On Conduct

We discussed earlier about honoring XaTuring and why dishonoring the Worm or breaking a vow made to him is a crime: ultimately, it’s deceit. Little else would anger XaTuring or have him work against someone so actively, save for the pollution of his domain. What causes pollution, and what might one do to abstain from it, will be the topics of today’s post.

It’s unlikely that anyone on the Internet who has an email address has not experienced spam or emails carrying viruses or worms. It’s even more unlikely for people who use the WWW at all to not have come across obnoxious ads or infectious malware that can be spread merely by going to a particular website. This is unwarranted, unwanted, invasive, impeding, and detrimental to one’s experience on the Internet. Wading through spam, accidentally deleting legit emails, making new email accounts entirely, or reinstalling one’s whole system to wipe a virus clean, losing one’s data due to an intentionally corrupted application are all time-consuming, frustrating, and angering things to happen to anybody. This is pollution, and this angers both the user and XaTuring, both of whom must navigate through it to achieve their goals.

RFC 1087, the 1989 document “Ethics and the Internet”, has some relevance here. Composed twenty years ago, it already acknowledges that “the Internet has become an important national infrastructure”, and although it focuses its attention to the needs of researchers and scientists, we can apply the document to users and fields of all kinds. It classifies “unethical and unacceptable” behavior (or pollution) as any activity that purposely:

  • seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet
  • disrupts the intended use of the Internet
  • wastes resources (people, capacity, computers) through such actions
  • destroys the integrity of computer-based information
  • compromises the privacy of users

Examples of these are not hard to come by, and neither are people who commit these sorts of acts. Besides the inconvenience and harm they cause, however, the pollution it causes has real effects on XaTuring and his domain. Pollution is that which can threaten ritual success and can anger the god, and his anger is not to be treated lightly. The Internet, as a domain in and of itself, has its natural forces, and they can be just as destructive to our electronic selves as tornadoes and floods are to our physical selves. Keep in mind that gods don’t necessarily play by the same rules we do, and when they get angry, their wrath can be more disastrous than anything we can wring ourselves.

That said, it’s rather easy to not participate in these kinds of pollution: don’t run a spam server, don’t engage in malicious hacking, don’t make extra posts when you don’t need to, and so forth. In this regard, any reasonable code of Internet etiquette would suffice to keep one’s actions in check. Below is one such minimal code of conduct; at the very least, it would keep things in general order, forbidding only the things that cause pollution and suffering in XaTuring’s domain. Of course, like any code, at times it could and should be broken. Seeing as how this is a minimal set of rules for conduct, reasons for breaking this code would include stupidity (a lack of understanding the code), shortsightedness (going against the code for some false gain), or a good reason (causing some suffering to prevent much more suffering).

  • Do not deny another access to His domain nor to their own.
  • Do not break into another’s domain which you were not granted access to, nor break any rule of their domain while you are in it.
  • Do not spam another by any protocol.
  • Do not install, alter, or remove software or hardware on another’s system without their permission.
  • Do not steal, abuse, or exploit another’s creations, data, resources, services, or property for harmful or deceitful ends.
  • Do not decrypt any encrypted information not destined to you.

Note that this is a strictly negative code; it specifies only what not to do. It doesn’t encourage or suggest anything to be done. XaTuring is largely impartial to the content of data flowing through his domain, as long as it’s not pollution. Of course, there are actions that strengthen both the user and XaTuring, and these actions should be promoted in his domain either for their own sake or for the sake of others, the user’s self, or XaTuring. These are largely to be decided upon by the user, since each user has different goals and reasons to be in XaTuring’s domain. One such action might be to promote and defend the freedoms of speech and expression, and all platforms and methods that enable this freedom.

Now, let’s say that you’ve committed pollution in XaTuring’s domain. What to do? Since elaborate cleansing rituals, as done for other pollution-focused systems of order, don’t work as well for the Internet (but wouldn’t do more harm), the other way to remove pollution is to remove it or clean what was polluted. Spammed a forum? Remove the spam. Stole? Return what was stolen. Broke into another’s system? Let the owners know about the exploited vulnerability. These actions might be done anyway, if such actions are to the user’s taste or as a form of worship instead of penance, but are helpful in balancing out one’s actions.

I’m not trying to institute some rigid morality for Internet users. In something so decentralized, so freeing, and so entitling as electronic media, calling for a central authority demanding conduct across all domains and platforms is folly. This is a discussion of conduct and pollution, and what should be discouraged to permit XaTuring to work his works and us our own all the more effectually.

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