Godwin's Law: One Man's Quest to Civilize the Internet

Godwin's Law: One Man's Quest to Civilize the Internet

The internet is rarely a setting for calm discussion; more often, it's a place for angry rants and personal insults among anonymous commenters. In 1994, Mike Godwin noticed how frequently those posting on Usenet newsgroups (the precursor to Internet forums) would compare the people or ideas they found distasteful to Nazis or Adolf Hitler, misusing and trivializing a horrific topic. As he wrote in an article for Wired, "I developed Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." Any time he saw a Nazi or Hitler reference in a newsgroup, he would quote his law. Soon, others were quoting it when they saw an offending argument, and eventually his efforts worked: the frequency of Nazi comparisons declined. Since then, Godwin's Law has become a rule of internet discourse, making appearances everywhere from Facebook threads to news-article comment sections.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Godwin's Law states that the longer an argument goes on, the more likely it is that one side will call the other a Nazi or compare them to Hitler. The person who made the comparison automatically loses the argument and the conversation should cease. (2:33)

  • 2

    Lewis's Law states that the comments left on anything about feminism will justify feminism. (5:16)

  • 3

    Poe's Law states that on the internet, unless the author's intent is clearly communicated, parodies of extremism will be mistaken for honest extremism, and vice versa. (8:19)

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