I’d like to make a comment…

I consider myself a very positive person who loves to motivate and nurture others to do their best. Amongst my Facebook friends and Twitter followers I am generally upbeat and will tell people how awesome they are, their photo is, and how great their news is. On other sites like LinkedIn or news media sites, I often make positive comments or leave constructive criticism, and always with respect. I am very conscious of modifying my own comments or opinions so as not to offend and to add value to the conversation.

Unfortunately, this isn’t custom behaviour among other commenters. Up until this point, I have been fairly lucky to avoid what we call ‘trolls’ and their vile rhetoric and abusive remarks. This changed when a friend of mine made their way onto the X-Factor this year. Currently on TV, the show follows groups and individuals performing in a singing and dancing capacity hoping to be the final winners awarded with a recording contract.

The groups name is StraightUp and the average age of the members is around 16. When you visit the link above and watch a very talented group, you may want to comment ‘way to go’ or ‘good luck in the auditions’. As I started to scan down the list of comments and see what great feedback they received, I was horrified by what I was reading. It was clearly ‘hate speech’; I won’t write the comments, they are so offensive, so abusive, if you want to read them for yourself, consider yourself warned.

I don’t understand what drives people to write such things, particularly that they were writing about children. The main problem is anonymity and the laws are ambiguous at best. In an article in The Register, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/10/facebook_racism_incident_australia/, it talks about Australia trying to manage some of the issues arising on social media sites, and its difficulty in doing so. MP Paul Fletcher is quoted in the article saying “media outlets like Facebook have undergone explosive growth in user numbers but have not yet adopted the standards of corporate social responsibility which longer-established media and communications companies meet”,

“The No Hate Speech Movement is a campaign against fear by the Council of Europe. It is a campaign for young people who want to stop discrimination and hate speech online”. There will be more and more of these movements and systems put in place to eliminate hate speech, but at what cost to freedom of speech?

Anonymity and the problem of global interaction make it hard to crack down on people that make offensive commentary. I believe that we will start to see a surge in companies that specialise in comment moderating platforms. Further to that social media sites need to take on stronger corporate social responsibility values and be committed to protecting its users.

With social media sites apparently failing to protect its own citizens and cyber bullying is becoming an issue in schools, with 14% of Australian kids suffering from this type abuse. In the United States schools have come under fire for putting in place companies to track and analyse their students social media sites to crack down on bullying.

In a video by Mark Dice, he speaks about how schools are essentially monitoring students activity on SNS when they are on computers outside of the school environment.  Rice makes a lot of references to the United Bill of Rights and how this is being challenged with these new ‘Big Brother’ tactics.  Is this spying? Cyber stalking? How far do we take this intrusion into privacy to protect the rights of people to live their lives without the threat of bullying and harassment?

I don’t think this is a problem that is going to be easily solved or a discussion that is likely to end soon.


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