I finally got around to reading Hank Sim’s generally excellent article on the Sacred Grounds/Bayside Roasters Internet debacle. Hank had the dubious privilege of sitting in court each day so he got a clear picture of the muddled information that passed for evidence, especially surrounding the issue of how the baysideroasters.com domain became associated with porn sites in Google searches. It’s clear from Hank’s article that few in the courtroom, from lawyers to witnesses to defendant and plaintiffs were very sophisticated about the Internet. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the jurors who found the defendant guilty of a crime purely on very dubious circumstantial evidence. Thanks for the well written article, Hank.

But what was the purpose of that closing paragraph? According to Hank the libel suit and people’s comments for and against the combatants is illustrative of what the Internet is all about. To quote:

Schadenfreude: It’s the tendency to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others, and it’s reprehensible. As this case has demonstrated in more ways than one, it is also the backbone of the Internet.

I’ve been on the Internet for 15 years and this kind odd judgment crops up all the time. Like any technology that facilitates communication and manipulation of data, the Internet is a conduit for both good and bad behavior. I have seen no study that indicates that bad behavior far outweighs the good. It’s a place where people in pain can find connections and comfort. It’s a place where people can find like minds to build better societies. It’s also a place where terrorists can plot and pornographers can distribute material. Indeed, the Internet simply reflects what is good and bad in people. The global nature and the lightning speed (for some of us, annyway) just seems to magnify whatever side of human nature you happen to be looking at.