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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What the Internets Lack: Shame

Posted by Eli Sanders on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 1:59 PM

So says Julie Zhou, a design manager at Facebook, in her New York Times op-ed on how to defeat trolls:

Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.

That mythical ring gave its owner the power of invisibility, and Plato observed that even a habitually just man who possessed such a ring would become a thief, knowing that he couldn’t be caught. Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly.

This certainly seems to be true for the anonymous trolls today.

What to do? Zhou calls for creating social "accountability" for online commenters. Which, put another way, means giving shameless trolls a reason to perhaps have a little shame.

This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.

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