Saturday, June 12, 2021

General Rules To Be Followed As Internet Etiquette


In the early 1990s, as the internet was first coming into widespread use in North America, then-U.S. vice-president Al Gore referred to it as the beginning of an “information superhighway” that would allow homes, schools and businesses to send and receive massive amounts of data. Affordable smartphones and reliable Wi-Fi have broadened internet use around the world, and made it possible to be connected almost constantly—while raising new questions about privacy protection and how to control hate speech and misinformation. To make your ride on the information highway easier, here are a few rules of the road.


“If it’s in caps I’m trying to YELL!” an early internet user wrote in a Usenet forum (predecessors of early-2000s “message boards” and today’s Reddit threads) in 1984, according to The New Republic. The magazine refers to the caps lock key as “a crutch for the angry and inarticulate.” Caps lock, one linguist says, makes readers “aware of the shout, and not the nuance” of what a poster is trying to say. IN SHORT, IF YOU WANT TO GET A POINT ACROSS, THIS MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST WAY!

Check your sources

Anyone can post about anything on the internet, and it can be hard for the untrained eye to distinguish between the website of a legitimate newspaper or research centre, a personal or corporate blog, and a site that publishes propaganda (where real events are presented in a deliberately one-sided way), satire (parody stories written to mock real people or events, but not intended to be read as fact) or fake news (false, often sensational news stories intended to deceive). Make sure you know where a story comes from before sharing it—or deciding not to.

Check your dates

Have you ever seen an obituary for a well-known person on social media and thought, “Didn’t she die three years ago?” You’re not alone. A 2014 Columbia Journalism Review report noted that old news stories “going viral on social media long after their publication date … has become remarkably common.” The CBC concurs, noting that many of the stories are harmless, but some amount to spreading disinformation. Several news organizations, including The Guardian and the Winnipeg Free Press, now flag potentially dated stories.

Consider the context

When you speak to someone face to face, you can often learn how the speaker feels about a subject from non-verbal cues like tone of voice and body language. As you read what they write in an email or a social media post, you don’t have that context. Before you write, consider what the speaker might read into your post—do you sound annoyed? sarcastic? overly cheerful? A few carefully chosen emojis might help you get your point across.

Hate speech on social media is still hate speech

While in the U.S., instances of hate speech are often protected under the First Amendment, other countries have stricter legislation. The Criminal Code of Canada states that any person who “by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” could face up to two years in prison. In July 2017, Kevin Johnston, a municipal politician in Mississauga, Ont. was charged with hate speech for a series of Islamophobic comments on social media. Later that year, a survey found that 60 per cent of Canadians had seen some form of online hate speech. Johnston was eventually ordered to pay $2.5 million in compensation.

Uttering threats is a crime

Posting explicit threats on social media can lead to severe consequences, as controversial comedian Kathy Griffin found out when she tweeted a photo that was perceived as a threat against U.S. President Donald Trump. In Canada, uttering threats is a criminal offence, whether or not the person who makes the threat has the means to carry it out. If convicted, the offender could face up to five years behind bars.

Keep intimate images of other people to yourself

Don’t share intimate images of another person without their consent. In the U.S. over the past few years, more than 30 states and the District and Columbia have introduced laws to discourage “revenge porn”—the act of posting a former lover’s intimate or compromising photos online without consent. In one high-profile case, rapper 50 Cent was ordered to pay US$5 million in damages to a woman after posting a compromising video without her permission.

Quizzes may not be what they seem

Which Lord of the Rings character are you? If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be? Personality quizzes like these might sound like fun, but they’re also “an easy way for unscrupulous web developers to gather masses of data,” according to tech magazine The Verge. In perhaps the most famous recent example, data firm Cambridge Analytica acquired data on 87 million Facebook users through a quiz app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” The data was then used to create super-targeted ad campaigns for voters in U.S. and U.K. elections.

Respect the terms of service of the site where you post

Terms of service are the legally binding house rules that govern use of any online product or service. They may include bans on hate speech, defamation, sending spam (unsolicited bulk messages) or, in the case of large shared networks, downloading large files. Respect them or, in theory at least, face a ban.

Nobody likes the grammar police

Resist the temptation to correct strangers’ spelling and grammar on the internet. Guardian columnist Bronwen Clune writes that “grammar elitism…functions to socially exclude others based on class, education or luck.” “Is it right to shut people down and exclude them from the conversation because of their lack of exposure to or understanding of the rules of grammar?” she asks. It’s worth noting that about 53 per cent of online content is in English, although only about five per cent of the world population speaks English as a first language, so many people post in their second or third language. Give them a break.

Be careful of online medical advice

More and more of us reach for Google along with the Gravol when we start feeling unwell, but 2016 analysis by The Independent found that some of the most widely shared health information on the internet is fake—dandelions may be good in a salad, but they will not cure cancer. If you look up your symptoms, choose credible sites like WebMD (where a team of doctors and journalists specializing in health reviews all content), the Mayo Clinic (a non-profit clinic which publishes expert-reviewed summaries of hundreds of diseases and conditions) or Health Canada .

