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Welcome to the Wild, Wild Internet

Beth Moscov
Boulder Creek CA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 4, August-September 2001, pp. 88-89

In the history of the United States, there was a time when the whole American West was considered to be a new frontier. People were moving into the new territory. This was a time of pioneers. Lawlessness existed and in many ways, the law was simply who won a gun battle. Outlaws were famous- Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Butch Cassidy are familiar names for many. Brothels, cattle rustlers, and train robbers were common. Life was hard and living was dangerous.

Some have called the Internet the new frontier. It is a new form of communication and is almost a new land-a virtual land. Web sites and email are called "addresses" as if they exist in a real place and not just in an electronic world. Just as in the geographical Wild American West, the Internet can be a dangerous place. Brothels exist in the form of porn sites. Cattle rustlers appear in the form of credit card thieves and false businesses. Train robbers are analogous to hackers and computer viruses that derail the normal flow of online communication.

Just as in the Wild American West, there are also many hardworking, law- abiding citizens on the World Wide Web. In the old days, people banded together, creating towns and forming a legal system that included sheriffs and laws. As towns grew and had increasing connection with other towns, law had a greater effect. The time of the great Western outlaws is considered to have ended about 1905. On the Internet, we create "towns" when we meet people and spend our time with a particular group of people online. And we are beginning to create the laws and the entities that will govern this new frontier.

When we are roaming the landscape of the Internet, we need to remember how to keep ourselves safe and stay out of dangerous situations. This is a "new world," and we may not see a bad situation coming ahead of time. Simple precautions include not opening email attachments that come from people we don't know or that don't appear to be the kind of things our friends would normally send us, can protect us from computer viruses. Some of us have children old enough to use the computer. We can protect them by supervising their time online and possibly installing a program to block offensive Web sites.

We can also protect ourselves, and LLL as an organization, by building our homes (Web sites) in a safe manner. In the American West, you could choose to place your homestead in the middle of the prairie where you could see people coming for miles and miles, or you could place yourself against a mountainside. One woman, who lived alone, built corrals for herself up against a box canyon so that she only needed to build a twenty-foot fence, and her cattle couldn't be stolen from other directions.

In the same way, we can build and place Web sites in ways that create safety. It is important to protect ourselves legally when creating Web sites (especially LLL Group Web pages). When posting photos, remember to get written permissions from those in the photo-especially from the parents for minors. Photos on the Web can be very easily copied and changed in different computer graphics programs. Some people prefer not to have their photos on the Web in case some hacker steals the photo and creates a less than savory graphic image with it. Others wish to keep their photos off the Web because of privacy. If your Group would like to share pictures, one alternative is to have a private Web site with photos that isn't linked to your public Group Web page. Even on a private site, Groups need to obtain written permission from anyone whose photo and/or identifying information appears on the site, for liability reasons.

Law-abiding citizens in the American West created towns. By living near each other, they could help each other out with larger jobs and in emergencies. People often formed communities with like-minded people. We can do the same thing by remembering the wide range of computer users who are on the Internet. We can choose to be exclusive, keeping some people out but limiting our resources, or we can open our community to as many mothers and babies who wish to join us. By keeping a public Group Web page simple, with a minimum of graphics, we invite many computer users to join our community. While some women have high-speed access to the Internet with cable modems and Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL), most are still using plain old modems with various speeds for connection. A simple page is easier to download on these systems. Some mothers may have high technology but they are simply not computer savvy. It helps these mothers to have a Web page that isn't cluttered with lots of pictures, graphics, and even text. It is easier to find the information one is looking for when a page is simple and clear. And of course, many mothers who come to our Group Web sites are mothers of newborns who may need help with a breastfeeding problem. These mothers may only have one hand free to type or navigate a Web page, or they may be too upset to understand a page with lots of fancy graphics and photos.

The Wild American West eventually was tamed. The Internet will be also, we assume. Already there are many legal battles occurring that will define online freedoms and restrictions. In the next few years we may see more online communities building, just as they were built in the American West. LLLOnline is one such community that is already in place. The LLLI Web site is a vast site with much information. It also links to many individual Group Web sites. We are building our community. Let us make it a safe way to help mothers and babies!

To receive more complete information about creating an LLL Group Web page, send inquiries to the Website team through the contact form*

Beth Moscov is the Education Coordinator for the LLLI Online Department. She is also a member of the Review Network for the Chaordic Initiative. When not doing LLL things, she spends her time with Sam, 5, and Sara, 16, in the garden or kitchen.

Note: contact information updated 11/17/06

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