Comment: Scott Cleland — The Internet Holds Most of What Makes Us Worse


How can so many things go wrong in America at the same time? A single cause and effect dynamic is also universal, and time and technology coincide. This cause and effect is the Internet’s “irresponsibility” policy of the 1990s and its results.

It gets worse because the approved anarchy online empowers bad actors to act with impunity. It’s prevalent because everyone uses the internet for everything, everywhere, for life, work, and play. This is enduring, given that five administrations, 13 Congresses and 17 Supreme Court Justices have failed to protect people from harm and online crime since 1996.

America-sanctioned online anarchy has worsened the national results of the six purposes of the U.S. Constitution: “to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to secure internal tranquility, to secure the common defense, to promote the general welfare and obtain the blessings of freedom.”

America has become less united, just, peaceful, safe, flourishing and blessed since the imposition of the US policy of Internet irresponsibility in 1996 without the consent of the governed.

Less solidarity. Social media is increasingly polarizing Americans. From 2000 to 2020, Republican and Democratic partisanship skyrocketed 160%, according to Pew Research.

Less fair. There is no e-justice because there are no rule of law rights or access to e-justice. Online-sanctioned anarchy is reverting America back to primitivism, where people and minors are helpless prey for predators. Cybercrime is out of control. Only 0.3% are prosecuted.

Less peaceful. Social media has facilitated an unpeaceful transfer of power in America. Algorithms favor “anger” five times more than “likes”. Social media fame has caused a 300% increase in mass shootings in the United States, from 33 from 1982 to 2002 to 100 from 2002 to 2022, according to Statista.

Less secure: Most Americans are victims of cyberattacks, cyberbullying, or cybercrime. Giving up online sovereignty aids and abets our adversaries – China, Russia and cybercriminals – with impunity. China has hacked and stolen many of America’s most valuable secrets. Russia disrupts America with impunity via ransomware, cybercrime and interference.

Less flourishing: Offline, a person is a human being living with humanity and rights; online, a person is a non-living thing, a product or data without humanity or rights. Social media causes depression and suicides in teens. Last year, 100,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl poisoning because 97% of online pharmacies are illegal. From 2000 to 2020, the average annual growth rate of U.S. gross domestic product has halved from 1960 to 2000. The Communications Act of 1996 aimed at promoting competition rather than monopoly perversely encouraged much more monopolization.

Less blessed: There is no freedom, equality or justice in anarchy. The Internet’s policy of irresponsibility rejects the golden rule of “treat others as you want to be treated” that most religions and ethical traditions believe in one form or another. It’s been replaced by a rotten “do what you want unto others” rule. This approved amorality demoralizes. From 2000 to 2020, adult membership in American churches fell 33%, from 70% in 1940 to 2000 to 47% in 2020, according to Gallup.

To know the cause of American chaos is to know the cure for American chaos. The solution is to restore constitutional authority over the Internet in American politics. This means: same rules and rights offline and online. Equal protection under the law.

Illegal offline, illegal online.

Scott Cleland is executive director of the Restore Us Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that educates the public about Internet liability issues and solutions. He wrote this for


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