Keep it civil

In recent days, a few posts online have generated much debate and discourse.

Some of it has been healthy. Some of it not.

While everyone enjoys the right to express their opinions, both in the real world and the online domain, we should do so in a socially acceptable manner.

Some of the responses to the recent posts, contain not only profanity, but hateful speech.

There is a simple rule to follow or guide one’s online behaviour. If you would not say or do something in a social setting, for instance, at a public park because it is socially inappropriate, the same rule would apply for an online social or work setting. If you would not say something to someone’s face, then you shouldn’t online as well. Both social settings are the same, except that one is simply enabled by technology.

Some opinions may elicit anger and an urge to disapprove that opinion or piece of information. However, using insults, profanity, and hate speech, will not achieve the goal but only prevent any discussion from reaching any possible compromise. And even if opinions cannot be changed, at least there would still remain mutual respect for the differing opinion once the discussion has ended.

Opinions must be met with opinions. Healthy debate and discourse should be the only course of action.

We’re a people, proud of our unique culture and etiquette. By resorting to uncivil behaviour, both in the physical and online worlds, we disrespect the efforts made to ensure the preservation of our culture and etiquette, and risk damaging the country’s reputation.

We’ve an increasing number of online platforms today. It would be recommendable for administrators and moderators to be aware of what kinds of speech or activities are socially inappropriate. The government has its own social media guidelines which can be accessed at www.doim.gov.bt, which can provide some guidance. Even the KuenselOnline forum has a Terms of Use and Guidelines that can be adopted by other platforms. There are a host of other helpful sources of information online which can be found through a search engine. It would be worth exploring.

It can be a challenge deciding where the line is when it comes to freedom of expression, responsibility and defamation. Some of us adhere to the saying: “Your rights end where my rights begin”.

But when it comes to hate speech, which side of the line you stand on is very clear: the wrong side.

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