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EDITORIAL – Better controls are needed to fight the online bullies

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE’S SIMPLY TOO MUCH online bullying.

Online forums can generate useful debate, and that’s important in a democracy.

Sadly, it’s often used to push people around — journalists, women, minorities, politicians.

If you’re in any one of those categories, chances are pretty good you will, at some point, be seriously trolled.

Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell and his Fernie counterpart challenged each other to stay off Facebook for a month. They say it’s made them feel better.

When it comes to politicians, the problem isn’t regular folks who criticize them, it’s those who threaten physical harm.

BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon is on record as wanting a legal way to remove anonymity and make social media trolls stand behind their words. That’s long been a complaint but it looks to me as though hiding behind handles and fake names isn’t as common as it once was.

People are less inhibited about being identified as they spew their venom. So, what to do? Repeated calls for civility certainly don’t work. “Calling them out” probably won’t stop them, not entirely, but taking away anonymity would make it easier to control the really bad stuff.

Facebook could make a tremendous difference if it provided page hosts a better means of moderating incoming comments.

Even then, technology isn’t necessarily the entire problem — major media outlets don’t always keep a close eye on the offenders. Sheer volume has prompted some outlets to ban comments altogether.

Facebook, by the way, makes it way too hard to get clone accounts removed. They’re the ones in which somebody sets up a fake page using your name and photos, then invites your Facebook friends to join, after which they solicit money or misrepresent you.

Falcon is on the right track on part of the bullying issue but I like the mayors’ idea too. It doesn’t require any new laws and it’s something any one of us can do, right now.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (8893 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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