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Common Decency, Inc. Prevails against Ripoffreport.com in Lawsuit that Challenged Boycott – Interview with Michael Roberts of Rexxfield

Michael Roberts is a licensed private investigator and the Founder of Rexxfield, a company that assists and supports individuals who have been the victims of online lies, defamation, and privacy invasion by identifying anonymous authors and  “…rendering all reasonable assistance in order to have deceptive materials retracted or hidden from the public domain and the victims’ good name and reputation restored.” In this interview with CiviliNation, Michael shares his thoughts about the recent lawsuit by Ripoff Report against him and how he prevailed.

 

CiviliNation: On November 18, 2013, a ruling by the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County (Arizona Case CV2013-012936) found against Xcentric Ventures, LLC dba Ripoffreport.com in its attempt to obtain a preliminary injunction against you and the websites you maintain that have been critical of the Ripoff Report. By way of background, what is Ripoff Report and why do you oppose it?

Michael Roberts:  Ripoffreport.com is a notorious website that, according to a Florida appeals court has “appalling” business practices and  “…appears to pride itself on having created a forum for defamation. No checks are in place to ensure that only reliable information is publicized.”

I oppose Ripoffreport.com because it is a source of personal injury, through defamation, for hundreds of thousands of victims, for which there is no reasonable relief, except a small proportion of victims who can affords tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for litigation,– and even then without any guarantee of relief. It is estimated that less than 20% of the 1.7 million reports are credible, the rest are likely to be malicious competitors, jilted lovers, or other poison-penned vandals.

CiviliNation: Which of your websites have spoken out against Ripoff Report and what did they report?

Michael Roberts: I administer two websites that were subject to Ripoff Report’s failed litigation; the first is BadForPeople.org,  which is a protest and exposé platform that focuses on unethical journalism in both the traditional media and the new media (the interwebs), and AuthorizedStatement.org, which is a temporary right-of-reply provision for victims of internet and media defamation. The latter gives victims a loud voice on page 1 of Google to refute their detractors. The boycott of Ripoff Report’s financial enablers was the brainchild of Dr. Janice Duffy, I simply executed her plan through my websites; Janice did the heavy lifting and research.

CiviliNation: Why is the Arizona court’s ruling important?

Michael Roberts: On November 18, 2013, the Superior Court of Maricopa County denied Ripoff Report’s request to enjoin the speech of our team, it found that our activities are protected as free speech under the First Amendment. The Court wrote:

“Defendant Roberts is free to stage an internet boycott of Xcentric, and is free to include in the boycott those who do business with it. Both his threat to boycott those who do business with Xcentric and his postings that make good on the threat are protected speech, so long as all he does is expose their decision to do business with Xcentric.” {ref}

There have not been too many effective challenges to the incivility of Ripoff Report’s founder Ed Magedson, due, for the most part, to the deficient and ironically named law “Section 230C of the Communications Decency Act”. Until that law is repealed or revised to provide the relief implied by its title, then victims will have only two options, (1) expensive litigation or (2) protest. Thanks to Judge Randall H. Warner, other victims and activists now have a comprehensive “how to boycott Ripoff Report” manual by way of his very clear findings, which read as an instruction manual.

CiviliNation: Are there other websites and organizations that have the same questionable business model as Ripoff Report?

Michael Roberts: Yes there are many, we have a considerable to-do list including TheDirty.com and quite a few “MugShot” sites that have been in the news lately.

CiviliNation: What is the harm that sites like Ripoff Report inflict on individuals and businesses?

Michael Roberts: Depending on how much a victim’s livelihood depends on due diligence conducted through Google, the impact ranges from mild aggravation through to debilitating social, financial, emotional and vocational paralysis.

CiviliNation: Why do you believe individuals and businesses continue to fall victim to Ripoff Report?

