Today’s post comes from Norv Leong, Director of Product Marketing at Actiance.
Reading the smart-ass comments to online articles, blogs, Facebook posts, and the like is often more enjoyable than reading the actual article, blog, or Facebook post itself. Everyone wants to be a David Letterman or Rush Limbaugh, quick with the wit or politically charged rant. Tempers flare, folks get offended, or others just plain embarrassed. At the end of the day though, most all of what’s “out there” is deemed free speech.
That’s the beauty of the First Amendment. You can say what you want (most of the time) without reprisal. The US government – author, guardian, and object of the First Amendment – knows it’s in a pickle. Loads of federal agencies have their own Facebook pages and they’re very wary of the fact that the public can and will use these pages as a sounding board for all kinds of commentary and preaching.
Exactly when those comments cross the line and become, say, threats to national security, that’s when things get murky. Where does that line get drawn? When is a comment “libelous”? When does a comment lose its First Amendment protection? I think you get the idea.
Having a comment policy in place is a good start. Making it very clear what is acceptable behavior for comments sets boundaries that apply to anyone and everyone. There’s no singling out one person over another. Doesn’t matter what color skin you’ve got; what your sexual preference is; what religion you practice; what football team you follow. The policy applies to everyone. If you violate it, your comment will be removed. Simple as that.
Even better is utilizing technology to assist in the enforcement of these types of policies. I’m not saying to take down every comment that drops an f-bomb or some other derogatory comment, but you can use technology as the helping hand in flagging potentially libelous or incendiary material and, if need be, remove it from the system.
I mean, c’mon, I’m sure our Founding Fathers bickered amongst themselves when they were laying the groundwork for the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Just think what it would’ve been like had they had Facebook at their disposal!?!? One of their Facebook conversations might’ve gone like this:
George Washington (GW): What do you think fellas… just make me the emperor and call it a day. No term limits. I’ll just pass the torch when I’m dead.
Benjamin Franklin (BF): Georgie baby, methinks you’ve been hittin’ the herbal remedy a bit too hard. How bout a ten-year max limit so you can spend some time with Martha and work on your garden?
James Madison (JM): Nah, I think George would get bored of ten years of emperor-ing. The guy’s got too many side interests. I think four years is just the right amount of time. Any longer than that and we’ll have another riot, like what happened in Boston a few years back….over tea fer crissakes!
BF: Yeah, good point. This land seems to have a bunch of rabble rousers. Which brings up another point. We better come up with a system that deals with these hooligan punks should they act up. Maybe some kind of judicial or trial system where we can put the hammer down on them, if they do something bad.
GW: Y’all crack me up. I was just kidding about the emperor bit. Let’s go with four years and call ‘em President. Well, I’m spent, fellas. Anyone fancy a beer….or 5?
And a country was born…