Do You Watch What You Say Online? [We Ask You]

Ads by Google

The Internet is still finding its feet, despite having been in existence for several decades and a part of the mainstream for several years. While the Internet is undoubtedly a force for good in many ways, part of the problem with it is the disconnect between the online realm and the real world. Which, when coupled with laws that apply offline but don’t fit into the online way of doing things, is a heady cocktail.

Piracy is an obvious way in which the two worlds collide, as we discussed last week. Another way the two butt heads is with the right to free speech and laws pertaining to libel. There have been countless examples of people saying something online which has got them into trouble in ways they could never have foreseen. Which leads us to this week’s We Ask You discussion.

This Week’s Question…

We want to know, Do You Watch What You Say Online? This question was prompted by two distinct events that occurred recently. First, it came to light that a teenager had been imprisoned after making an offhand threat to “shoot up a school” during an argument on Facebook. Despite being an obvious joke this was treated as a “terroristic threat” that could lead to him spending years incarcerated. Second was the wave of death threats aimed at George Zimmerman in light of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. These were posted openly on Twitter by people using their real names.

In light of these incidents, and others stretching back years which have seen people arrested, sued, and fired from their jobs for things uttered, we want to know whether you pay close attention to the comments you make and views you express on the Internet.

If so, are you fully aware of the laws that exist in opposition to the right to free speech? Would they stop you stating an opinion or aiming a comment at an individual?

Ads by Google

If not, why not? Does the threat that something you say online might get you into trouble personally or professionally not concern you in the slightest? Do you disguise yourself online to avoid any consequences to your actions?

Do you think people should be allowed to say whatever they want online without the rules that apply offline affecting that right? Do you think people take things said online too seriously? If so, how do we add context to these statements so that no one can be in any doubt as to what is meant by them?

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen for the coveted Comment Of The Week, getting their name up in lights, the respect of other readers, and a T-shirt chosen from those available through MakeUseOf Rewards. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to the MakeUseOf readership. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: JD Hancock

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Awesome Websites
Awesome Websites
120 Members
Deep Web Communities
Deep Web Communities
73 Members
Best Music Services
Best Music Services
41 Members
Web for Kids
Web for Kids
31 Members
Ads by Google
Comments (40)
  • Lisa Santika O

    Yes, I do. I know whatever I put online would be there ‘forever’ so try to think of everything I ‘say’. That doesn’t stop me from making those d’oh! moments every now and then. I think this is something that everyone has to take seriously. Your online persona couldn’t be mutually exclusive from your real life persona any longer. People are bound to type your name into search engine out of curiosity (because I do it too when I’m bored, reading eveything a search engine can offer about my friend). Breach of privacy? Well, you supplied everything on your own accord.

    • Dave P

      That is the scary truth. That anyone could Google your name and find things you said blown out of proportion and with little in the way of context.

  • Rodrigo Graça

    We should be able to say everything they want, but they should remember that they can have problems….. in public places we “can do the same” …. of course that if you want to talk bad things about your job/boss you will not do it in your facebook wall or twitter so that everyone can see it…..

    • Lisa Santika O

      Yeah. Posting it on Facebook wall where your boss can see it is the same as posting it on his/her office door.

  • Hindie D

    I’ve been reading “lol……OMG! What every Student Needs to Know about Online Reputation? I think a lot of it applies to adults. People see the internet and forums as part of their own little neighborhood. What people used to only say to their immediate friends or neighbors they think they can post online. They don’t see or don’t want to see how their comments can get blown out of proportion or hurt someone else. We all need to learn to be tolerant of each others opinions, research the information before sharing, and watch what we post. remember when your mother told you to be kind when talking with others

    • Dave P

      That’s so true. I’ve seen comments made on an individual’s Facebook page then exposed to a massive audience, and it’s a little ignorant to believe you can say things that are guaranteed to only be seen by a select few.

  • Karl C

    I think free speech on the internet is a great thing. There are many people who are finally exposing their true personality, and, despite what they think, their identities can be made public. That’s going to start conversations that should have been happening all along.

    I post very little on the internet, but when I do, I post what I think without reservation.

  • Doug Dieckmann

    Personally, I think that I am prudent about what ends up on the internet just because it never really goes away. I try to be clever and have my comments make sense. I try to make compelling arguments or not say anything.

    However, I think other people can say what ever they want. If they look foolish they just make me look smarter than them. People that are easily swayed by inflammatory talk can just make more spectacular fools of themselves. This is the last bastion on open ideas – BUT that means there is going to be an awful lot of crap to sift through to get to the worth while.

    Those that display their ignorance by making death threats against Zimmerman can be counteracted by reasonable voices. The voices remind that the process that protected him protects all of us. He was acquitted of the overreaching charges brought against him.

    The internet is the forum that allows me to put these ideas out there. The internet should not be restrained. A little self-restraint towards fully formed ideas would however, be appreciated.

    • Dave P

      “I try to be clever and have my comments make sense. I try to make compelling arguments or not say anything.”

      You’re certainly winning at that, at least if this comment is anything to go on :)

    • Doug Dieckmann

      Thanks appreciate your kind remarks….

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.