If the Internet and social media represent the new public square, it’s important to talk about the rules of the road.
Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of spam and pornography links on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and on comment sections of the blogs I maintain.
Google and Facebook both give us the ability to moderate comments and, if we wish, to block other people who do not respect the opinions or character of others.
Now that a lot more people are circling me on Google+, following me on Twitter and subscribing to me on Facebook, it’s time to revisit a post from earlier this years. If you have found your comment removed, I’d like to explain why and offer some guidelines. Here’s how I think about maintaining community, with a nod to ASU journalism professor Dan Gillmor‘s example:
I can and do block spammers and people posting links to pornography in my comment threads.
I generally leave comments on my blogs, precisely because I value conversations, despite the issues that persist online. I have been moderating discussion in online forums and blogs for many years, including those of my publishers. My full thoughts on the value of blog comments — and the social norms that I expect people comments to live within — are here.
Vilely insulting me won’t help your case. Insulting others will ruin it. I was a teacher in my twenties. I would not tolerate disrespectful behavior in my classroom, either to me or to other students. If you can’t be civil and continue to insult others, much less the person hosting the forum, you were asked to leave and see the principal.
If the behavior persists, you will lose the privilege of participating in the class at all. Eventually, you get expelled. On Google+ or blogs, that takes the form of being defriended, banned or blocked from my public updates. I prefer not to block users but I will do so. I respect your right to speak freely on your own blog, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, whether that involves cursing or ignorance.
I strongly believe in the First Amendment, with respect to government not censoring citizens. That said, I do not, however, feel obligated to host such speech on my own blog, particularly if it is directed towards other commenters. I believe that building and maintaining healthy communities, online of offline, requires that the people hosting them enforce standards for participation that encourage civil dialogue.
I hope that makes sense to readers. If not, you are welcome to let me know why in the comments. And if your approach differs, please explain how and why.
Following is a storify from a forum I participated in that featured perspectives from other people entrusted with online community moderation: