Rules of the Internet– Golden Rule of Netiquette: What Governs Internet Behavior, Code of Conduct… What are the Rules?

The Internet has matured into a world of its own and like the real world; it must begin to obey certain immutable rules. ~Tom Chivers

The Internet is often compared to the Wild West: Lawless, rule-less and wide-open for anything. However, as technology evolved from handful of hackers on Usenet bulletin boards to the billions of users on officially sponsored sites; customs, culture… rules of the Internet have evolved with it. But, who knows what new rules may be written? Hence, some people say there should be a formal code of contact, rules of behavior..:

An Internet etiquette or Netiquette with Netiquette Rules that are basic guidelines for normative Internet behavior. Netiquette being the social code of network communication that utilizes common conventions and norms as a guide for rules and standards; such as, ‘Golden Rule of Netiquette’: Do unto others online as you would have done to you… However, most people are smart enough to realize that, when you go on Internet, it’s like entering a foreign country…

In Internet culture, the 1%-rule or the 90–9–1 principle (sometimes also presented as 89:10:1 ratio) reflects a hypothesis that more people will lurk in a virtual community than will participate. The 1%-rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (or less) of the people actually viewing that content; e.g., for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.

According to Holly Goodier in conjunction with the BBC presented research in late 2012 suggesting that only 23% of the population (rather than 90%) could properly be classified as lurkers, while 17% of the population could be classified as intense contributors of content. Several years prior, communication scholars Eszter Hargittai and Gina Walejko reported on sample of students studied, from Chicago, where 60% of the sample created content in some form…

According to M. Roblyer and A. Doering; Netiquette covers not only rules of behavior during discussions, but also guidelines that reflect the unique electronic nature of the medium… Netiquette usually is enforced by fellow users who are quick to point out indiscretions and bad behavior… However, some people think that the time has come for an informed public debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media…

In the article Modern Rules of the Internet (‘Revised Russo Translation’ with study notes) by OP Juan writes: Rules of Internet refers to somewhat unwritten, often changing set of rules assumed to be true or necessary, but often just common sense. There are many proposed laws, rules, codes of conduct… floating around Internet for regulating people’s online behavior… a few of these basic rules, laws, truths… which are commonly referenced are the following:

