Last week’s class on bullying gave me a lot to think about. So far, we’ve hashed out a pretty broad array of possibilities when it comes to regulating content, and more importantly, people’s behavior. But the pitfalls are many (i.e. 1st Amendment protections) to ensuring a safe, cordial public forum. It seems like there’s just no fix.
But what we’ve witnessed – from Joel Stein’s piece in Time and countless other instances – is that it might just be up to the general public to grow a thicker skin, and in some ways, assume the risk of engaging in public, online forums. The problem of course is that this has a wider effect on how we rate basic human interaction. And since we live in an age where forums like Twitter and Facebook provide us with a place to discuss politics, religion, and other potentially controversial issues, we must accept that online forums are too a real part of society.
I namely choose Twitter as the primary example because it seems like most of the abuse online originates from tweets – even our presidential candidates mock one another in the twitosphere! But it leads me to the heart of the matter: do companies, like Twitter, have an obligation to its customers and the public to defend against harassment and bullying? My simple answer is yes, they do. And it’s in their best interest. While Twitter accepts responsibility for some of the online abuse, in a 2015 interview Dick Costolo was quoted as saying, “we suck at dealing with abuse…. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”
Short of the government getting involved, passing complicated legislation that would take an entire legislative calendar to agree upon (conference committees and markups for bills take forever, and are more complicated when delving into murky waters such as online policing), there doesn’t seem to be a great fix other than to 1) defend yourself 2) ignore the abuse. But this could also spark a new chapter for business ethics moving forward. My argument is basic: it should be a company’s responsibility to institute safeguards which protect their consumers from abuse. Please don’t misunderstand me either, I am fully aware that businesses act in their financial best interest, but I would be surprised if designing these measures wouldn’t vastly help an operation for a forum like Twitter.