Michael Roberts: Because it is estimated that at least 1% of the population have anti-social personality disorder (psychopaths), the air they breathe is other people’s pain. When individuals such as Ed Magedson make his appalling website available to other conscience free miscreants, it is a perfect storm. Until Ed’s immunity under the CDA is removed or reduced, there will be no relief. Alternatively, if the executives in Google who have the power to reduce RipOffReport’s search ranking do so, then Ed Magedson and his malicious users will once again be irrelevant to all except those in their immediate sphere of influence. There will then be room for an ethical “gripe site” that can balance legitimate criticism with social justice and responsibility.

CiviliNation: Do you have any suggestions for what the public can do to protect itself against such sites?

Michael Roberts: My tongue in cheek advice is to change your name of John or Jane Smith so that you can disappear into the crowd; Ripoff Report and sites like it can only hurt you if your name or business name if relatively unique. On a more serious note, you can effect change by supporting our boycotts, retweeting our tweets, emailing links, and boycotting those who advertise on Ripoff Report. Even better, launch your own boycott and send us your links. Judge Randall has laid out the game plan… run with it!

Read more about Rexxfield’s Michael Roberts here.

 

Cia Malone’s Story: How I Became a Target of Online Attacks

Cia Malone is a 23-year old from Ohio who blogs at Cia Pink Pumpkin. After hearing her story, we asked her to share it publicly. We appreciate her doing so and hope it will help others better understand the devastating effects that online attacks can have on individuals. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone.

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Late one night I was on the Facebook fan page of my favorite body care brand, Bath & Body Works. Someone whose name I didn’t recognize made a really cruel and inappropriate racial slur to another person on the page. Not knowing if the commenter was serious, I wrote that I hoped she was joking and if not, that she would hopefully delete what she wrote because it was inappropriate. A moment later someone told me that this was the work of an online troll.

That was my very first encounter with a troll. Before this incident I didn’t even know what “troll” meant. And since I didn’t know what a troll was or how to deal with one online, I made the mistake of continuing to engage this person and fighting back. I quickly learned that retaliating just fuels the fire.

The next morning I received the following message on my Facebook account:

Cia you are such a dumb cunt. I can’t stand you and neither can most of the other posters on the boards. They only play nice with you because they can’t tell you how they really feel or they’ll get deleted. I speak for many when I say you are the laughing stock of the fucking boards and don’t even know it. Nobody gives a fuck about your lame ass outdated blog. You still live with mommy and daddy at 21 years old. You are dumb enough to admit you have to sneak bbw [ Bath & Body Works] bags in the house so mommy won’t chastise you. What a fucking loser.

Still trying to figure out who everyone else in the secret group who hates your guts huh? Keep guessing bitch. rofl

I told you that you have no friends on the bbw forum. You are a snarky self absorbed ocd maniac psychotic bitch with shit for brains. We know all of your personal info all the way down to where you live so don’t fuck with us again or you will regret it. Oh and sharpen up on your investigating skills because you have no clue who we really are but we know all about you. We found you on google maps in Clinton. The store in Canton laughs at you behind your back too btw. Get a fucking clue and go the fuck away. Just die already! Our group makes fun of you every day while playing nice with you on the boards to make you think you’ve got allies. What a dumb fucking cunt you are and we are only getting started baby.

When I got this first message, I felt scared and sick. I had never been spoken to like that before. I had never dealt with this level of animosity from another person.

From that point forward I became the target of this individual. Trying to understand why she acts the way she does, I read over her messages and comments to me and even asked others who know her what’s behind all the ugliness. And the conclusion I’ve drawn is that she finds me and my blog annoying and therefore has obsessively fixated her hatred and negativity on me.

It’s been two years since this started and in that time, my attacker has created a tiny group made up of a handful of individuals who have joined her in attacking me and trying to shut my blog down. They’ve harassed me, threatened me, and posed as innocent individuals under fake accounts to befriend me and join private Facebook groups I was a member of in order to publicize private conversations I had within those groups. They stole content from my blog and, under fake identities, sent me messages about new beauty products that allegedly were going to come onto the market in order to make me look foolish if I published them.

