Lots of people are talking about Laura Hudson’s article in Wired on how to curb online abuse. I liked this bit in particular:
Really, freedom of speech is beside the point. Facebook and Twitter want to be the locus of communities, but they seem to blanch at the notion that such communities would want to enforce norms—which, of course, are defined by shared values rather than by the outer limits of the law. Social networks could take a strong and meaningful stand against harassment simply by applying the same sort of standards in their online spaces that we already apply in our public and professional lives. That’s not a radical step; indeed, it’s literally a normal one. Wishing rape or other violence on women or using derogatory slurs, even as “jokes,” would never fly in most workplaces or communities, and those who engaged in such vitriol would be reprimanded or asked to leave. Why shouldn’t that be the response in our online lives?
What would our social networks look like if their guidelines and enforcement reflected real-life community norms? If Riot’s experiments are any guide, it’s unlikely that most or even many users would deem a lot of the casual abuse, the kind that’s driving so many people out of online spaces, to be acceptable. Think about how social networks might improve if—as on the gaming sites and in real life—users had more power to reject abusive behavior. Of course, different online spaces will require different solutions, but the outlines are roughly the same: Involve users in the moderation process, set defaults that create hurdles to abuse, give clearer feedback for people who misbehave, and—above all—create a norm in which harassment simply isn’t tolerated.
Let’s do that.