Why we should not Design out Toxic Online Behaviour (Op-Ed)

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May 6, 2016 by barnsey

By designing out the ability to express any thoughts no matter how cruel you stop the ability to express the full range human emotion. By prompting people to reconsider everything they post you prevent the true feelings of a moment to be aired. Also, as the article notes how will a computer note what is offensive and where is the line between acceptable disagreement and offensive or cruel responses.  Computers will be operating in a grey area that even a human would struggle to work in and as such the affects might not as expected. In certain situations use of foul language, and other forms of language that might be flagged as unacceptable by new designs for social media, is acceptable. Under some circumstances the general feeling is of complete disgust and disapproval that will cause people to respond in ways that under usual condition would be seen as unacceptable. For example in the fall out of terrorist attacks or after the riots in London, the general mood is different and emotions are higher, having a system controlling what is supposed to be said would prevent the mood to be expressed or could further incite the population.

I believe that even in usual circumstances having a system in place to work at reducing cruel online behaviour is only to incite the trolls further. I can see it becoming an aim to get round any system and being told what you have written could be taken as offensive is not going to stop trolling as people go into trolling aiming to offend, have the system telling them that it will is only going to be seen as proof you are doing it well. Depending on how a system would work it is likely to have bugs and flaws, especially at the start. I can see it becoming an aim to write the most offensive and cruel comments without the system flagging it, creating a new aim for trolling. Turning it into a game.

The article makes the point that just as people have the right to write what they believe or want, as do the people reading it have the right to ignore it. Systems are already in places for this, if I do not want to see something someone has posted I block them or simply scroll past. I find that often writing offensive comments are doing it because they either believe it and they are entitle to believe it but more commonly it is for the attention and by ignoring it its just as effective if not more effective than any system could be.

The report states that although people might call it an infringement of freedom of speech some big players are supporting the move. I do not agree that is a strong argument, the companies like twitter have different investments in their products than the public do. They have reasons to do things beyond allowing freedom of speech. The report even highlights the point that twitter are considering taking this approach as the have experienced a drop in user numbers. Surely because a corporation thinks we should do something should not be the reason we lose the ability to use the full range of expression.

The original Article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/22/play-nice-how-the-internet-is-trying-to-design-out-toxic-behaviour

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