Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Redefining Etiquette on the Web

Who gets to determine what’s appropriate–or inappropriate–on the Web?

Brianna Snyder writes in The New Haven Advocate a quick, thoughtful study of the state of anonymous commenting. How to protect free speech while limiting bullying (which has prompted new anti-bullying laws in my home state of Massachusetts)? When is a comment contributing to dialogue, rather than simply inflaming it? What’s the difference between internet terrorism and really strong emotion?

Many of the major news outlets like The New York Times and powerful internet conglomerates like Gawker Media have begun to establish gatekeeping systems: through tiers of commentors, or moderator-approved posts. On my own blog, I’ve debated whether to delete hateful comments or to allow them to further the conversation. No clear-cut decisions.

Complicating the issue is the dichotomy of the “Us versus Them” mentality. If, as a commenter, your opinion falls in the minority, you are often faced (or facing off) with a mob. As Snyder writes:

Chances are very good that you are already familiar with this unfortunate aspect of Internet culture, the Lord of the Flies-ness of it, the maddening, sometimes frightening, and impossible-to-read nature of online comment and message boards.

Is it bad business to regulate or discontinue anonymous posting? Or does it cut to the heart of a liberal democracy?

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BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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