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If the right to free speech, like bashing, is overstepping into a person’s right to personal safety and dignity, whose right will you protect?

 
 
“Our online world is broken”. This is how Rappler describes the Philippines’ current online space. It seems our affinity to the US brand of free speech has taken us to a new dimension where the rules of engagement are evolving 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. Free speech was also being used to negate the human rights for privacy, safety and dignity
 
 

Read: Why Anonymous Communication Can Be A Bad Internet Right

 
 

The Philippines’ online community is also evolving to cope w/ the negative online experiences which include misinformation and disinformation, and the emergence of call-out and cancel culture.
 
And so far, these are the noteworthy reactions that may redefine future online rules of engagement.

 
 

Recipients of bashing can cite cyberbullying

 

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 with how s/he used it?
 
 

One Reaction To Free Speech

screengrab 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 behavior 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 to come and go (most of the time). Just created to accomplish a specific task.
  3. Trolls follow each other, so you can expect an initial friend list or followers having fictitious profiles.
  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 content.
 
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 the 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 on their plate. Afterward, let’s discuss how to negate bashing.

 
 

Feed them till they explode

 
 

 
 

Use available tools to filter trolls, and control yourself

 
 

 
 
I also suggest reading 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 a 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 an 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 in 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 are 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 managers:

  • Be cautious of w/ fictitious accounts
  • Define, publish and communicate your rules of engagement
    • will you moderate the 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 yourself. 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 for 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:

 

 
 

Some believed that one of the core values of Filipinos that was sacrificed on the altar of hate speech is “respeto at pakikipag-kapwa”. Care to share your thoughts on this?

 
 
 
 

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