2 FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

Two subjects that I feel strongly about are internet freedom and the current extinction crisis.

So there was a bit of an internal clash when I saw the headline…

Internet threatens rare species, conservationists warn

Conservationists say the internet has emerged as one of the biggest threats to endangered species.

Campaigners say it is easier than ever before to buy and sell anything from live baby lions to polar bear pelts on online auction sites and chatrooms.

What the person (Paul Todd) is quoted as saying on the BBC report is that “The internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species”. However, the internet is becoming the dominant factor in most other things too. Also the Toronto Sun newspaper carried some rather different quotes from the same conference… such as …

John Sellar, CITES’ chief law enforcement officer, argued the impact of the Web was overblown and that many species that appear illegal may in fact may be legal. He also said many big traders were reluctant to use the Internet, since payments can be traced and they can be ensnared in undercover operations.

“There seems to be little evidence that there are commercial operations using the Internet,” Sellar said. “Although the risks may be small depending on which country you are living in, you can be identified when using the Internet. So there are clearly risks there.”

or

“The Internet itself isn’t the threat, but it’s another way to market the product,” said Ernie Cooper, who spearhead the investigation into the newt for TRAFFIC Canada. “Most people are not willing to pay $300 for a salamander. But through the power of the Internet, tapping into the global market, you can find buyers.”

Taking this into account, the problem does not seem to be simply the (semi) new-fangled internet (boo hiss boo hiss) but rather the age-old predilection among some people for boneheaded brutality. The internet has neither enhanced nor diminished this.

I obviously don’t deny that the internet may facilitate easier transactions for some things but the problem at root remains the same – us.

The BBC story however  read very like the old style articles from mainstream media 10 years ago denouncing the internet and hoping it was a passing fad. In that spirit then I would like to print an excerpt from an old article defending the internet.

I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet.’ They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea,’ though each of these was new and controversial in their day.

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