Jimbo asks online folk to play nice, be civil

Wiki one derides rude, abusive web surfers

The co-founder of Wikipedia is once again calling on internet surfers to adopt good manners online.

Jimmy Wales co-wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal yesterday in which he griped about "carelessly rude to the intentionally abusive" behaviour on social networking sites, blogs and forums.

And - for Jimmy and his legal and communications sidekick Andrea Weckerle at least - such an attitude displayed online simply just isn't cricket.

To prove their point, Wales and Weckerle created a new website dubbed CiviliNation in late October. Which is a clever Web 2.0 play on the words civilisation and nation, innit.

"Flare-ups occur on social networking sites because of the ease by which thoughts can be shared through the simple press of a button. Ordinary people, celebrities, members of the media and even legal professionals have shown insufficient restraint before clicking send," opined Wales.

"The comments sections of online gossip sites, as well as some national media outlets, often reflect semi-literate, vitriolic remarks that appear to serve no purpose besides disparaging their intended target. Some sites exist solely as a place for mean-spirited individuals to congregate and spew their venomous verbiage."

The Wiki one also adopted a more serious stance about what he described as a "vastly underreported" phenomenon of adults suffering hostility online.

Wales reckoned that "victims" failed to confront such behaviour because it was so commonplace and even "acceptable" on the interwebs.

"The problem of online hostility, in short, shows no sign of abating on its own. Establishing cybercivility will take a concerted effort," he said.

According to Jimbo, there's too much nastiness flying around on the internet and he wants that culture to change. He's also convinced that in the real world everyone understands what is "appropriate face-to-face communication."

Now the interwebulator needs its own code of conduct too. Wales is calling on web curtain twitchers to no longer suffer in silence about the "degeneration of online civility".

"Targets of online hostility should also consider coming forward to show that attacks can have serious consequences. There are already several documented cases of teens taking their own lives because of cyberbullying," he soberly noted.

Of course, his plight to see the internet freed of abusive naysayers across the globe also requires the right kind of schooling too.

"People need to know how to differentiate between information that is published on legitimate sites that follow defined standards and also possibly a professional code of ethics, and information published in places like gossip sites whose only goal is to post the most outrageous headlines and stories in order to increase traffic." [He really said that? ed]

"People can and will learn to shun and avoid such sites over time, particularly with education about why they are unethical," said Jimbo.

Add to that a "national support network" for adults who suffer hostility online plus a rethink about the current legal system, and bingo: Wales - in his head at least - has created a Utopian vision of "your friendly bobby" internet. ®

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