I'm not the first person ever to raise this point, but if you've ever attempted to dissuade someone from an argument with a statement like "It's just the internet," (Or 'It's just facebook' or 'it's just a text message') then you can go straight to hell, right now. Seriously. Get on the escalator headed down and don't get off until you hit fire. This criticism is so self-evidently stupid that I don't know where to begin. I don't know why anyone would hold this stupid, stupid belief that things said on the internet somehow matter less than any other forum, but it's clearly wrong. Like, we're not just talking about wrong for reasons I can defend through logical argument. We're talking, it's openly denying a first principle of communication ethics without which any discussion of right and wrong in conversation is impossible.
So if you want to get involved in a conversation about communication ethics, and you think things said on the internet intrinsically matter less, please go shoot yourself in the face with a crossbow and save everyone the effort of waiting for you to die of old age.
Who can honestly take seriously the claim that a blog with more readers than the New York Times is, nonetheless, not a significant source of information? Who can honestly believe that it doesn't matter what that blog is saying?
And who can honestly believe that a statement which would be horribly offensive in person is somehow mitigated if you type it into a chatbox instead?
What kind of person really thinks that a facebook comment thread is intrinsically unsuited to serious discussion of philosophy or politics?
The components of a conversation are the people having it and the things they're saying. The medium through which they're communicating cannot possibly outright bar the conversation from having merit or significance. And I'll grant that it's possible for some media to work better for some conversations than others -- but the medium of the internet is text. Historically, that's been considered the best or close to best medium for serious discourse.
People who think a claim loses merit or an argument loses significance simply because it takes place on the internet should shake hands with a wood chipper. They are beneath the level of merit in a discussion. They cannot be taken seriously.