SCREENMANCER Cybercrap OP-ED: When connectivity became a viable environment for the rise of the Internet more than two decades ago, the potential for utopian connections between remote places and cultures was baked in.
Call it Unicornicopia. Never had mass communication across nations held such promise. And yet, here we are with this new phenomenon that has grown from venting in the Trollverse* to out-and-out “hatewashing.” Its analog twin is brainwashing, but with a vitriol-dispersal radius unavailable to opinions offline. It’s almost impossible to reflect on the 2016 Presidential Election without revulsion, due in a large part to hatewashing. Same with Brexit, Mass Shootings, even the new Ghostbusters franchise. Yet, does this represent who we are as Digital Denizens? Better yet, how do we fix it? And better still, how do we separate legitimate online grievances from hate speech?
Let’s look back at the origins of the term itself. The word “haters” came from popular culture, not just pop song lyrics with“player hater” references, but as a new “street cred” way to define the enemy in an argument. That’s a simplified etymology. Fact: the hater concept became central to how interactions happen on Social Media.
Hate-mongers are nothing new. Wars and radical insurgencies have been started by same throughout history. In the off-line world, where names are put to comments and opinions, polite terms have historically couched raw hate-speech. It’s the digital equivalent of mob rule on the Internet though — because if no one knows who you are, how can you be held accountable?
Likewise, there are very good reasons for the lack of accountability on the Internet. How can whistleblowers and secret sources be protected without anonymity? The rise of Anonymous has made its presence felt globally based on that premise. For good and ill. Unfortunately hatewashing foments cyberbullies, terrorist cells, cyberstalkers, even corporate sabotage. So what can be done? Here are a few ideas to rein in the Trollverse and return to the promise of Unicornicopia,(read: Digital version of Atlantis) where everyone can express an opinion without being pilloried:
1) Link Trolls with digital certificates, this process would vet emails. Yet there would be no censorship. If however there was a subpoena, the information would be available, but not to curb comments.
2) Disqus et al inspires someone to create an algorithm for repeat offenders in hate speech, to flag the accounts and compile data. Social Media accounts linked to email accounts that traffic in hatewashing become cross-linked in a larger database.
3) None of the above. We play nice, self-monitor our comments to return to #Unicornicopia. New hashtag included for the RT. lol.
What are your suggestions and opinions on the topic? Post to the comment section below.
(*Trollverse here refers to trolls online, trolling their own universe, not the band.)
Screenmancer is a gathering place for people who make movies, technology, and like unicorns better than trolls.
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