My attackers are primarily women ranging in age from about their early twenties to their late fifties. While I don’t condone the actions of the women in my age group, I’m especially perplexed by the meanness of the older women. The three worst are all close to or older than my mother. If my presence online bothers them, you’d think they would be mature enough to ignore me, stop reading my page, or even block me.

A couple of weeks ago the attacks against me moved from online to the phone.  After listening to a recent message I thought it was really sad that someone has so empty a life that they would take the time to disguise their voice and phone number in order to leave a hateful message. I told my fiancé about the message and he became more angry than I’ve ever seen him.

The phone message was a clear escalation in the harassment and needed to be treated as such. I filed a police report and started the formal process of documenting the actions that have been taken against me for the past two years. In addition to filing a report, I also spoke to my cousin, a detective on a local police force, and he gave me a number of useful suggestions for what to do if the attacks continued or escalated even further.

Dealing with the harassment for the past two years really has taken a toll on me.  Anytime I get an email, a Facebook message, or a comment to my blog, there’s a part of me that is dreading reading it in case it is someone harassing me again. It’s a horrible thing to put up with and frequently leaves me anxious and stressed, like there’s a huge weight on my chest and I can’t breathe properly.

The attacks have also affected me professionally. By copying and stealing a lot of my original ideas, these women have intentionally taken steps to try to ensure that my blog could not grow. During this time period I’ve shut down my old blog and started over again in the hope this time that my content will not be copied. My previous blog was getting 1,000-6,000 views per day, depending on the season and the availability of in-demand content. Now I’m starting over at zero as I try to turn it into a profitable business.

Being attacked because people find me annoying is sad. In general I consider myself a happy, energetic, and optimistic person. Apparently that bothers some people, especially people who are not as content. Misery loves company, and I feel like a decent portion of the hatred comes down to just that.

The media talks about what society can do about this problem.  Sadly, I believe that people like the women harassing me will always exist, motivated by their own anger and ugliness. But while we won’t be able to change others, we CAN change ourselves, starting by modeling the right behavior through our own actions.

I mentioned above that I was not completely faultless when it comes to online incivility, so I am starting with myself. I’ve begun by making an extra effort to reflect more positive emotion in my online comments. Just a few extra words, and maybe a smiley face, can help convey the message the way we intended it. On the flip side, I think when we read things online we need to assume, unless direct and clear insults are made, that the poster had the best intentions in mind. This could help avoid a lot of conflict. Another thing is the good old “write it, walk away, come back and read it before you post it” approach. We all lose our tempers occasionally, and unfortunately online we are often more tempted to say something outrageous than we would say in real life. Walking away and cooling off ensures that whatever is being said is not said out of uncontrolled anger.  Also, while venting can be ok, bashing others is not. This is something I admit that in the past I was guilty of with regard to one of my harassers. If this person continues to attack or target me I won’t feel guilty for venting my frustration about it in private, but I won’t bring myself down to the same level as my harassers and bash them.

Incivility I can handle, and it’s something I’ve admitted to struggling with in the past. But harassment and threats take it to another level. Perhaps after we deal with these extreme forms of negative behavior we can move on to the problem of incivility. Imagine what would happen if every website using ICT had to register with the federal government? What if every month every website was required to turn over a list of every new account registered to their site, every account deactivated, and the IP address of each one? The cowards who hide behind fake accounts and anonymous profiles online would suddenly be revealed.  And much of the online attacks and harassment would be eliminated because people would not want their bad actions be made public.

I understand that some people will consider this a violation of their constitutional rights. But the Internet opens a new realm of possibilities that our founding fathers could never have even imagined, and our government needs to adapt to these new possibilities.

Choose Civility, Freeborn County, MN

 

CiviliNation founder Andrea Weckerle presented a half-day workshop at Choose Civility, the Power of Words – Freeborn County, MN, an initiative of the Albert Lea Public Library. Sessions included The Financial Reputational Cost of Incivility in Today’s Global Online Environment, How You and Your Organization’s Conflict Approach Impacts Your Reputation and Review of  Online Conflict Resolution Skills.

