24 percent of Americans say that the Internet can function, for a short time, as a replacement for a significant other. 20 percent are open to "chipping" their own children in order to track their location. 11 percent would be willing to surgically implant a device inside their brains that would allow direct mental access to the Internet. Does that make us, collectively, a crazy-ass country? Or does it say something profound about the current state of polling?
The results come from a new poll on Internet attitudes done by 463 Communications and Zogby International, whichalso revealed that young people of both genders find Scarlett Johansson sexier than an iPhone. (This is, in fact, the correct answer.)
The poll did reveal a more interesting result as well, namely that three-quarters of those over 70 support government regulation or a rating system for online video. That number decreases sharply as the age range decreases, but more than half of all Americans thought that the government should be involved in at least some form of Internet video monitoring.
This is the sort of finding thatfeels like a stake through the heart to libertarians. Writing at the Tech Liberation Front, Adam Thierer of the Progress & Freedom Foundation argued that policymakers will eventually jump on the lightly regulated Internet and start gorging their regulatory appetites, saying to themselves, "We must grow regulation! We must expand the tentacles of the regulatory state to include all those new technologies of freedom! We cannot let people think and act for themselves!"
In case it wasn't clear from the quote, Thierer considers this a Bad Thing.
Certainly, there's reason to think that such a scenario will eventually play out in Washington. The FCC is currently trying to decide if it can come up with a working definition for violent content in order to regulate it on both broadcast TV and even cable. Sexual content and language are already regulated by the agency, and as the Internet becomes an increasingly-capable substitute for (or complement to) television, calls for ratings and regulation will no doubt arise.
Such calls have been resisted successfully by videogame makers, who have used a voluntary rating system to head off increased government controls. But Internet video is already coming under attack around the world, and it does raise some provocative questions for society. Should user-generated content sites, for instance, block the viewing of clips of vandalism or violence? UK school officials are already trying to address the issue after vandals began posting their work on YouTube.
And then there are privacy concerns. Few broadcast networks (at least in the US) would show video of a couple cavorting in the ocean, buta clip of a Brazilian model having sex on the beach with her boyfriend was widely available through YouTube. The case even prompted a Brazilian ban on the site for some time.
How these issues will play out in the US is anyone's guess, but at some point, talk of regulation and ratings will probably enter the picture. When that happens, it appears that a sizable number of Americans will support it.