Obviously, our affinity to the US brand of free speech is redefining the rules of engagement in social web. Because of the emergence of fake news sites, and trolls– bots (software generated), lulz (those doing it just for laughs), blind supporters (of a cause or personality) and paid trolls, a supposed intellectual discourse can lead to personal insults or bashing, and proliferation of lies.

Read: Free Speech Can Violate A Human Right
Read: Why Anonymous Communication Can Be A Bad Internet Right

 

The Philippines’ online community is presently evolving to cope w/ this emerging negative online experience. And so far, these are the noteworthy reactions that may re-define future online rules of engagement.

 

Recipient of bashing can cite cyber bullying

 

Like in the case of Agot Isidro, after her controversial post, bashers ganged up on her. She cited bullying but nevertheless stood her ground.

A question that we should begin answering is “when does cyberbullying begin and responsible free speech ends?”

 

 

Call for censure

 

As in the case of Paul Quilet, he started a petition to take down Mocha Uson’s blog for her allegedly misleading post. But in a twist of fate, his own Facebook account, was taken down first.

Some people believe there are limits to free speech. Assuming this is correct, should this lead to the stripping of someone else’s right to free speech, because someone is not pleased on how s/he used it?

 

One Reaction To Free Speech

screen grab from change.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bash them back

 

My friend compared bashing to a basketball game-

parang basketball lang yan, kung ikaw tumitira sa kalaban, eh dapat HANDA ka ring tumangap”

 

 

But “will this not lead to apathy for those being bullied online?”

 

More speech

 

In a conversation with an online activist, he argued that

the solution to bashing and abuse of free speech is not less speech, but more speech. until the truth comes out… the community should be the one to set the standards on what behaviour is acceptable or not, not the government.

 

 

Nowadays, even in professional forums/groups, trollish behaviors can be observed. Some friends of mine were irritated for the element of bashing in discourses, lack of professionalism, respect and courtesy. Though some find the behavior normal, they said ignoring them is the best. Still others argue that such behavior should not be present in professional forums.

Before we discuss how to handle trolls, we must first learn to identify them. I suggest that you also read dark psychology’s profiling of a troll, so you would understand their nature, and why the anonymity of the internet makes trolls thrive and grow. They are quite easy to spot though, because trolls’

  1. Use fictitious profiles.
  2. The account(s) they use come and go (most of the time). Just created to accomplish a specific task.
  3. Trolls follow each other, so you can expect initial friend list or followers having fictitious profile.
  4. Follows personalities, news portals whom they are trolling.

 

A trolls’ strategy is to lure you into getting emotional-likely to get angry. The desired output is for you to give them the attention they need. Interestingly, in PH context, we also find trolls (fanatics or paid),  creating fake news sites and distributing fake contents.

Center for Media Freedom Responsibility also wrote an article on how to spot a fake news site. Accordingly, a fake site can be spotted thru their lack of “about me” description, no person in charge and no contact details, and a disclaimer that they “do not” guarantee truthfulness of the content, and they shall not be held accountable.

 

How do we deal with the negativity online in general, and trolls in particular

 

Let us learn from netizens who have  a fair share of trolls in their plate. Afterwards, let’s discuss how to negate bashing.

Feed them till they explode

 

 

Ignore them

 

 

Use available tools to filter trolls, and control yourself

 

 

I also suggest to read How to: Respond to trolls and be aware of the nasty effect by Noemi Dado

 

Because there is an emerging school of thought in free speech, that accepts bashing as legitimate expression, we should also approach bashing differently.

Please note that while all trolls are bashers, not all bashers are trolls. Trolls use fake accounts, bashers  use identifiable personal account, who may just be displaying trollish behaviors, or they just don’t agree with you. Likewise, not all fake accounts are trolls, they may be lurkers, stalkers or just a person who wants to remain anonymous.

 

So how do we handle non-troll bashers?

 

I am a believer of free speech, but I’m also an advocate of responsible and proactive use of social media. In my ideal world, personality and character based attacks to destroy a message is something we can avoid.

I believe in a mature democracy, we can agree to disagree, and even hate each other. As long as we can keep civility and respect in public discourses. Article 29 of the universal declaration of human rights expects us to protect the rights of other people, this includes their right to free speech (Art. 19) and right to privacy (Art. 12). Censuring them, and attacking their good name is out of the equation.

Here are my suggestions for fellow community manager:

  • Be cautious of w/ fictitious accounts
  • Define, publish and communicate your rules of engagement
    • will you moderate discussion?
    • will you tolerate discourtesy?
  • Make sure members are aware and educated of the repercussion if privacy is not observed or too much disclosure in a convo
  • When someone displays trollish behavior, before they started bashing, call out the concerned person, but be respectful

 

Here are my suggestions for fellow netizen

  • Do not be afraid to express your self. Do not surrender your freedom because of the negativity.
  • Call out the concerned person, but be respectful
  • When engaging, do not shoot the messenger but focus on the message.
  • When engaging, be factual, objective, and less emotional.
  • When in disagreement, be respectful at all times
  • Choose your battle, and your opponent. As much as you can, engage those whom your time and creative juices will not be wasted.
  • Use words that build and encourage, rather than destroy.
  • Your end in mind, when engaging, should be to add value to the conversation and the readers.
If the bashing is already affecting you, here’s what you can do:

 

 

Would it be nice, if we can convey our message w/o resorting to bashing? Care to share your thoughts to keep negative online experiences at bay?

 

 

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