Our use of online media platforms is providing a challenge in terms of how we ‘behave’ online compared to offline. Many people find that they are more outgoing online, that they go that little bit further than perhaps they would in a face to face situation. This is particularly true when anonymity is brought into play – people wearing a mask, believing they face no consequence for their actions, are capable of remarkable cruelty.
There is passionate debate over this – the issue of online freedoms is always brought to bear, but there are increasing calls for ‘something to be done’, with a number of recent tragic events promoting outraged editorials and calls for the platforms themselves to be held responsible.
This is obviously insanity – you can no more moderate the content being posted onto platforms such as Facebook and YouTube than you can count the stars. But what platforms can do is act quickly to remove dangerously offensive content. Where a moderated forum contains such content there is, of course, an onus on the forum to act much more quickly and take an early judgement call, even where leaving contentious or hurtful content up can be good for their page views (the life blood of forums). The penalty for not acting, in the UAE at least, could well be harsh – a local ‘e-magazine’ in the UAE found itself, literally, in the dock over comments made by its users.
So what can you do if that comment’s about you? The first thing to do is walk away, don’t get involved in a slanging match with a troll. It’s hard to resist, but it’s always better in the long run. If you’re lucky, other members of the community will weigh in to your defence. If you’re not already using a range of online platforms such as LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, Twitter and others get going. Start a blog. But lay claim to your name online – remember, people Google people and you want them to find plenty of stuff about how simply amazing you are, not the comments of some raving drunk posting his views of your personality on a forum at midnight.
If the comments are actionable, dangerous or homicidal, you’ve got a good chance of having them taken down by the platform – all have some form of escalation path for complaint. If it’s a local or regional forum, you’ll be able to get faster action. If you don’t, brief a lawyer and let the forum know you’re doing that – they are likely, if judgements we have seen so far are anything to go by, held responsible in law (in the UAE at least).
This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named ‘A Moment with McNabb’ columns in Campaign Middle East magazine.