We need to be our own online moderators






The Internet is a place where many people feel confident in their anonymity.

There are both upsides and downsides to this phenomenon. All you have to do is go on any online message board or read comments below news stories to see how this can inspire both the best and worst of us.

Usually some kind of moderation is used to at least attempt to keep discussion, if not civil, at least tolerable, if the site is serious about promoting any kind of meaningful discussion.

Things tend to be even more, well, moderate, if posters are required to use real names - in other words, stand behind their comments, for good or ill.

That's one of the reasons we here at the Citizen require letters to be signed before we will print or post them.

But we understand that on the Internet, anonymity can have its place. It can inspire someone shy to speak up. Sometimes good information can result, as a new voice is added to the mix.

But everyone, particularly young people, need to be cautious about just how anonymous they really are and how much information someone can glean about them that they may not wish for strangers to know.

Predators are tech-savvy these days.

We remember police officer Darren Laur's presentation to Frances Kelsey School students last year. He is heading back to the Valley today (Wednesday) for another presentation (see story on page 4).

He demonstrated how easy it is to remotely turn on web cameras to gain a window into someone's private home, how easy it is to infiltrate an online group using a false identity and collect everything from names to addresses and potential dates.

You may think you're among friends, but in cyberspace, you cannot be certain, and you must remain aware of that.

People also need to be cautious about the venom and incivility they can spread at the push of a button - and the very real-world harm that can come from it.

As a rule of thumb, it's not a bad idea to take a moment before you post or send a message and ask whether you would say it to the person's face one-on-one, where you have to look in their eyes and see the emotional fallout. You should imagine doing it without being surrounded by your clique egging you on with their approval. Consult your own conscience, and do unto others...

Bullying behind a computer screen is still bullying.

The other person may never know that you were the one who hurt them so much, but you will always know that you've poisoned your own heart with such careless ugliness.

So whether it's offering information or access that could harm you, or offering comment to harm another, it's time to realize that we all need to act as our own online moderators.

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