The Internet is still considered to be something akin to The Wild West, a lawless, still-emerging set of disparate communities all vying for attention. But this isn’t actually the case, and it hasn’t been for many years. Contrary to popular belief many of the laws and rules which apply in the real world also apply online.
This has led to some people being arrested for things said in jest online, as happened when a teenager joked he was going to shoot up a school, or when a British man jokingly threatened to blow up an airport. Others feel it’s somehow OK to make death threats against other people as long as it’s on Twitter.
This all led to us having a discussion about how far freedom of speech extends on the InterWebs.
We asked you, Do You Watch What You Say Online? We had a good number of responses with a wide variety of views being expressed. Most of the commenters offered intelligent, well thought out arguments, which in itself suggests they’re not the kind of people to say the first thing that comes into their heads, and screw the consequences.
Most people live by the old adage, “Think before you speak.” Or, as I like to say instead, “Engage brain before mouth.” This applies online equally as well as it does offline, though the difference is vast in terms of scale. Say something stupid in a real-life conversation and you’ll probably upset one or two people, but do so online (on a social network, for example) and you could upset hundreds or thousands more.
There’s an argument that private forums have their own rules, but what happens when a supposedly private conversation is shared with a wider audience? To get around this some people have taken to adopting alternative identities, but doing so will only protect you from prying eyes to a certain degree.
By all means speak your mind on the InterWebs, but bear in mind that:-
- Taking a moment to consider what you’re saying will serve you well.
- Nothing really gets deleted from the Internet.
- You’re one Google search away from having comments exposed to a wider audience.
Comment Of The Week
We had great input from the likes of Alan W, Jeffrey, and zyzzyva57, to name just a few. Comment Of The Week goes to Lisa Santika O, who, as well as the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this, receives a T-shirt for this comment:
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.
We like this comment because it acts as a strong reminder that anything said online is both forever and indexed. You may have said this contentious thing on a forum or to just one person on a social network, but it could still come back to bite you on the bum. Realizing that should be enough to make people think twice before expressing a controversial opinion.
We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to the MakeUseOf readership. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.
Image Credit: JD Hancock
Explore more about: Online Etiquette.