Policing The Digital World #Rule40

4th August, 2016 - 5 minutes read

Rule 40 is now in effect.

It started at midnight on the 27th July and runs all the way through to 24th August.

If you’re confused by what it is, then in it’s most basic form, Rule 40 is an Olympic by-law which censors the sponsors of athletes who are not official Olympic partners from discussing anything to do with the Games. You can read more about what can and can’t be said, including a list of ‘banned’ words on this BBC article.

Rule 40 isn’t new, but it is causing a bit of controversy as the Olympic build-up has been dominated by discussion surrounding drugs cheats and whether Russian athletes should be able to compete.

So What Does Rule 40 Mean In The Digital World?

Rule 40 is all about regulation and keeping control of who can say and talk about what.

Is it possible to upscale what the IOC have done and apply it to wider aspects in life in order to monitor and regulate whole parts of the internet? This of course, opens a metaphorical minefield and questions what we can and can’t police.

Policing the internet as a whole is surely an impossible job, where would you even begin? It is estimated by the end of 2016 there will be over a zettabyte of data on the internet. I’m not even sure how much a zettabyte is, but it just sounds like an incomprehensible amount of data*.

Who would even be responsible for the policing of the internet? Would it be done on a country by country basis or by an overarching world regulatory body. Would this impact freedom of speech? Would it contravene human rights and infringe on an individual’s privacy?

Just thinking about these questions can make your head spin and it doesn’t seem like a solution will be found anytime soon which means sticking to the status quo. If individual webmasters want to regulate their site they are more than welcome to, but it is up to them to sort it out.

That can work for singular sites, but won’t stop people having a discussing on third party platforms or social media unless the owners of those sites are willing to prevent it – which most social media platforms have actively steered clear of.

IOC Doing The Impossible?

So has the International Olympic Committee (IOC) found a small, and possibly the best way of regulating the internet?

The answer is, yes and no.

Any individual person can discuss events that are happening in Rio on social media, so it only affects a (relatively) small proportion of corporate social media accounts.

The main issue with what they are doing boils down to money.

Like any business, the IOC wants to protect its revenue stream. However, in doing so it can subsequently charge official sponsors even more money while athletes, who rely on these unofficial sponsors for the 3 years and 11 months between each Games, have to cut all ties with them.

Overall it seems a bit unfair that during the time when an athlete is potentially at their marketing peak and on display on a world stage, the businesses who helped get them there through funding, can’t mention anything about it.

Although some athletes seem to be finding creative ways around it…

Let us know if you spot any other creative ways around Rule 40!
 


*For reference, a zettabyte is equal to one sextillion bytes, which is the number one followed by twenty-one zeros, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. [Back to content]