Law in the Internet Society

-- HoangTruong - 23 Dec 2008


YouTube? initially began in February 2005. By February 2008, YouTube? had become an online monopoly for online videos, grabbing one-third of an estimated 10 billion views of online videos that month, up from 15 percent at the same time just a year before. YouTube? is at the forefront of the technology revolution that has given the masses an explosive new medium to create and access media through the Internet.

But what will YouTube? ’s impact be as it evolves? The answer to that question is certainly unclear with plenty of room for innovation and implementation of the technology. Steve Jones, professor in the Department of Communication and associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, thinks that “It’s probably safe to say that, over time, as this generation of high school and college students gets older, they will be quite open to getting what we would consider television content via YouTube? , and they would probably be comfortable getting other kinds of content via YouTube? . So in that respect, I think YouTube? has begun the process of moving video to IP-based distribution, independent of traditional or cable networks.”

The Price of Artistic Freedom

The encroachment of YouTube? onto the traditional realm reserved for the television is a topic that can take on increased relevance in the next few years. YouTube? have given anyone with access to the internet, the opportunity to broadcast either themselves, or other sorts of video media, onto the internet. This ability to “create” culture instantaneously has created a cultural revolution that has transformed our society overnight, a society where anyone in the world can transmit content over the internet to millions of eyeballs. Much like the printing press freed the words of authors to the mass, and the telephone connected people across the globe, YouTube? has mass produced and provided the rise to a new medium of artistic expression: personal videos. In the past, the difficulty of creating and distributing artistic works that is available to the masses has traditionally restricted the creation of art and culture to a minority of society. With the advent of YouTube? , anyone anywhere can become not only a viewer of culture, but also a creator.

The ability of anyone anywhere to upload videos that he has seen has also provided a medium that has created a “YouTube” culture. This form of social interaction has superimposed the traditional daily sharing of experiences that used to happen over the dinner table; today’s dinner table seats millions of people who can instantaneously communicate and share with each other experiences that they found comical, endearing, or interesting.

Such artistic freedom comes with a price, however. Ever since its launch, YouTube? has fueled controversy with its sometimes controversial content. Videos of violent acts have sparked a debate over political arenas across the world, with some pointing a figure at YouTube? and its failure to regulate content. YouTube? was at the center of a controversy in Florida where teenage girls attacked another girl and posted their ambush on YouTube? . Jane Brown, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, agreed. “I wouldn’t say it’s a catalyst [to violence],” she said. “It gave the girls a way to promote themselves that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. A lot of media glorifies violence, and there’s so much interest in celebrities these days that it seems a logical extension that adolescents would think, ‘Hmm, if I’m in a video and I get lots of exposure, I too may get some kind of notoriety.’”

YouTube? ’s Call for Increased Regulation

Moreover, with the instantaneous broadcasting ability that YouTube? affords the masses, the time for a call for regulation of online videos is coming. With the ability to reach so many people at the same time, a person scorned by a business deal or a relationship can easily use online videos as a medium to commit libel and defamation. Furthermore, with the complex interactions of the Internet, YouTube? , and the media, people in the public eye are scrutinized more heavily than ever before. Presidential candidates now will experience a chilling effect on their ability to converse freely with even ordinary voters, for one miscue to a voter can be recorded by a cell phone and broadcasted over the internet immediately over YouTube? . Thus, YouTube? has not only allowed everyone with access to the internet to develop and view videos, but anyone with a cell phone now has the power and clout of a more traditional news journalist or paparazzi.

The development of online videos as a medium has many more positive possibilities than bad eggs, however. Such can be seen by the level of civic participation evident in the questions submitted by the people, for the people in the presidential YouTube? debates of 2008. Along with the increase in interest in civic participation, YouTube? can also be attributed for making candidates stand by their political positions. With the broadcast of every single political statement and position, the common citizen can use organizations that fact check claims of our political candidates and then instantaneously condemn candidates that contradict themselves.


In sum, YouTube? has become a valuable new medium that rivals the inception of the telephone and the printing press as a method to transmit art, opinions, and other content to an innumerable amount of people instantaneously. Since it is still in its early stages, it is too early to say what positive and negative affects the introduction of such a dynamic medium will have upon society. With the positives of increasing knowledge amongst the public and freedom of expression come the negative effects of allowing unfettered freedom of speech. This unfettered ability to reach so many people so easily can tempt people to broadcast harmful videos that can defame through slander, and incite the public sentiment with obscenity or violence.



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r1 - 23 Dec 2008 - 01:51:19 - HoangTruong
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