 

 

Snark Free Day 2013 – Lessons Learned & Hopes for the Future

 

This guest post by Jennifer L. Evans, Houston Affiliate of the PRConsultants Group and a member of the 2013 Snark Free Day Committee, talks about the spark behind PRCG’s Snark Free Day concept and what they hope to achieve in the future.

We’re proud to have been able to support them in this year’s effort and look forward to helping them grow their initiative in years to come.

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The subject of adult online bullying and general incivility came up repeatedly during the annual conference for PRConsultants Group in the spring of 2013. Atlanta affiliate Melissa Libby really inspired her colleagues to launch a volunteer-led awareness campaign for a one day break from snark. Louisville affiliate, Nicole Candler, volunteered to lead a committee effort that included creation of a web site, an awareness video, media relations outreach, a Facebook and Twitter campaign and a generally uncivil character “Jonathan Snark.” Our goal was and is simple – to reduce negativity, cynicism and snark in person and online for at least one day. Our call to action asked that participants share their campaign commitment with friends and family, fan the Facebook page, and then most importantly – on October 22 – walk the talk by being snark-free in all their communications with others ala Snark Free Day.

Was our one day campaign successful? We think so. Snark Free Day generated national attention with 1,000+ (and counting) hits all over the US in traditional media outlets, news reports, blogs, and social media channels by people who liked, didn’t like and/or were just generally amused by it – New York, Boston, California, Texas, Florida, DC, etc. Hundreds of people supported the Facebook event, confirming they would be “snark-free” for one day. Numerous individuals and groups have reported back to tell us how rewarding their experience was. In fact, one non-profit organization whose sole mission is focused on kindness saw their own Facebook page “fans” double in one week because of their engagement and advocacy of our campaign. By and large, there are people in the world around us who appreciate a gentle reminder to be a little kinder.

Were there pie-in-the-face moments? Not really. Like any idea that is promoted in our digital world, there were certainly some loud, negative and snarky responses from predictable (and unpredictable) sources. Some of the affiliates on the launch committee were surprised by friends and associates who either recoiled at the idea (citing that snark-free is counterproductive to PR or journalism or some other lame excuse) or generally ignored the call to action. That’s ok, maybe we’ll get them on board next year…

Yes, there will be a snark free campaign effort in 2014! Numerous ideas have poured in with suggestions on how to enhance the campaign, groups that want to participate in a bigger way and more. If you want to be a part of our future effort, please consider subscribing to our blog and/or sending a message to info@prconsultantsgroup.com asking to be on our “insider” list. Thanks to CiviliNation for encouraging others to participate in Snark Free Day – we look forward to working with you again in 2014!

 

Online Hatred Risks Silencing Others

It’s disheartening to realize that some people believe that online speech which isn’t legally actionable is automatically socially benign. In other words, if it’s not illegal, so their thinking goes, it must be ok. But while law and ethics overlap, they are not synonymous. There are plenty of laws that are antiquated or downright idiotic. And there is plenty of online speech that is legal yet unquestionably unfairly harmful to targets and victims. One of the biggest problems that attacking and hateful speech causes is the resulting silencing of others.

While there may not be physical or legal halting of targets’ or victims’ ability to continue to engage online, the psychological effects of the threats or attacks nevertheless place shackles on them. There may not be any outward signs, but the deleterious effects are as strong as if they were physically bound.

Recognition of this fact was an important force in the creation of CiviliNation’s mission “to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies.”

The silencing effect is fortunately now starting to be addressed by the media. The recent Salon article Women’s free speech is under attack* by Kelly Diels states that “the threats and trolling women receive online silence them just as effectively as any censorship.”

Diels goes on to explain that the “coordinated campaigns of trolling, doxing and Ddos attacks are explicitly designed not only to silence you, but also to embarrass you, scare you, harass you, get government agencies to investigate you, vandalize your property, make you move, get you fired, ruin your life.”

