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

we ask you1112   Do You Watch What You Say Online? [We Ask You]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.

speak no evil vader   Do You Watch What You Say Online? [We Ask You]

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?

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

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40 Comments -

632477889f0f5423b07446560fea00

One thing I know; “riding/degrading” me is NOT going to get you my best work (my personal guarantee!). So I have always tried to be civil to others. I try to never belittle anyone, whether with “swear” words or not.

Other than that, I use ANY words and all manner of non-PC phrases/words in communications. If a person has a problem with ‘cuss’ words in general, then I suggest they grow a thicker skin. To me and many others, they are not “swear” words, they are verbs, nouns, etc.

Dave P

I don’t mind swear words at all, but there surely is a time and place for them. Also, isn’t using non-PC words and phrases liable to cause offence?

Jeremy G

Yes. If I do any swearing, I do it out loud. Other than that, however, I don’t refrain from displaying personality, or political views. If any government body or potential employer takes offense, then they have unrealistic expectations of humans in general.

Kaycee

Yes, yes they do have unrealistic expectations. They also have: police; prosecutors; prisons; weapons (of mass destruction & otherwise); ammo; spies (NSA, CIA, FBI and on and on and on) . . . you get my point? Their expectations can be as unrealistic, oppressive and tyrannical as they wish.

Jeremy G

Which is why I am thankful for the freedoms I have, and also why I keep up to date with the control exerted by the nation’s leaders. I don’t however, disagree with the presence of any of those forces, nor contest their use, so long as their actions are restricted.

Dave P

You’re taking a stance then, because expressing strong views online can affect you in real-life, with job opportunities being the most obvious example.

Dbosch

Ye wrote “Piracy is an obvious way”… No quarter! Did ye mean privacy or should I scuttle yer galleon

Dave P

No, I meant piracy. It’s an example of how online actions are running happening contrary to offline laws.

bben

This has nothing to do with free speech as most forums are privately owned and NOT public spaces where you can say whatever you want. Every forum has their own ‘house’ rules that can vary by quite a bit. Keep your comments soft and sweet as you never know when you may have to eat them. You will be judged by what you post. Keep that in mind whenever you start to reply to a comment or opinion that you don’t agree with. You do not have to agree, but it does help to be polite with your rebuttal – In a debate, the first one to use a personal attack or resort to snide comments automatically loses.

Many years ago, long before the internet. One of my first computer science instructors told the class to absolutely NEVER put anything on a computer that you don’t want everyone to know. There are no secrets on a computer and it will never go away. If you do put something on that you shouldn’t have – it will come back to byte you.

Lisa Santika O

I completely agree. Every space has its own set of rules. You may have free speech in your own domain, but not in others. If people stop to think about what to write every time they type into the comment/status box, we may hear less news like above examples.

Dave P

Every forum does have its own rules, of course. But what if something you say on that forum is posted to a wider audience on, for example, a social network? It may not be enough to cause you legal problems, but it may not do your reputation any good.

Jeffrey

Sadly, too many people today think nothing of regurgitating anything and everything that crosses their mind, whether online or not. There’s not much thinking going on – just emoting. And someone who consistently uses profanity when doing it is not only showing their lack of self respect and self confidence, but also their low IQ.

As for people having the ‘right’ to post whatever they want online? In every society there are limits on speech, whether explicit or implicit. There ARE consequences to the negative things you say/text/email/post/whatever, whether or not you think there shouldn’t be any. That’s the reality of the world we live in.

Bottom line? THINK before you speak/text/email/post/whatever.

Thank you, Mr. Parrack, for a well written article. Your use of proper English grammar is refreshing.

Dave P

I agree. There has always been a tendency to speak before you think, but doing so with one person listening is vastly different than doing so with potentially thousands of people listening in. And digital proof that you said those things.

I try my best! Thanks for a beautifully written comment in response.

Anonymous

Lots or some crooked cops at mission district
Especially inflexible money wise brutally lying

likefunbutnot

I have an online identity that’s consistent across a number of sites and not generally associated with my actual self so that I can say the things I want to say online.

Kaycee

Yes, many, many people do that (develop fake names/IDs). However, don’t *ever* **really** think that “they” — and you can decide for yourself who “they” are, but let’s just say “the powers that be” — can’t track you down if “they” really want to.

I suggest you read (or read about) the horrifying laws being rubber-stamped by congress & the senate that give unconstitutional powers (face it, the U.S. is no longer under the rule of law) to spy on and track every citizen willy-nilly, without warrants or probable cause, for any and every reason. You can be called a terrorist on their whim, basically. And once you’re called that, all bets are off, & all your rights are suspended.

Or do you really think those vile “hate-speech” laws aren’t actually a form of oppression, thought-control, and intimidation, not to mention the suspension of your right of free speech? Like the guy above said, people should just grow thicker skins. But, oh, no! Instead, they grow *thinner* skins and ask the government to incarcerate anyone who dares prick them! And we let them get away with it (because we’re oppressed, thought-controlled, and intimidated — we just don’t *believe* we are).

