That was the question I kept pondering during the Mesh 2011 conference.

First  Emily Bell from the Columbia School of Journalism regaled us about pay walls, apps and other largely futile efforts to control “the disruption.”

Then  Ron Deibert from Citizen Lab spooked us with true tales of cyber crime morphing out of control.

Tony Burman described how Al Jazeera goes where other camera aren’t allowed and then gives away its footage. How disruptive.

Mozilla Foundation’s Mark Surman stressed the need to constantly innovate or lose what little control we have.

Gaming expert Gabe Zichermann warned how Killer types go for control by squashing their foes, not just in online games.

mesh11
Kaz Ehara

As with free speech, most of us accept reasonable limits on our Internet freedom. We know it’s wrong to steal money, identity and some, but not all, secrets.

We know we have to make money to survive. If we have valued free content, visitors will put up with advertising or even enjoy shopping.  A few will buy.

Control issues were was also on the lips of many people I spoke to. People from companies still struggling out of the old mindset confided how their bosses refusal to sede more control doomed their best online efforts. Many from internet-savvy companies lamented the difficulty of silencing the trolls.

Sure, we need reasonable controls to avoid the evil extremes. But not too much. Consider the outrage Ron generated over Harper’s omnibus crime bill, which will let law enforcement officials  seize records from internet service providers with no judicial oversight.

There emerged no agreement over what needs to be controlled or surrendered to thwart evil or champion freedom.  After all, there are no black and white answers, just countless swirling shades of gray.

That’s why we need to keep talking, voices louder as the world spins faster. Not just in tweets, updates and comments.

Thanks, Mesh organizers, for giving us so many platforms, angles and inspirations to do just that.

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How do you control the uncontrollable?
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