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internet commandmentsThe Internet is a somewhat lawless place. Sure, there are various legalities concerning the posting and viewing of certain content — including pornography and copyrighted material — but generally speaking the rules that govern the Web are both lax and difficult to enforce.

Certain websites, such as social networks, will lay out their own ground rules which, if broken, could get you banned How To Get Banned From Social Networks How To Get Banned From Social Networks The Web has opened up lines of communication that were previously closed for the vast majority of the world. Anyone with an Internet connection can now head online and talk to someone on the other... Read More . But there are also commandments that have risen from nowhere to become entrenched in the Web as a whole.

What follows are 5 of these Internet commandments that, if adopted, could save you blushes and bullying as those around you point and laugh at your ineptitude. These are laws that have become written into the very fabric of the Web as it has emerged and evolved over the last two decades. Take note, take heed, and take them all with a healthy pinch of salt.

Poe’s Law

internet commandments

“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”

Poe’s Law is named after Nathan Poe, who authored this particular adage in 2005 during a debate about creationism on a Christian forum. According to Wikipedia, Poe’s Law can be traced back even further, with similar sentiments being expressed as long ago as 1983 when Jerry Schwarz spoke of the importance of smileys. In its purest form it’s a reminder that words will be taken literally when written down.

Example: If I were to say “Vegetarians are all evil because everyone in the Bible was a meat eater,” someone, somewhere will take it literally because I haven’t made it clear it’s poking fun at fundamentalism.

Godwin’s Law

internet etiquette

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

Godwin’s Law, named after its originator Mike Godwin, states that an online discussion will always include a reference to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis 10 Of The Funniest Hitler Reaction Videos (Downfall Parodies) Featuring Technology 10 Of The Funniest Hitler Reaction Videos (Downfall Parodies) Featuring Technology Downfall, or Der Untergang in German, is a film detailing the last days of World War II in April and May of 1945. It's an often uncomfortable portrayal of a dictator facing the end; of... Read More , no matter what the topic is that’s being discussed. Godwin conceived of this adage in 1990 when Usenet was popular, but it still remains accurate to this day no matter where online the conversation is taking place. If Godwin’s Law does come into play then whoever mentioned Hitler automatically loses the argument, and the discussion should probably come to a prompt end.

Example: After many, many messages back and forth debating an issue, someone will state that “Of course, Hitler also believed in … so you agree with the Nazis, do you?” Or words to that effect.

Cohen’s Law

internet etiquette

“Whoever resorts to the argument “whoever resorts to the argument that… has automatically lost the debate” has automatically lost the debate.”

Cohen’s Law is named after its originator Brian Cohen, who, in 2007, formulated the argument that anyone who tries to dismiss someone else’s point of view has automatically lost the argument. This law can be expanded indefinitely a little like Pi, but most people stick to the basic layout offered above. Bringing up Cohen’s Law during a debate is severely frowned upon, so use it wisely.

Example: I’ve run out of steam in an online argument to the point that I retreat to dismissing the other person’s point of view without offering any explanation or evidence. I therefore lose the argument myself.

Skitt’s Law

internet etiquette

“Any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself.”

Skitt’s Law reportedly originated in 1998 when a G Bryan Lord named it after a Usenet user named Skitt. It’s the online equivalent of Muphry’s Law, which says a similar thing about editing and/or proofreading. I’ve been guilty of this one myself. I absolutely abhor typos Why Typos Always Matter, Even Online & In Text Messages [Opinion] Why Typos Always Matter, Even Online & In Text Messages [Opinion] We all make mistakes from time to time. It's natural, a part of life, a learning curve which we use to better ourselves. Typos are no exception. They happen often, and if writing forms a... Read More in all their forms, but responding to comments quickly leads to some inevitably creeping in.

Example: You say, “The trouble with this article is your argument is unfouded.” I reply, “Thanks for the feedback but intil you learn to spell your comments will fall on deaf ears.

The Law Of Exclamation

internet tips

“The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters.”

