What comes to mind when you see a van like this, parked on the side of the street with its license plate completely covered in spray paint?  Most likely, you suspect some type of illegal or illicit activity, and you might cross to the other side of the street when you pass it.  If a police officer were to see this van approaching, there’s no question that he would pull it over – aside from making the van look completely suspicious, obscuring license plates is illegal.

Anyone who has taken a written test for their learner’s driving permit knows how many laws there are regarding driving (quick – how many feet do you have to stop behind a school bus?).  These are designed to both maintain order on the road and keep people safe. We’re used to having rules for driving and for other parts of our lives. So why is it that the Internet, despite being over a decade old, is still largely devoid of laws?

Take one example: the online marketplace. In reality, it basically functions as a free-for-all bazaar, where you know very little about the elements and agents at work, and anything you can imagine is for sale and bartering and haggling are par for the course.  A woman in Boston even came across an ad putting her son up for adoption on Craigslist earlier this summer. With the economic recession, the instances of bartering on the Internet have increased substantially and now there is even a Web site where people can barter for health care.

People who participate in the online buying and selling process rarely know anything about the other party involved. Sometimes, as in the case with the false adoption ad, the sellers are scammers who attempt to dupe unsuspecting buyers into sending them money for fake or even non-existent goods (or the promise of sharing in princely riches as we all have seen in advanced-fee scams). Many people lack the training or the good sense to be able to detect this type of fraud, and as a result, continue to be preyed upon online. Lawlessness runs rampant on the Internet, largely due to the fact that it is easy for people to conceal their identities. Online, it’s passable to cover up your license plate with spray paint in order to avoid being held accountable for your actions.

Josh Bourne
Internet Lawlessness

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