The internet has changed the way society connects, communicates and channels information. Free speech and encouraging differing opinions to be expressed is an avenue that can enrich and empower the way individuals view issues and topics of the world. Of course this utopian view of the internet does have some minor problems. A balancing act on public forums is adamant. Are the public allowed to say whatever they want to whoever they want with no responsibility taken for their actions? Or are guidelines and regulations necessary to moderate the conversation? If so does this limit the capability of free speech?
The ethics and moderation of online conversation is an emerging issue in media and communication as the morals and discourses of face-to-face interaction are not seen behind the keyboard. This can lead to challenges such as bullying, trolling and a lack of civility. General Counsel for Twitter, Alex Macgillivray, believes the internet should remain a “unique place for civil conversation” and that Governments need to preserve the “wonderful engine of free expression that it is.” Many stakeholders such as social media activists are optimistic in their statements seen in The Guardian’s article about moderating the conversation online, agreeing it is not promoting violence and bullying. However this is not always the case, as some areas of cyberspace can provoke uncivilised conversation and a ‘cesspool’ of unwanted knowledge.
Fiona Martin (2012) argues there is perceived risks such as spamming, abuse and privacy issues if the internet is not moderated in some way. As unregulated speech increased Martin saw signs of a rise in trolling and the personal safety of users in a public forum was at a greater risk. In some circumstances, moderating the conversation can inhibit free speech and the flow of a debate, but if not monitored carefully it can also deter users from giving their opinion. Unregulated material can “discourage newbies” from using a forum. The narrative disclosure and dominative individuals, who use threatening phrases and words, can deter people from using the forum in a ‘chilling effect.’ Participation and democracy are values of conversation which online communication provides. Regulation of online forums begins with the responsibility taken by the individual and the assumed etiquette that should be followed. Lauren Northover
Halliday, J. 2012, “Free Speech Haven or Lawless Cesspool – Can the Internet be Civilised?” Battle for the Internet, The Guardian, UK.
Martin, F. 2012, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the Risks of Dialogic Interaction,” Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, Editors; Brugger, N. and Burns, M. New York, Peter Lang, pp. 177-192.