US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Who's God online?

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Obviously, God is God on or offline, but as a user of the magnificent World Wide Web, I take for granted that there are people behind it. Two recent news items might make an Internet surfer wonder about who controls the Internet.

BT (a company that I think is the British version of Comcast) dropped after ministers of parliament complainted that the site was anti-Semitic. The Sunday Herald calls the website editor Timothy Johnson a "radical Catholic" who had supported Richard Williamson on his site.

Johnson said that it's a smear campaign against critics of extremist Jews and a breach of free speech. He plans to find a host outside the country, but until then we can't see it to judge who's right.

The question of hate speech is one for the courts. My big concern: Are we at the hands of Internet providers, who have their own set of interests, to decide what is and is not appropriate? Are civil liberties in danger here? I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, ICANN, another big force behind the Internet, recently discussed creating a number of new domain names--what comes after the "dot," i.e. .com, .org, .edu.  The Vatican offered it opinion against religious domain names such as .catholic or .islam, an IT website reports. The big problem with religious domains is who gets to decide if a site qualifies for .catholic. (Because it's a state, the Vatican has a .va domain name.)

Would qualify for .catholic? Would it just be for websites associated with diocese or religious orders? What about all the Catholic blogs created by ordinary people?

Internet users don't think about these issues much, but as the Internet grows as the source of information, it might be important to wonder who is behind such decisions?