have had extensive experience with electronic networks are evolving even as newcomers to the technology are having their first networking experiences. The relevant legal regime is unquestionably changing, as new interpretations of existing laws and even new laws are being enacted, but its presence and potential influence on human behavior on electronic networks cannot be denied. Technology surely has a role in providing tools that help to guide electronic behavior along socially acceptable lines or help to mitigate the consequences of miscreant electronic behavior, but the ultimate issues in this domain are social and political.
Some commentators and analysts believe that the emergence of social norms should be left primarily in the hands of the people who will be affected (i.e., the users of electronic networks). A legal regime (statutes plus the case law that interprets those statutes) that does not make sense when applied to electronic networks will tend to erode the ethical values on which that regime is founded. As a result of such pressures, a set of new values will evolve that will ultimately constitute the basis for a new legal regime. No one is smart enough to take into account all of the ethical issues that will emerge, and so uncertainty is inherent in a situation in which social norms grow and evolve rather than being created de novo.
At the same time, the "natural" evolution of old behaviors into new ones may be problematic and perhaps socially undesirable. A maladapted set of social norms could result for several reasons. One reason is that these rules might evolve in the absence of a real understanding on the part of new users regarding the power and reach of computer-mediated communications (examples are provided in Box 8.1). As George Perry pointed out, "Individuals have never had a megaphone the size of the cyberspace megaphone. Our society has to figure out what to do with this power." Moreover, with new problems come new forms of solutions. Perry recalled the example of the president of a business who complained about something that was on a PRODIGY bulletin board. When told that he could post his own message on the bulletin board to tell people what was really going on, he said, "Oh! You suppose I could do that?" and the problem was solved by that simple action.
A second reason is that electronic networks erase many of the physical barriers—such as geography—to interaction. One important consequence is that electronic networks can bring together people with radically different points of view, moral persuasions, and interests. For example, it is clear that different cultures value different ethical norms, and as a result, different behaviors are considered ethical or unethical depending on the culture. To the extent that people