Film and TV

Your Guide to Laws of the Internet

The Internet has laws. I don't mean rules here, as in guidelines that you must follow or be banished by Al Gore from the World Wide Web. No, I mean laws like the first law of thermodynamics and things like that. Science.

And the science of the Internet is a discipline I will hereby dub anthroculusology, from the Latin "anthro" meaning "man," "culus," meaning "asshole," and "ology" meaning this. The laws of anthroculusology specifically refer to the behavior of assholes when afforded the opportunity to express themselves with relative anonymity and without fear of social repercussion. In short, the chance of receiving a swift elbow to the jaw is inversely proportionate to the desire to act in a way that in meat world would end with a swift elbow to the jaw.

Today we salute the pioneers who gave form to these online principles.

See also: 5 URLs You Can Safely Ignore When Your Friends Share Links on Facebook

Godwin's Law: First expressed by attorney and author Mike Godwin in Usenet groups in the '90s, the law that bears his name is probably the best known of the Internet laws, and was recently added to the Oxford dictionary. The law states, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one," meaning that any comment section or forum on any subject, no matter how far removed it may be from the Nazis or Hitler will eventually bring up references to them if the discussion continues.

Godwin's original expression was a pointed rebuttal to flippant comparisons to the Holocaust that he saw online. Since first expressed, it has unfortunately been proven time and time again to be accurate, as any comment section on any news story about any president will reveal.

Anita's Irony: A variation of Godwin's Law is Moff's Law, which states, "As comments continue in a feminist [social justice] discussion of pop culture, the probability of someone saying 'why do you have to analyze it? It's just a movie/cartoon/book!' approaches one." This has given rise to a correlation known as Anita's Irony, named for Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian.

Anita's Irony states, "Online discussion of sexism or misogyny quickly results in disproportionate displays of sexism and misogyny," and if you ever wonder why Sarkeesian has the comment section disabled on her videos this is why. Threats of rape for deconstructing Duke Nukem is not really something you want to expose yourself to.

Poe's Law: Another well-known law that is extremely important to be aware of is Poe's Law. Nathan Poe was a poster on a creationist forum in 2005. The forum was understandably frequented by satirists, and forum users often reacted to the satire by not recognizing it and thus beginning flame wars. Poe stated, "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article."

Since tone of voice is impossible to convey in an e-mail, post, or text, extrapolating Poe's Law teaches us that it is very important to question how obvious a joke is before using it. Unless you really just enjoy taking the piss out of people. In that case, carry on.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner