What happens when online communities create “hate sites” particularly on testimonial sites of those who have passed on?  Does saying “I wanna kill him” mean anything online? What happens when we are shocked by someone else displaying other value systems than we have ourselves? Should Facebook become a global policeman or are they just Australia Post?

I’ve been asked to do a number of press interviews – actually quite a lot – about the anti Allyn John Slater pages on Facebook and other online communities. I don’t want to get into the alleged crimes – involving the murder of a very young girl – but rather the community reactions on Facebook, and other social media sites. Oh and my interview on ABC radio AM program is here

Pixel Threats in social networks

I guess the first point is that calls for the death penalty and the “I want to kill him” statements are “pixel threats”. By that I mean, if you were to get a gun, put it in the person’s hand, you’d find out it was all bravado. Except in a few instances where there are real nutcases out there. And there are – the internet collects together into communities those on the fringes, including the unbalanced.But in the main, it’s like yelling at the TV or chatting at the pub – “if I could just get my hands on him, I’d show him what-for!”. We normally say it where we are safe – or after a few beers. Facebook in the main makes us feel safe. We see other people that mirror back (echo back) our values so we just come out and say it.

To think it and not say it, is inauthentic. But it is politically correct. In other words, part of the ritual and rules of community living, online or off.

We collect people who share our value systems in social networks

There ain’t no way, no how, that the people on ComplaintsBoard are going to act the same way as when they are on EssentialBaby or even LinkedIn. But it’s worth reflecting on the fact that large social networks such as Facebook (400million active monthly users, 8 million of ’em are Australian), often swarm down into small groups that share our values. The Page below is currently 6,000 members. Even if it grows to 100,000+, it still only reflects the same sort of % of Australians that yell at the TV “bring back the death penalty!”.

This site had 5,000 members an hour ago, now 7300 at 8:44pm Wednesday 24th Feb

Remember – while you are educated and aware that everything you say online affects your reputation, there’s a huge % of people that won’t understand what you mean when you ask them “are you sure you want to post that up there”. They are not dumb, they just don’t equate writing on a Facebook wall with “publishing”. They are chucking out their opinion, getting some argybargy arguments going on, and then move onto something else.

Warning sites become hate sites

It’s still beggars belief but you have to explain to some people that posting up evil stuff can incite others to do it. Titillating. And incite others to be outraged at them for posting it up. Here’s the response from an admin who posted up a video of a woman killing a kitten and then took it down again:

Telling people I will ban them if they post up warnings again gets them very grumpy at me. They just don’t equate their actions as being similar (but on the other page) from the perpertrators they are trying to “protect” the community from. And warning “threads” or articles incite unbalanced wars.

I’m even second guessing myself while I write this blog post – will it incite someone to be disruptive on another Testimonial page out there? Cos this is very common, not limited to just this case. And not just to a case in the press. I’ve seen testimonial pages in online communities where in the end the wife and the girlfriend have gone to town on each other, making all sorts of threats. God only knows what the funeral was like…

Move along, nothing to see here

When email first came out, the fear of kids getting evil spam was pretty high. What if they got hardcore porn sites? Well they did and we use junk mail filters and we move on. The same will happen here. Don’t join, don’t even go looking for groups outside your value system. Cos if you want to find a redneck survivalist right wing faction online, you will. They exist in real life too,  you just don’t normally work with them or have dinner with ’em. If you don’t want to join the drug culture and find out how to have a hit, don’t join those pages. Cos those groups exist in real life too, you just don’t go partying with them. Do you? DO YOU?

Facebook as Australia Post

Facebook didn’t create those pages – and every time they take one down, there will be ten more. Think of Australia Post deliving a poison pen lettter. Are they responsible for the contents? no. Telstra deliver SMS – are they responsible for negative SMS messages? No of course not. Facebook is in the same boat. And there’s no point yelling that Facebook is “public” and Australia Post is “private”. Cos that’s a whole different argument.The only reason we separate now the public defamation vs private opinion cases is because one is enforceable and the other is not. If you defame someone at the pub, it’s ignored by the law.

Yes Facebook should work with law enforcement (not just ignore situations) but…

Facebook as Global Policeman

Facebook is like life – not just the bits you see, but the other bits too. A tapestry of life including some icky brown spots. But do you want Facebook to be your Police? Your Nanny? Your Censor? For me, the answer is “no”. And Google is trying to do just that (ignore Chinese requests to hand over people’s details but give them to the Brits instead).

I thought long and hard about writing this post  – I’d turned down interviews because the journalist seemed to be looking at the “social media is bad” angle. I had some interesting chats with AM program and Australian. If I publish the post – I usually don’t if I am doing traditional media – will I preempt their publications? Is that fair – get a quote from Laurel only to then see it published on her own site. I guess I finally realised…it is what it is. My voice can exist in more than one place. I have a different audience. It’s my experience and opinion to display where I want. And I can do it first! 😛