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Don't Blame the Internet, Blame Human Nature


The Internet is the medium, not the message ("The underground Web," Cover Story, Sept. 2). Like any truly powerful invention, the Internet can be used equally for good or evil. It is this ability to bring to the fore major philosophical issues such as free will, freedom of speech, and the role of individual responsibility in society that marks the advent of the Internet era as a milestone in human history.

The debate needs to turn to how we manage these larger social questions, not whether the Internet is a "good thing." The "dark side" you're seeing doesn't belong to the Internet; it is the dark side of human nature itself, which the Internet impassively reflects by virtue of its remarkable penetration into our everyday lives.

Virginia Hines

Sunnyvale, Calif.

The Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) agrees with the conclusion of "The Underground Web" that the Web has "too little law and order." As the international trade group for the interactive gambling industry, we have spent the past six years promoting rigorous government regulation of our industry. We are dismayed, however, that you link responsible gambling site operators with child pornographers, money scammers, and other such despicable enterprises. Casino gambling is legal, and successfully regulated and taxed, in many states. State governments also make millions from their lotteries. In the U.S., our goal of licensing with regulation has been thwarted by misguided, futile efforts to block citizens from gambling on the Internet.

Industry efforts are no substitute for the work that government regulators should be doing, but the IGC has tried to fill the gap with a code of conduct for members. We are also working with the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and with the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Content Rating Assn. to help prevent online gambling by minors.

Even in the U.S., the legal status of Internet gambling is far more complicated than your story suggests. As you grudgingly acknowledge, in some countries it is legal and regulated.

Keith Furlong

Deputy Director

Interactive Gaming Council

Vancouver, B.C. You casually include the Exxon Valdez as an instance of failure to apologize ("The mea culpa defense," "25 ideas for a changing world," Cover Story, Aug. 19-26). Exxon Corp. apologized soon after the 1989 oil spill with full-page advertisements in many national publications. More significantly, Exxon reimbursed Alaskan communities for all losses they may have experienced following the spill. In a six-week state court trial concluded in June, 2002, the jury's unanimous verdict awarded nothing to the six communities that sued because Exxon paid voluntarily 13 years ago. This example of corporate responsibility merits recognition and praise.

Connie Taylor

Anchorage, Alaska

Editor's note: The writer was president of the Cordova (Alaska) Chamber of Commerce in 1987-91.

"The mea culpa defense" seems blind to the striking difference between the responses of Big Tobacco and Exxon to the respective circumstances of each. It is evident that Big Tobacco denied culpability for its own deliberate actions, while Exxon promptly started efforts and began expenditures both to repair physical damages and to compensate those who were financially harmed by the very tragic accident.

Frank J. Hutchings

Pensacola, Fla. In the best of worlds, no one would hurt or kill people through medical negligence or with a defective product, and corporations would not victimize customers, employees, and shareholders ("Don't kill all the trial lawyers," Cover Story, Aug 19-26). Unfortunately, special interests have successfully minimized protective government regulations and the resources necessary to enforce existing rules. That's why trial lawyers are needed.

Those who vilify trial lawyers and seek self-serving "tort reform" are really attacking citizen juries--that's you, your friends, neighbors, and co-workers--because when they have done something wrong, they don't trust the judgment of the American people.

Mary E. Alexander

President

Association of Trial Lawyers of America

San Francisco My boyhood hometown was Hershey, Pa., where I grew up at 20 W. Chocolate Ave. ("Graduate with a cause," People, Sept. 2). My father, Dr. H.H. Hostetter, was Milton S. Hershey's physician and confidant from 1924 until Hershey's death in 1945. Discussions of Hershey's dreams and goals were subjects of many dinner conversations at our house.

The current tug-of-war, with graduates of the Milton Hershey School and the townsfolk on one side and the trust board on the other, was inevitable. The trust, an accomplished and well-respected group, sees its responsibility as upholding the fiscal value of Hershey's trust in them. The 77% interest in Hershey represents too many eggs in one basket. (Why not sell 26% and keep control of Hershey Foods Corp.?)

F. Frederic Fouad represents a more noble responsibility, that of guarding the vision and preserving the dream of M.S. Hershey. The Milton Hershey School students were "his kids," and the Hershey bar was his creation to provide for them. There is no doubt in my mind that M.S. could have tolerated Hershey chocolate going away because of competition, but he would never have understood someone forfeiting his chocolate creation merely to increase his bank account. He was not that kind of man.

H. Glenn Hostetter

Manson, Wash.


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