Suggestions for addressing the problem vary. On Twitter, for example, one of the most abuse-prone platforms currently online, it ranges from creating a Twitter button that would make the reporting of threats and abuse easier (something we previously discussed here) to actively blocking attackers via the Block Bot, which describes itself as “Helping you ignore people from annoyance to bigot on Twitter.” (Block Bot features three different blocking levels, from Level 1 which deals with the worst trolls, as well as impersonators and stalkers, to Level 3 which deals with individuals who might not be actual haters but are nevertheless obnoxious.) Meanwhile, journalist Quinn Norton argues that having conversations about the root causes of the hatred* behind the online attacks is critical: “It’s not always a pleasant conversation, but we need to have it. Just shutting down the voices we don’t like doesn’t make the sentiments go away.”

We agree that in addition to technological tools that can help people protect themselves against vicious online attacks, education is vital. We need to teach people how to create a strong online reputation, how to monitor their online footprint, how to safeguard their privacy and personal information, how to effectively engage with others (and how to effectively disengage), and teach people what their legal rights are.

 

* NOTE: While the sources mentioned here focus on online attacks against women, a group that continues to bear much of the brunt of online hatred, attacks are unfortunately not limited to this group. Attacks are also aimed at other vulnerable individuals or groups, or those otherwise perceived as particularly socially threatening.

 

(Photo source: “Rage” by SignorDeFazio http://www.flickr.com/photos/37912579@N08/3650954991

 

 

Troll Avenue

In Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies and Other Jerks, trolls are described as “attention-seekers whose sole goal is to wreak havoc online for the purpose of fun and pleasure. Moreover, they thrive on the perceived weakness, naiveté, and emotional reactions of their victims.”

But trolls aren’t a homogenous group comprised simply of stereotypically angry young men, they also consist of “young women, and men easily old enough to be fathers and grandfathers.” While there are many different types of trolls, one interesting observation about trolls is that they seem to be increasingly gravitating to Twitter. Maybe it’s due to the ease with which they can create trouble (no need to get particularly lengthy with insults or attacks, 140 character is all that’s needed!) and the popularity and high-profile nature of the platform.

Trolls are making international headlines again because they’ve publicly gone after Caroline Criado-Perez for successfully lobbying the Bank of England to put novelist Jane Austen’s image on the new £10 note, as well as British Member of Parliament Stella Creasy for supporting her.

Here are some examples of what we’re talking about:

Source: https://twitter.com/CCriadoPerez/status/363718199029682176/photo/1)

Source: https://twitter.com/CCriadoPerez/status/363721857247096832/photo/1

Some of the attackers’ real identities have now been revealed, according to MailOnline. One of the accused was reportedly unrepentant for his actions and, when asked whether he felt his behavior was “normal and made him proud,” responded “Yes, yes I do. And yes it does make me proud.”

Sadly, this example is but one of many that occur on Twitter on a regular basis. Based on recent events, a petition therefore called for the creation of a Twitter button that would make the reporting of threats and abuse easier. (It should be noted that not all experts believe such a button is an effective solution; Dr. Janet Sternberg, author of the book Misbehavior in Cyber Places, for example, has misgivings.) In response to this widespread concern about the frightening and unconscionable attacks occurring on the platform, Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter UK, stated that a list of changes would be occurring on Twitter, changes that would apply worldwide. These include an update to the Twitter Rules and in-Tweet button to report abuse (already available on the iOS Twitter app and on the mobile web, and scheduled to be available on Twitter.com in September).

Dr. Claire Hardaker, a professor of Linguistics and English Literature who studies aggression, deception, and manipulation in computer-mediated communication, says that we need to examine the root causes of such misbehavior in order to effectively deal with it. She argues that “it seems both morally and logically better to face the problem head-on. This could take the form of training and education for those amenable to change, or convictions and prison terms for those who are not.”

Education is an important part of bringing about necessary behavioral and legal changes. That’s why at CiviliNation, we take very seriously our role in helping bring about positive social change. We hope you’ll continue to support us in our efforts. And we hope you’ll consider making a contribution to the creation of the Academy for Online Conflict Management. UPDATE: The Indigogo campaign is over, but the fundraising is far from over. You can give by clicking on the big button below.

