Are you a hater? Are you the hated? Do you stand by while the hater hates?
Are you a digidisciple?
There has been growing concern in mainstream media about the way social media is used. Questions keep being raised about the moral dimension of the online space we flow into and out of in the reality of our daily lives. Recently there have been several high profile cases of ‘cyber-bullying’ that have brought internet ethics onto the front pages of almost every mainstream UK newspaper. The Caroline Criado-Perez case recently brought online ethics to the forefront of public discource. The campaign has made the social media giants address their guidelines for acceptable behaviour online. But what does it mean to “address” that behaviour? Is it actually a virtual paper exercise or are there real world consequences to our virtual actions. Certainly some footballers and other celebrities have found out that there are consequences to their actions. But what about Joanne Blogs?
On Facebook I have witnessed some pretty horrific online hate speech. It hasn’t been by people I know personally but by strangers commenting on seemingly innocuous pictures that are widely shared. Often they are emblazoned with “share this if you agree” on the image itself. It is widely documented as a tool that far right groups such as the EDL employ to spread their hatered.
I reported one once. Actually that’s not true. I reported a couple. Then I gave up doing anything about it. Facebook wrote a lovely [automated] reply to “thank” me for the report and to tell me that they had “carefully reviewed” it. Unfortunately “it doesn’t violate our community standard on hate speech so we didn’t remove it”.
I’d taken a screen grab of it. I hope you aren’t offended that I post it but that you are offended by its contents.
What astonishes me is that there were hundreds of hate filled racist comments on this photo. There were some other comments like the one saying “I don’t like racism”.
There are two possibilities:
a) Hundreds of people have read those words calling for the “genocide of this minority” and not clicked report.
b) There have been hundred’s of reports to Facebook and they don’t consider “ragheads”, “genocide” or the other hundreds of comments not seen in this screen grab in violation of the “community standard”.
On her blog a month and a half ago Vicky Beeching called for “virtual virtues”. A ‘return’ to community policing whereby a community knows how to behave in a public arena and strives for higher ideals of behaviour. When people first started to use the internet it was viewed as the lawless Wild West by both the users (remember Napster?) and the authorities (remember how they had no idea what Napster was or how to deal with it?). Now however, the internet is there for (almost) all to access with little specialist knowledge through a multitude of devices including most modern TVs. Now a full range of humanity is expressed through the touch screen in all of its glory and transmitted into the lives of others.
Digital ethics are a pressing issue for us all. For the digidisciple it is an even higher priority. Are we merely lacking ‘virtual virtues’ or do we need a new sheriff in town?