The Law Of Exclamation is fairly recent, first being recorded in 2008 by Lori Robertson. But the truism it relates has been with us as long as the Internet has been around. Exclamation marks should be used sparingly, but people often forget this online and in emails. These are generally the same people who think using capital letters to virtually shout their message means the recipient is more likely to listen. They’re wrong, and also stupid.

Example:NO, I did not post that picture of you to Facebook. HOW DARE YOU imply as much!!!!!” Clearly I did post that picture of you to Facebook.

What About All The Porn?

internet commandments

In case you hadn’t noticed the Web is awash with pornography. It’s not as though you can’t avoid it — generally speaking you still have to actively go looking for adult material online — but if you’re that way inclined you’ll have no trouble finding what you want. Which is where Rule 34 and Rule 35 enter into the equation.

These are two entries of the Rules Of The Internet, a loose collection of laws put together on 4chan. Many of these rules apply only to 4chan and will be nonsensical to those who aren’t familiar with that site, but Rule 34 and Rule 35 have broken out to become part of the Web as a whole.

Rule 34 states that, “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” Rule 35 adds that, “If no porn is found of it, it will be made.

If you’d like to test this theory then be my guest, but I couldn’t possibly comment on the veracity or otherwise of these particular laws.

Conclusions

This isn’t a complete list of the laws that somewhat govern the Internet by any means, but it represents those that most people will have encountered in some form or another. Having spent well over a decade using the Web I’ve seen all of these adages proved conclusively. And I suspect you will have to, or if not, you will from now on.

Which of these Internet commandments rings most true for you? Are there any other Internet commandments of this kind you feel should be spread to a wider audience? As always we’d love to hear from you, so feel free to add your views on the subject matter to the comments section below. I command thee do it now. NOW!!!

Image Credits: Jorge Hernandez, Feral78, Davidd, Vic, Douglas Muth, Neil Milne, Surian Soosay

  1. John Williams
    March 31, 2015 at 3:01 am

    It's not uncommon to get all these at once. The first reply to OP completely misses the irony and it sparks a multiparagraph debate where people refute each other point by point and the exclamation marks begin to proliferate. Then someone picks up on an infinitessimally obscure point of spelling. This instantly provokes a response that said nitpicker is a Nazi .... The thing then rumbles on because some people just don't know when to give up. Finally in response to something completely unconnected, Rule 34 will pop-up and the thread will die.
    My own law would be that sooner or later in any heated forum thread a contributor will simply state that the OP is a faggot and say no more.

  2. Nermal
    March 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    i love the way all of these so-called 'laws' pop up and everyone is supposed to adhere to them..

    If you refer to Hitler then you auto-lose the argument..
    If you make ad hom comments, you auto-lose the argument..

    What a load of rubbish.. someone makes up some meme-law and it's supposed to apply by proxy, a tacit application and effect?

    No wonder the 'net is becomeing so buggered up!

  3. Buzzy McBee
    March 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    This column is worse than hitler.

  4. Bob Janke
    March 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I'd like to introduce a commandment against bacon, Anchorman (the movie), and Ron Swanson. Who do I talk to about this?

    • dparrack
      March 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      But, but, all those things are awesome. As are cute kittens. How dare you?! ;)

  5. Guy McDowell
    March 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    There should be (or maybe already is) a truism that, when engaging in an argument online, the person who has the least to do in the real world will win - by attrition.

    • dparrack
      March 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      So true... which is why I always win them.