Donate Now

 

(Image: Troll Ave” by Andrés Monroy-Hernández http://www.flickr.com/photos/amonroy/2379870487)

 

 

CiviliNation Launches Fundraising Campaign to Create the CiviliNation Academy for Online Conflict Management

CiviliNation is launching a fundraising campaign to create the CiviliNation Academy for Online Conflict Management!

We want to build a global resource library that will become THE place to go get real-world information and expert advice when you face the misunderstandings, clashes, and reputational hits that happen online on a daily basis. Think “Khan Academy” but with a conflict management focus. That’s our goal!

Featuring a combination of animated videos teaching core concepts and videos showcasing experts in online reputation management, privacy protection, identity management and legal solutions, the CiviliNation Academy for Online Conflict Management will house a library containing hundreds of videos.

These videos will teach everything people need to know about strategically managing online problems, effectively dealing with critics and haters, staying calm during disagreements, maintaining a strong and positive online footprint, and knowing what legal options they have against online detractors and reputational smears.

And it’ll be offered in bite-sized chunks of information viewable back-to-back or whenever there are a couple of minutes available.

And best of all, the CiviliNation Academy will be available online to everyone around the world. For FREE.

Learn more about the campaign and how you can help support it by clicking igg.me/at/civilination-academy. UPDATE: The Indigogo campaign is over, but the fundraising is far from over. You can give by clicking on the big button, and we hope you will consider it.

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Formula 1 Blog Shows how Motor Sports Fans Can Come Together to Share Their Passion in a Fun and Civil Way

Billing itself “the online Journal of F1 opinion,” Formula1blog brings together Formula 1 fans from around the globe to share their passion about the sport in an intelligent, mature and civil way. Created in 2005, it calls itself  “something different and fresh, not just rag chewing with a bunch of tobacco-spitting goof balls who want to pretend to appear as reputable F1 news sites” and certainly not a site for “forum troll’s, flamers and disenchanted malcontents.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Read the Q&A with F1B founder Todd McCandless below and find out why this approach has been so successful.

CiviliNation: Tell us about formula1 blog.

Todd McCandless: Formula1blog.com started in 2005 with a mission to become the Journal of F1 Opinion. We enjoy nearly 40,000 downloads of our weekly podcasts per month (which is the highest and most rated F1 podcast on iTunes) and millions of pageview per year.

CiviliNation: On your website it says “When I started Formula1blog.com back in 2005, I did so because I could not find a safe harbor for new and veteran Formula One fans to discuss their beloved sport without trolls, bullies and flamers.” What kinds of problems did you see?

Todd McCandless: It was a common theme, to be honest. Whether it was blogs, forums or websites, the engagement was often festering with trolls, vulgarity, vitriol and heavy handed screeds—not true engagement and sharing of opinion. I found it very odd that with the evolution of the Web, people seemed to be bereft of basic courtesy and the ability to engage in polite digital conversation even if that discourse was at odds with each other. It was as if everyone had become 15-years-old and discovered that the least common denominator was an immediate personal attack to marginalize an opinion that differed from his or hers. I’ve often called this the bravery of being out of range, but it is something more, something slightly insidious to be honest.

One of the keys to new Formula One racing fans is finding a place where they can ask questions, no matter how rudimentary, and feel safe for doing so. Before I started F1B, I would post comments on other sites, and the trolls would berate anyone with a low post or comment count. Forums seemed to breed pride over length of membership and post or comment count. A person who had 12,000 comments in a forum would often tell a new member that they were idiots and knew nothing because of their low post count. I found that astounding as I have been watching the sport since 1972 and most of these people weren’t alive then. Forum software breeds this pride and arrogance. I even had a moderator accuse me of being a redundant news site, which, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth, and this was a moderator on a forum for a major American broadcast network.

I discovered that true engagement was never going to happen in places where the members didn’t share a commonality and respect for each other, so I created F1B with that intent.

