Crucial questions about Web 2.0, society

This story's importance grows as the Web increasingly mirrors "real life." Society seems to be in an interesting transition time, and some important freedoms could be lost as it struggles to understand the user-driven Web. For example, in an effort to reduce risk or prevent harm, people (including parents) sometimes blame Web sites (e.g., social-networking sites) more than the relationships represented in them, for online harassment; so those sites, perhaps to stave off lawsuits, play "a governmental role" and sweepingly "wipe out content that's controversial but otherwise legal," to quote the Associated Press. Users whose legitimate or legal content that gets deleted try to appeal those corporate decisions, but companies' legal advisers are usually the decisionmakers and "no" often the answer. That "governmental role that companies play online is taking on greater importance as their services – from online hangouts to virtual repositories of photos and video – become more central to public discourse around the world," the AP continues. The questions are: whether decisions by corporate legal departments reacting to public fears and ignorance will jeopardize some freedoms we cherish, how to ease those fears and misunderstandings, and where the burden of easing them should rest.

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