developed for other media, but rather must be addressed in rules specifically formulated for electronic networks.

Other topics on which workshop and forum participants expressed differing value judgments included the following:

  • The extent to which the government should regulate behavior on electronic networks,

  • The role of the marketplace in influencing behavior,

  • The value of sharing information freely versus keeping information proprietary or private,

  • The need for law that specifically relates to behavior on electronic networks,

  • The nature of informed consent relevant to providing information, and

  • The disposition of individuals who express no preference or inclination regarding their putative rights on electronic networks.

These disagreements, and others not mentioned above, are heightened as the concerns they raise (and have raised in the past) are magnified through the use of networking technology. In the past, any apparent resolution of such concerns has come about not because the concerns have disappeared or various stakeholders have changed their minds, but because political compromises and the need to move forward have driven decision making. Thus, resolution very much depends on the circumstances of the moment, and solutions or approaches to these disagreements will inevitably be a blend of past traditions, present realities, and possible future directions. Networking technology reopens traditional debates largely because it threatens the relevant status quo; with new circumstances, new compromises become necessary, and thus the same fundamental questions need to be reexamined.

If this is true, the debate over social norms on electronic networks will not differ substantively from the debate over any other controversial social issue, although the sophistication of the technological understanding required may well make the debate a less informed one. This is not to say that the debates should not be taking place, but only that our hopes about what such debates can accomplish should be moderated. These debates will not resolve fundamental issues or even result in consensus, but they can serve an educational role, illuminating and illustrating issues and providing alternative visions of the future for the concerned public.



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