Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Another Angry Voice anti-bullying policy

It seems that Facebook is intent on letting the bullies and abusers win. We all know that they've allowed the extreme-right hate group Britain First spread their horrible propaganda with impunity.

It doesn't matter how many outright lies, examples of hate speech, dodgy money making scams, violent threats, bizarrely ignorant displays of insular nationalism or anti-Muslim diatribes Britain First post, nor how absolutely disgusting the comments below them, Facebook are absolutely fine with hosting an extreme-right hate group operated by a bunch of criminals and scam artists.

When it comes to my efforts to deal with bullying in an open and accountable manner, Facebook takes a completely different approach.

On Monday December 12th 2016 I posted a Facebook status asking readers for advice about what I should do about a persistent right-wing troll who has repeatedly hurled foul mouthed abuse and insults at other Another Angry Voice readers. I didn't insult or abuse the person in question, I simply pointed out their history of abusive comments and asked what people thought I should do about it.

The Facebook response was to delete the post and ban me from posting anything to Another Angry Voice for 24 hours, presumably after the abusive troll and his right-wing mates mass reported the post.

It's extraordinary that Facebook is happy to host all kinds of hateful and divisive content from extremist groups like Britain First, but when someone actually tries to deal with online abuse in an open and accountable manner, they respond by taking the side of the abusive right-wing bullies!

I always liked to conduct myself in an open and accountable manner when it came to blocking abusive accounts. I'd often consult the AAV community about the best course of action and always explain my reasons whenever deciding to delete comments or block accounts. under these new circumstances, where I face being blocked from posting to my own page by Facebook for trying to address the problem, it's obviously not sensible to try to deal with bullying and abuse in as open a manner as I'd like.

Therefore I'm going to introduce a new rule to combat bullying. 

1. All political opinions are welcome here, but anyone seen insulting or abusing other people on Another Angry Voice will be given a warning.

2. If the bullying continues after the warning, they will be banned from the page.
The reason that it's important to discourage bullying and abuse is that witnessing abuse is a clear deterrent to open political debate. If people see others being insulted, abused and threatened for expressing political opinions, then they're likely to think twice about expressing their own views.

I admit that the importance of preventing bullying for this reason had passed me by because I've become so used to being a target for hateful comments, abuse, smears and threats that it's like water off a duck's back to me these days. I hadn't stopped to think how witnessing abusive comments could be very much more intimidating to people with less experience of receiving abuse, insults and threats from Internet strangers than I have.

I'm determined to keep Another Angry Voice as open as possible and respect the free speech of people who comment, but free speech is no excuse for bullying and abuse. If I allow bullying and abusive comments to stand, that negatively impacts the free speech of the people who would be deterred from commenting out of the fear of being bullied and abused for expressing their political opinions. The free speech of people who might be intimidated by bullying and abuse is far more important than allowing right-wing trolls a platform to insult and abuse anyone they disagree with.

Ideally I would like to deal with the problem of abuse and bullying in a more open and accountable manner than this, but the way Facebook actually sides with the abusers and bullies clearly makes that kind of approach impossible. Under the circumstances the introduction of a very clear and simple anti-bullying rule seems like the most sensible solution.

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