  6. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 3, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Nice article. I'm surprised how right these laws are. How predictable are we in the internet?
    1. Yes, so very much. Sometimes I can't believe how a post/article about a topic can be scretched to religious debate. These people are ridiculous. It's sign that I have to close the tab and continue my life. (If you want egregious example, Indonesian version of Yahoo!News is so infamous that no logically sane person would involve themselves in the comment)Don't get me wrong. If people want to talk with me about that in real life (in clear, neutral way) I'm okay with it, but what we see in the internet mostly consists of immature flames and misunderstandings.
    2. Huh.
    3. This is true even in real life!
    4. Not always if the person who point out the mistake do what they preach. Most often than not, it's the case of 'I'm better than thou' ego.
    5. No, I don't like MUO!!!!!!!
    6. When I first discovered Internet, I was shocked how people could turn even children's book characters into porn material. Not to mention my disgust when I saw the Pevensie children being paired to each other! Seriously. I need brain bleach. Strawberry Shortcake porn, anyone?

  7. Ivonne
    March 3, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Oops. " Muphry’s Law"

    • dparrack
      March 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      The misspelling is intentional :)

  8. Kirby
    March 1, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Does the Law on Exclamation also apply for texting?

    • dparrack
      March 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Oh, it most certainly does.

  9. Krysia Baker
    February 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I use a lot of exclamation points. I'm not a liar. I just like my own jokes!!!

    • Dave Parrack
      February 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Hmm, that's a risible excuse I'm afraid!!!

  10. harley bellwood
    February 28, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I tend to use a lot of exclamation points in emails and comments, don't ask me why, I have no clue, but duly noted. I don't use caps though.

  11. dragonmouth
    February 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side - Joseph Addison, English poet and essayist (1672-1719)

    Another take on Cohen's Law.

  12. Bruce Casner
    February 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I think I would call these maxims or truisms rather than commandments. There isn't much in the way of command in them.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      In which case another maxim is, "The catchier the headline the better... as long as it bears some resemblance to the content of the article." Commandments may be a push but it's a more compelling description that truism.

      • slywlf
        March 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm

        Yeah - when I saw the title I was hoping to see something along the lines of "Thou shalt not troll" ;-)

  13. Ron Lister
    February 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I'm so bad for typos. I've encountered the grammar police from time to time and they do make errors in there rush to be the first one to correct my mistake, DAMN SPELLING NAZIS!!!! I would NEVER correct someone for spelling or grammar errors!!! LOL ;)

    Nice light hearted article Dave.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      You put that "there" in on purpose, didn't you? I gess I should make a typo too just to prove the rule. ;)

  14. Mac Witty
    February 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Skitt’s Law always make me laugh

  15. Rick Basham
    February 28, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Thanks for these internet commandments. I find myself to be quilty of at least 2.
    You have made me aware and I will in the future pay attention to my written words.

  16. Yang Yang Li
    February 28, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Skitt's Law is so true! I LMAO at grammar police that make mistakes correcting other people's mistakes.

  17. Yang Yang Li
    February 28, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Skitt's Law is so true! I LMAO at grammar police that make mistakes correcting other people's mistakes.

    • Dave Parrack
      February 28, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      I hate myself when I'm guilty of it.

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        March 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm

        Sometime you can't bring yourself not to. I've seen a lot of netizens unable to differentiate even the most basic words like 'you','you're', and 'your', 'definitely','defiantly','they','their','there','its','it's'. I'm not even a native speaker.

    • TJ David
      March 7, 2013 at 10:32 am

      I didn't see any mistake in the correction in the picture.

      • dparrack
        March 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        Now that's pedantic ;)

  18. Garris Rago
    February 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Don't understand what Rule 34 is? Find any image you want, post on 4chan, state rule 34, wait, learn, contemplate life decisions.

    But seriously, Godwin's law is probably the one I enjoyed learning the most.

    I really liked this article, but not gonna lie, clicked on it when I saw 'porn'

    • Justin Pot
      February 28, 2013 at 1:02 am

      Guess we should start working the word "porn" into more headlines, huh?

      • Garris Rago
        February 28, 2013 at 1:10 am

        Who wouldn't click that!

    • Dave Parrack
      February 28, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      The note on porn was a late addition because it's a very amusing "rule." I didn't think anyone would click to read purely based on that word though... shameful! ;)

      • Garris Rago
        February 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm

        did I say porn? I mean wrath...yeah...wrath

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