I don’t care for the internet in that almost everybody is anonymous, which reduces their accountability for things that they say or post. I know I’m not the only one who encounters it, though maybe I get exposed a little bit more by playing games over Xbox Live (yes I am a video game nerd). I want to focus on online gaming especially in this post. Xbox Live is home to a lot of people who feel free to speak their minds more than they normally would because nobody else can see their face or know who they are. Throughout my time playing I’ve heard people called plenty of names, two of the more common ones are “nigger” and “faggot,” which I don’t think are appropriate in any circumstance.
Mill would probably defend the speech of these individuals, he believed that if their words don’t cause any crucial harm then their rights shouldn’t be constricted. I don’t really think that their rights should be constricted, though I do wish that they could be somehow accountable for their actions.
Xbox Live is something the user pays for to be able to use, and they have to accept an agreement to use the service. I have expressed consent to be exposed to this, so I could just walk away. The other side of this is that I pay to use the service, and I wish it was better. I’m sure there is something in the agreement I accepted that states that Microsoft can’t be held accountable for what other people say when online. I agree that they shouldn’t be held accountable for what other people say, but maybe there is something they can do to help steer people toward the right direction and make the experience better for everybody. So what are the options?
First of all, there is a mute function where you can silence anyone who is talking. The good thing about this is anybody who doesn’t want to hear them can get rid of them, but that doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t stop their actions, it just takes away their audience. I want to make society better in this regard, hopefully make people think about what they say before they say something.
Another option I’ve considered is monitoring people and banning them from the service. This would be extremely difficult and hated by most people. On one hand they are paying for the service so it would be terrible to just take it away. Also, it would take a lot of manpower to monitor the people who are causing the problem, and it would be difficult to decide what can and cannot be said. Perhaps a better solution would be a complaint system (there is one in place, but I’m not sure if they actually do anything with it). If someone gets a number of complaints for being offensive within a certain time limit, they would be suspended for like 24 hours. Maybe they would change their ways after knowing that they had some consequences tied to their actions. Another possibility is having a specific group of games available separate from the others where saying certain things can get you in trouble.
I don’t think it will ever change, but it’s wishful thinking on my part to try and hope for some way to get people to think about their actions over the internet more. I’m sure the contract theorists would all just be laughing in my face because I’ve expressed consent and keep paying for something that I could just walk away from. Also, I’m sure that Mill wouldn’t think that it would be a good idea to restrict these people’s rights under these circumstances. After all of this writing, all I want is some accountability. One of my favorite quotes throughout the whole semester is “And covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.” I’m definitely not trying to say that they have a covenant to clean up their language, nor should they be punished by a sword. I do think, however, that people should be required to accept an agreement that states some legitimate consequence for misconduct over Xbox Live. I don’t like to think of it as a Big Brother situation, but more like an elementary school situation where the teacher can punish someone for behaving badly.
Can anyone else offer a better way to deal with this? Am I completely wrong for wanting to cut someone’s free speech a little short for the advancement of the online community? Please comment, I would love to hear your thoughts.