CiviliNation: On your Code of Conduct page it says that there is “one simple rule at F1B: Decorum and Civility!” How do you define decorum and civility?

Todd McCandless: To us, Decorum & Civility is the one rule we do have at F1B. It means that we encourage everyone to engage and share their opinion but to do so with decorum and civility… which means no personal attacks. You don’t agree with someone? Fine, simply say “I don’t agree with that and here is why”. No personal attacks. An opinion is simply an opinion but a person is much more. We feel that our community deserves more from engagement and we work very hard to deliver a safe harbor for all of them.

CiviliNation: Have there been any incidences where readers or community members violated the rules? How did you manage that?

Todd McCandless: I have only had to ban one person since 2005, but I would be remiss in not admitting that the occasional outburst doesn’t happen. What we find is that it usually comes from a person who saw a Tweet or Facebook post and then happens to click through to the site. They are not regulars at F1B and it immediately shows. The prevailing notion—and this is why I love the work your organization is doing—is that you can drift from site to site and forum to forum and the conventional culture is to offer a drive-by commentary ripe with foul language and vitriol. This has, sadly, become perfectly acceptable and the norm for many. Most people wouldn’t walk into a coffee shop, hear a person talking and walk up to that individual and say, “you’re a @&$#%& idiot… you don’t know #$%&$ about that!” So why do you do it online?

When a person does discover F1B and lobs a foul grenade in the discussion, our members are the first to respond and usually say something like, “Dude… decorum and civility, we don’t stand for personal attacks at F1B and here is a link to our code of conduct.” I’ve had to do very little policing of the site because we have such a great community that takes care of it themselves.

When someone does continue, I will weigh in and politely explain that there are lots of places that this type of discourse is allowed and even encouraged, and we would recommend visiting those sites instead. We really do appreciate them taking time to share their opinion and would love to have them as a part of our community, but they must follow our one, simple rule… decorum and civility, which means no personal attacks.

CiviliNation: You’ve had great success in creating a fun and engaged community. Given this success, why do you think that other communities don’t follow suit?

Todd McCandless: I honestly wish I knew the answer to that question. Why would a community that I frequented back in 2004 and 2005 allow the language, comments and personal attacks? Why do they allow it today? I thought, at first, it was just an issue of youth, and that can still be part of the equation, but I’ve seen some very harsh words from adults, and it really is disheartening. The impersonal nature of the Internet creates and isolation that has apparently has never been properly defined.  When people are giving their opinion they do it with bravado and can troll those who disagree with immunity. Perhaps, and just perhaps, F1B has discovered that when a people want something, they will change their tune. Being served at a restaurant places you in a very different mindset than being the one serving at the restaurant. I will always try to exhibit servant leadership, and maybe it is this that sets F1B apart.

CiviliNation: What recommendations would you give other sites that are interested in growing their communities and at the same time supporting a positive online culture?

Todd McCandless: I would say ignore the lack of traffic and get back to building a community that you really want. Define the code of ethics for the site, and that becomes the grand equalizer that all of you follow. Sure you can allow trolls and drive-by shooters, and the increase in traffic is nice, but I think it is better to create a safe harbor for your members at the expense of traffic. Lead by example even when trolls do arrive at your site. I’ve been personally attacked at F1B but try to remain calm, keep the temperature cool and continually ask them to find a much better website that encourages their method of discourse. Lastly, never take your community for granted, and always remind them how honored you are that they are the reason the site exists and that they are the creators of the culture by which all of you participate.  Decorum & Civility… no personal attacks!

 

What Kind of Bystander Are You Going to Be?

In a guest post on Geoff Livingston’s blog, CiviliNation founder Andrea Weckerle asks the important question What Kind of Bystander Are You Going to Be?

She writes, “the one group whose importance and influence we tend to overlook is that of bystanders. It’s this group that has enormous power over the direction that online disputes can take. Bystanders can serve as the voice of reason… or be the catalysts for mob-like behavior.”

Read the full post here.