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Truth and the Internet

By Vinton G. Cerf
1998

Truth is a powerful solvent. Stone walls melt before its relentless might. The Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known.

But the power of the Internet is like a two-edged sword. It can also deliver misinformation and uncorroborated opinion with equal ease. The thoughtful and the thoughtless co-exist side by side in the Internet’s electronic universe. What’s to be done?

There are no electronic filters that separate truth from fiction. No cognitive “V-chip” to sort the gold from the lead. We have but one tool to apply: critical thinking. This truth applies as well to all other communication media, not only the Internet. Perhaps the World Wide Web merely forces us to see this more clearly than other media. The stark juxtaposition of valuable and valueless content sets one to thinking. Here is an opportunity to educate us all. We truly must think about what we see and hear. We must evaluate and select. We must choose our guides. What better lesson than this to teach our young children to prepare them for a new century of social, economic and technological change?

Let us make a new Century resolution to teach our children to think more deeply about what they see and hear. That, more than any electronic filter, will build a foundation upon which truth can stand.

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