So don’t dare think they don’t know who you are, where you live, what you do, where you go, what you buy, what you say, what you think . . . and everyone you do it with, to or from. That’s what the NSA’s algorithms are designed for: to track you and all your relationships. Developing phony I.D.s may protect you from the average Joe on the Internet, but never from the pros, and those are the people who can, let’s face it, *destroy* you. And they will. All of us. Sooner or later. After all, in a nation no longer under the rule of law, *everybody* is guilty of *something* . . . if “they” say so.

Here’s a quote from that Book everyone has been trained to call “stupid”, “irrelevant”, “stone-age” and “error-filled”: “The wicked walk on every side when the vilest men are exalted” (Proverbs). But what do stone-age Neanderthals know, huh? I mean, look around. It’s *obviously* not true. Right? Hello . . . right? Right?

Dave P

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything you’ve said I must agree with the sentiment that fake IDs will only get you so far. If the authorities really want to know who you are there are a multitude of ways they can source such information.

Dave P

I’m guessing this is that identity? Can I ask why you chose to use it on MakeUseOf? Nothing said here is particularly contentious.

likefunbutnot

There’s a consistency in my identity that’s indexed and searchable on sites where I’ve chosen to register but distinct from my real name. That’s fine. I prefer to maintain the distinction between my online activities and the people with whom I choose to interact in real life.

Eric S

I try to live by the addige “engage your mind before you engage your mouth”! People forget that whatever you post is there for eternity. Unless your wealthy and can buy silence.

Leah

I am more free expressing my opinions, but I do watch what I say. I don’t give out real names of anyone I’m talking about. I feel I don’t have the right. I’m invading that person’s privacy by giving out their name on the internet.

It’s well known I don’t like umpires. I am careful how I express that on the internet. I would never say I want to kill so-and-so. I may not be serious, but saying something like that on the internet is considered a threat.

No, I do not think people should be allowed to say whatever they want on the internet. Freedom of speech I agree with completely, but that does not cover hate speech. As we are not allowed to use hate speech in the real world we should not be allowed to use in the internet world.

Dave P

You’re an advocate for real-world laws transferring across to the Internet then? I fear a lot of people forget that there is little distinction between the two, which is why so many people get sued after defaming people online.

zyzzyva57

1. I NEVER miss a chance to be silent, e.g., sleep on any potential post
2. NOTHING on the web is ever deleted — The only question is how much the other party wants to spend
3. “Delete” does NOT mean delete, e.g., much as when libraries were libraries instead of media centers, Deleting in computerdom merely means the “library card” is deleted, but the book is neither pulled, much less destroyed — Why with high profile crimes you see behind the Perk Walks law enforcement removing the computers

Dave P

Thinking before you speak works as well online as it does offline :)

RcRon7

Should you say anything you want online? No. Can you? Yes
The problem is not that people should or should not, rather it is an issue of what they are trying to say. There are those who will put time and thought into a response, online rant or simply a comment. However many individuals do not know how to form a cohesive thought let alone type it out. Also, you have those that are fueled by anger or hate.

While everyone is entitled to their opinions and indeed for most things there is freedom of speech. As was stated below most forums and web sites are not Public Property and subject to review or removal. For those that can get their point across with out a “Flame Post”, they are not as likely to find their posts removed. But, for those that don’t know how to have a civil tongue, removal or editing will most likely ensue. Or, the follow on Flame war that we are used to seeing.

I will say this, sometimes a good flame war is entertaining to read.

Dave P

Flame wars can be very entertaining to read, but there’s a certain point at which many go over the top. I never carry on reading once threats of violence get involved.

Wanda T

I believe “if you can’t say anything good about someone don’t say anything at all”.Yes I believe in the freedom of speech but I think we can say anything we want and get the same idea across in a positive and meaningful way.Profanity is a cowardly way to emphasize and saying the same thing in a pleasant or meaningful way builds a strong personal character.

Alan W

I think we all, well at least the honest ones, have spoke before they thought about it. There is a couple of factors when letting off steam online, one is yapping after drink, its so easy to start mouthing off when full of drink! Another is yapping when annoyed with someone, just like the drink senario ohh so easy to say the wrong things. One of the problems is that once you have said it online its done! You cannot erase it from everybody that reads its memory. Now like I said, most if not all honest people have done that and afterwards just pretended it didnt happen.
Another senario is when in a social forum and there is a few people talking, then there will undoubtly be someone who wants to join the discussion with not just capitals on their keyboard but capital abuse in their “I need attention” brain!
With that said if we all backed away from our keyboards and thought about what we are just about to type, wouldnt the internet be a bit boring?

Dave P

Ha, you may have a point there. I’ve certainly gained countless hours of enjoyment out of people saying stupid things online and then having to backtrack or apologize.

Ryan C

I most definitely watch what I say online. I act very similar online as I do offline. I’m a decent guy all-around and want to keep it that way. Besides, things you say online can always be traced back to the “real you” if someone is determined enough.

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….

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.

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.

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.

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.