Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lisa was on KQED, and we're talking civility again

Lisa was on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny (and how did I get it in my head that KQED is only the TV channel, and not, as in the case of this show, a radio channel as well?)

Here is the link to the show description.

And here is a direct link to the mp3 file.

The topic is civility in public discourse.

Oddly enough, for the first time in months, the catalyst for this discussion was not the Kathy Sierra situation, but rather a recent San Francisco supervisors' meeting where a supervisor publicly "accused" or "alleged" (take your pick) that Mayor Gavin Newsome is (or, at the very least, was) a coke-head.

Hey, if it's good enough for the President of the United States... (did I just say that?!)

These basic points never change for me, no matter how many times I have talked about online civility and our community guidelines over the last few months:

1. Ignore the trolls
Trolls want attention and outrage and your spotlight. When you deprive them of it, they tend to go away. But know your rights, and know when certain behavior crosses the boundary into potentially actionable from a legal perspective. There are cyber-stalking laws in over 40 states in the U.S. If in doubt, then the authorities.

2. It's not, however, against the law to be a jerk
There is a difference between being a jerk and libel, abuse and hate speech. You don't, on your own blogging space, have to put up with any of it. But it's a worthwhile exercise to think about where you draw the lines, to make those lines public and clear...and to apply them fairly.

3. It's your blog, you can delete if you want to
But we don't really think we or anyone else should tell you what you have to delete. In other words: a one-size-fits-all blogging (or online) code of conduct is unenforceable and inappropriate. But each site owner or community manager or blogger stating their own policies? That's a beautiful thing. It's not just your right, it's almost a responsibility.

4. There will always be bad apples, and they will never define what any tribe, group or society is about
People have tried to say this is a problem with the blogosphere, or the Internet, but I tend to think this is a problem, a sub-segment in society. I don't find talk radio any more civil. I used to be on my homeowner's association board and didn't find neighbors to be any more civil at certain times. Sometimes the playground isn't any more civil. There are bad apples. Bullies. Criminals. Abusers. These people are in the tiny majority, but they get the majority of the attention.

Yes, I agree that the tools we use everyday online can exacerbate and amplify incivility...the anonymity, the ability to distribute whatever your brand of hate is more widely and more loudly and more economically. Even, probably the ability to find like-minded individuals (which we tout as such a benefit of the web) to support your hateful views and therefore validate them.

But I just don't think the blogosphere, the internet, the media creates the killer, creates the abuser, creates the bully. Even when you've got someone who is mild-mannered offline who vents what seems like an alternate personality online...I believe the internet is that person's outlet for what they already had inside them.

And if you ask me how we fix that? You've gone way beyond my area of expertise...this is a marketing blog.

Who's doing the brilliant thinking about that deeper problem? Anyone know?

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