Don’t spam your whole office

A 2011 CNN piece on email etiquette points out that if mass emails are annoying (and many of them are), then hitting reply-all on a mass email is doubly so. “Don’t be that dummy who piles spam atop spam by replying all and saying something inane or meant [just] for the sender,” the authors say. Does your entire office need to read your “congratulations” in response to the announcement that James in HR got married, or can you just tell James yourself—by email, by text, in person or anywhere except in a mass email?

Protect your privacy and that of others

Make sure you don’t accidentally share private information in large groups or public forums. When forwarding an email, delete any information that was meant to be between you and the sender; when commenting on a social media post, make sure you know how to send a private message, how to make a post visible to a particular group and how to make a post public. Do your 1,600 followers—and all their friends—really need to see you and a friend discussing a trip? Burglars have been known to use social media posts to plot break-ins.

Ask before you post

When you were a child, did you have one awful family photo that your parents wouldn’t stop passing around, no matter how embarrassed it made you? Now imagine that that photo is visible 24/7 to all your parents’ friends. Young children are increasingly uncomfortable with parents sharing their images online—a 2015 study found that children were twice as likely as their parents to want rules around what parents could share. Pediatrician and parent Wendy Sue Swanson, interviewed by NPR, suggested asking children six and older what they do and don’t want posted on social media.

Don’t spread rumours

Before sharing a rumour on social media, check fact-checking sites like Snopes and Politifact to see if the story has any basis in fact. The unchecked spread of rumours on Facebook and WhatsApp has led to several vigilante killings in India, a decrease in vaccination rates in Europe and Canada, and a lawmaker in Colorado legislating against abuse of food stamps that wasn’t actually occurring. Fake news and online rumours can have a devastating impact on real people, so think before you share.

Don’t steal copyrighted material

If you share someone’s work on social media without their consent and without crediting the original author, you may be breaking the law. Since 1989, any “original work” published online or elsewhere in a tangible form is automatically subject to copyright as soon as it is published. In the U.S. and Canada, you may publish excerpts from copyrighted works as part of a review, for example, but longer excerpts could land you in court.

Please do break the chain

Chain messages are nothing new—chain letters have been around since at least 1888, chain emails since the late 1990s and chain Facebook and WhatsApp messages for as long as either platform has existed. Neither you nor anyone else will die if you don’t forward a message to seven people within the next five minutes, and no one is offering a free trip to Disney World, a free phone or a $5,000 prize from Bill Gates in exchange for a forwarded email or a shared post. So why bother?

Read before you comment

If you comment on a story without reading it first, you aren’t alone—the New Statesman cites a French study which estimates that 59 per cent of links shared on social media “were never actually clicked on by the sharer.” “If you insist on forming an opinion on an article without reading it, and then insist in sharing that opinion in the comments… still without reading it—you absolutely bring …humiliation upon yourself” writes Annie Reneau, whose story on parenting website Scary Mommy drew “fistfuls” of angry comments from people who hadn’t read it. In 2017, one Norwegian news site trialled a feature where people had to pass a short quiz on certain news stories before commenting.

Do it for the Gram—or maybe don’t

The rise of Instagram has led increasing numbers of selfie-seekers to once-secluded areas in search of the perfect portrait. “Instagram users who love the outdoors have a habit of ruining the wild places they touch,” Christopher Ketcham writes in The New Republic, describing the “invasion of drunken, littering, caterwauling people” streaming toward an Instagram-famous swimming hole in the Catskill Mountains. The popular Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve suffers from an influx of overzealous visitors during the super bloom, some even brazenly landing a helicopter in the reserve; a farmer in the Winnipeg area complained to local media after his own field (pictured) was strewn with litter. Some park rangers in the U.S. have asked visitors not to geotag sensitive sites, to reduce the risk of unsustainable numbers of visitors showing up.

Who really wants to see your junk?

Four in 10 young women have reported receiving unsolicited pictures of genitalia from men on the internet. Some men, according to The Guardian, have used Apple’s AirDrop to send anonymous d*** pics on the internet. If a viral video from 2015 of women expressing disgust after unwittingly opening d*** pics is any indication, the recipients are not amused. If you’re reading this and thinking about surprising a woman you know with a d*** pic—don’t.

Trawl-free zone

You've heard of trolling, but have you heard of the equally infuriating practice of trawling? This is when a person—let's call them the trawler—adds or follows a new friend on social media and then begins messaging their friends, almost all of whom are strangers to the trawler, to flirt, to ask for financial, sexual, or other favours, to recruit participants for a fundraiser or multilevel marketing scheme, to sexually harass them, or simply to clutter their inboxes with silly junk messages and ads. Please don't do this.

 Ruby Pratka, Espresso


  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments

0 facebook:

Post a Comment

Item Reviewed: General Rules To Be Followed As Internet Etiquette Rating: 5 Reviewed By: BUXONE