“In time we hate that which we often fear
William ShakespeareFear is an extremely powerful motivational force. In publicpolicy debates, appeals to fear are often used in an attempt tosway opinion or bolster the case for action. Such appeals areused to convince citizens that threats to individual or socialwell-being may be avoided only if specific steps are taken. Of-ten these steps take the form of anticipatory regulation basedon the precautionary principle.Such “fear appeal arguments” are frequently on display inthe Internet policy arena and often take the form of a full-blown “moral panic” or “technopanic.”
These panics are intensepublic, political, and academic responses to the emergence oruse of media or technologies, especially by the young.
In theextreme, they result in regulation or censorship.While cyberspace has its fair share of troubles and trou-blemakers, there is no evidence that the Internet is leading togreater problems for society than previous technologies did.
That has not stopped some from suggesting there are reasonsto be particularly fearful of the Internet and new digital tech-nologies.
There are various individual and institutional factors
Antony and Cleopatra
act 1, sc. 3, line 12,
1127, 1132 (Stanley Wells& Gary Taylor eds., Clarendon Press 1986).2. Adam Thierer,
Parents, Kids, & Policymakers in the Digital Age: Safe- guarding Against “Techno-Panics
(Am. Legislative Exch.Council, D.C.), July 2009, at 16, 16–17 [hereinafter
Selling Digital Fear
(Apr. 7, 2012), http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/07/selling-digital-fear (discussing public panic about availability of private information online).3.
See Safeguarding Against Technopanics
note 2, at 16 (“[S]ocialand cultural debates quickly become political debates.”).4.
Fact and Fiction in the Debate over Video GameRegulation
(Progress & Freedom Found., D.C.), Mar.2006, at 20–21 [hereinafter
Fact and Fiction
http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/pops/pop13.7videogames.pdf (identifying a de-crease in youth murder, rape, robbery, assault, alcohol and drug abuse, teenbirth rates, high school dropout rates, and suicide rates).5.
Alice E. Marwick,
To Catch a Predator? The MySpace Moral Panic
(June 2, 2008), http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2152/1966 (giving examples of reasons some arefearful of the Internet, but arguing that these reasons are not based on empir-ical evidence).