitution protects us for the boo-ing.
Contrast the same with an hypothetical online press conference of Shri. Deve Gowda. There will be a few hundred people who would aggressively spam it, shouting Deve Gowda Murdabad, booing all over, with their thousand faced identities. That would be a sad sight to watch.
Therefore we have the wrong constitution for the internet. I support the notion that internet should remain free. I also subscribe to the notion that forums and groups that form within the free internet should have well defined constitution.
One can view this in an evolutionary form. Suppose we need a system to evolve. We would set some rules in the system, which are fundamentally held true all the times (for example "Survival of the fittest!" or "Adapt or Perish", "Do or die"). Then let the system free. There would be an infinite possibilities of the growth of the system, but we can approximately predict where it would evolve into. For example one can easily see that socialistic organization almost corrupt entirely in very less time.
What defines these fundamental rules, in the case of a society, is it's constitution. The Internet does not have one. So we don't think for a second before creating alternate identities, sending a scary email to a friend from a junk id, spamming, flooding forums with noise, noise to such an extent that some of the well meaning people leave the forum and hide.
A society without a constitution, or one that does not follow a constitution can be aptly called a crowd. The Internet is a crowd and not a community. It is a jungle filled with bots, sites, viruses, a scary ecosystem to say the least. The only fundamental rule is that performance of anything is bound by technology. This is a clinical rule with no ethical information involved. No set of definitive actions to act. This is a crude world much like what our ancestors would have been through.
Forums are the next evolutionary step, where a group of individuals come together and form a community which follows its own rules. Is there a rule in that forum such as "Don't like it : Don't join it!". Well if there is then we have a controlled society which protects its citizens from the bots, the spammers and viruses of the external internet. If there is no rule like that then we have an open society which fails to protect its contributors from external attacks. The only choice it leaves to an individual is either leave the forum or fend for himself/herself.
I wish I knew the solution to this problem. The best thing would be to come up with a very strong set of axioms, which define the ethical behaviour one should follow in the forum. There should be well set terms and conditions for posting a comment. And if these are by any chance violated, then the comment should be deleted without mercy and care should be taken not to send the email to the author of the post.
My only contention is that we form a society that protects every sensible individual in it from external irrational elements. Why not build an electric fence?
Spam, Constitution And Forums Aka Random Ramblings Of A spammed Victim
- » Published on May 11, 2006
- » Type: Opinion
- » Filed under: