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

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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?

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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. 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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