You may have heard of ratemyprof.com, the site that allows students to rate their professors and write positive or negative reviews. Another site, based on the same principle, is called ratemycop.com. It allows anyone to write reviews of police officers, good ones and bad ones, and bring an entirely different layer of police accountability in the hands of everyday citizens. I think tools like these will help provide police departments with the kind of accountability and loosely-networked oversight that is desperately needed. Private citizens generate this sort of content, not the state, which benefits the general population in ways that the state would not have done otherwise.
To every internet libertarian’s chagrin, however, ratemycop.com was shutdown earlier this March due to police complaints about the site. However, GoDaddy.com, the hosting service running ratemycop.com, told the owner of the site, Gino Sesto, the reason it was shutdown was that it had exceeded its 3 terabyte bandwidth limit.
But net activism proved once again to be a valuable tool for correcting undemocratic, nontransparent actions like these. After the original article in Wired was published, the net community picked it up, viralized it, slashdotted it, brought it to the fore, and soon the site was up again by March 26th. This is internet “people power” in full effect.
In September, IBM workers decided to stage a worker’s strike not in RL (real life) but in SL (Second Life). The Second Life traffic in the IBM complex overloaded the resolution-generating processes of the area and basically shutdown IBM’s Second Life center. Thousands of people attended the online rally.
The power of people to connect and network on the internet in new and innovative ways has made it virtually impossible for states to crack down on. Sooner or later, someone will find a hosting service or a venue to bring valuable information to the fore and states are in no position to prevent this from happening.
Just as when Turkey and other governments decided to ban YouTube due to dissent and criticism, it only made the governments look ridiculous and reactionary to the rest of the world, sometimes forcing them to sheepishly re-lift the ban. When GoDaddy.com banned ratemycop.com it only made the website more popular and in greater demand. Essentially, the state’s reactionary fear ensured the success of the website. Sesto says police as well as citizens can post comments, and a future version of the site will allow them to authenticate themselves to post rebuttals more prominently. Police chiefs, however, still irate about the concept of citizen oversight, have not ended their attempts to make the website illegal.