  • Rule 1: When you see text appearing on your screen, remember that there’s a human on the other side.
  • Rule 2: Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it; information wants to be free. (Gilmore’s Law)
  • Rule 3: For every opinion there is at least one equally loud and opposing opinion.
  • Rule 4: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. (Godwin’s Law)
  • Rule 5: Never attribute to malice or conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity: People say hurtful things on Internet. (Hanlon’s Razor)
  • Rule 6: One cannot argue with stupid. (Callahan’s Principle). Inevitably, when someone comments with an off-the-wall, untenable, or distasteful viewpoint, some well-meaning soul attempts to argue them out of it. Don’t.
  • Rule 7: Don’t feed the trolls. A ‘troll’ in Internet parlance is someone who is deliberately provoking argument, being insulting, or just trying to derail the conversation off-topic. Arguing with troll is purposeless, that’s what they want.
  • Rule 8: Intensity of an online argument is  inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue. (Sayre’s Law)
  • Rule 9: Passion in an online argument is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available. (Benford’s ‘Law of Controversy’)
  • Rule 10: Those who are most eager to share their opinions are more likely to be those whose opinions are of least value. (Campbell’s Theorem). Alternatively: stupid people shout the loudest.
  • Rule 11: With every post/comment in an online conversation, relation to the original topic decreases. The Internets have a hard time focusing, it seems…
  • Rule 12: Likelihood of a post or comment being read by others decreases with every page of posts/comments that comes before it.
  • Rule 13: Likelihood of a post or comment being read by others is inversely proportional to the amount of time you spent writing it. You could call this the ‘too long, didn’t read’ principle.
  • Rule 14: Likelihood of a post or comment being deleted is directly proportional to the amount of time you spent writing it.
  • Rule 15: Likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to embarrassment it will cause the poster. (Skitt’s Law)
  • Rule 16: Any post written to correct editing or proofreading will itself contain an editing or proofreading error. (Muphry’s Law)
  • Rule 17: Without deliberate indication of humor, at least one person will mistake any parody for the real thing. (Corollary of Poe’s Law)
  • Rule 18: Without a deliberate indication of humor, it’s impossible to tell some instances of parody from the real thing. (Corollary of Poe’s Law)
  • Rule 19: It’s impossible to criticize an individual, group, institution or product without simultaneously advertising for them. In many cases, people have become more popular due to their detractors.
  • Rule 20: Lurk before you leap. If you’re new to a forum, a board, a blog-ring or the like, keep quiet until you’ve gotten your bearings.
  • Rule 21: It’s preferable to post in an existing thread than to start a new thread on the exact same topic. Join that conversation rather than start a whole new one.
  • Rule 22: There is no topic so thoroughly covered that somebody won’t bring it up again… but it shouldn’t be so.
  • Rule 23: What happens on Internet stays on Internet–forever. If something gets put on Internet, it never goes away. Consider this a warning to anyone who plans on someday running for office.
  • Rule 24: On the Internet, one is only as anonymous as one allows oneself to be. Some people are afraid of ever posting, blogging, or talking on Internet, for fear of stalkers finding out all about them. The truth is, with few exceptions, people will only find out as much about you as you yourself reveal.
  • Rule 25: As anonymity increases, likelihood of incivility increases. (Russo’s Theorem)
  • Rule 26: Never take the identity of another for granted. That hot girl on Facebook might really be a forty-year-old man.
  • Rule 27: Neutrality is valuable. To have a website that carefully considers both sides of a controversial issue is a treasured thing. Neutrality is the closest to objectivity…
  • Rule 28: Neutrality is finite. There are issues about which it’s impossible to be neutral.
  • Rule 29: Viable, successful Internet meme will be passed on. The term ‘meme’ refers to; an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person-to-person within a culture.
  • Rule 30: Internet meme only remains viable so long as: [People who are encountering it for first time] are greater than [People who have encountered it before]. (Carr’s Law)
  • Rule 31: When one transmits a meme after it has been declared unviable, one opens oneself to ridicule.
  • Rule 32: If you can imagine it, someone has imagined it already. It’s hard to be original with six billion other people also trying to be original.
  • Rule 33: Good screen names are already taken. You’ll have to resign yourself to adding a string of numbers on the end.
  • Rule 34: If you can imagine it, there is porn of it. (Yokai’s Law)
  • Rule 35: If you can imagine it, and there is ‘no’ porn of it, porn will be created. (Munroe’s Corollary). A scary thought.
  • Rule 36: Internet devours both concentration and time. I really think that, in order to maintain concentration in the digital age, you have to… oh, hang on…
  • Rule 37: 80% of everything is crap. (4 to 1 rule): 80% of all email is spam, 80% of all website content is copy/pasted from somewhere else, 80% of all websites are ads…
  • Rule 38: On Internet, all expressions, common phrases, and common nouns will eventually be reduced to acronyms.
  • Rule 39: Don’t go to Internet for counsel, for it will say; ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘ask somewhere else’. When multiple people are answering one question, expect multiple and conflicting answers.
  • Rule 40: Nobody ever ignores what they should ignore on Internet. (Reimer’s Reason).

The Internet is an ambiguous and unique form of communication due to the way people convey information to one another… unlike the ‘real world’ where people interact person-to-person, face-to-face…

According to Peter S. Vogel; when you’re in the midst of social change, it’s impossible to determine where it’s going… I think we are in the greatest social change in the history of humans, because there are no boundaries of geography or time.

According to Bruce Umbaugh; we haven’t even sorted out what happens when the differences in local culture meet global technology… not all parts of the world are as tolerant or open-minded as Western democracies.

According to Jamie Cohen; there are a lot of places in the world that are actively using the technology of the Internet to control the free communication among citizens, and to identify critics of the government and hurt them… we need to be mindful in what we advocate from our perspective, and that the tools that are implemented on the Net are tools for the global Net.

In other words, citizens of other countries already face actual, enforceable rules — unlike the folkways established by Web users in the West. For example, witness frictions of Arab Spring or restrictions of societies, such as; North Korea It’s the kind of perspective that provides a different context for issues raised by a ‘libertarian’; anything goes on Internet. It’s hard enough to stop ‘Star Wars’ comment boards from devolving into flame baiting, meme-generating files of NSFW  Yodas… However, for now, we’re still making our way through ‘series of tubes’, and nobody knows where boundaries lie. We joke, we grimace, and we marvel at the creativity of the hive mind.

The Internet is a big place and countless cultures have set-up residence. Eventually, what is now considered humor may lose its zing; what are now accepted as custom may become law. Will the rules ever become: ‘The Rules’? However, some experts say that the Internet isn’t some Wild West that needs taming. It’s a new and different system, which  can be even more abused by those who seek to implement laws and controls that just don’t fit the system…