Here are two simple ways for Gazette to combat cyberbullies
Like all countries, Bermuda has complex social and economic problems that are best resolved through honest, courteous dialogue among the various stakeholders. Historically, and more so with the advent of the internet, the opinion pages of The Royal Gazette have been one of the principal venues for that dialogue.
Unfortunately, from time to time, and particularly lately, honest, courteous discussion has been crippled by a handful of online commentators.
Two methods of destruction are particularly prevalent. The first is the use of personal attacks, which not only poison the discussion, but disrupt the flow of meaningful conversation.
The second, and more recent problem, is the domination of the discussion by one or two commentators who bombard the page with multiple, lengthy diatribes often cut and pasted from less-than-credible sources.
For instance, in one online discussion, there were 29 postings by one commentator totalling more than 3,500 words and another 21 postings by a second commentator basically echoing his message. Further, the “facts” cited by these two cyberbullies were often blatantly false and based on logical fallacies promoted by American alt-Right websites.
Such sabotage through domination of the discussion was frequently used by alt-Right Donald Trump supporters during the American presidential election, as they spewed blatantly false right-wing propaganda, and it is gravely concerning that the same tactics are being used on the RG pages to undermine honest, community discussion about the very real problems in Bermuda.
I recognise that the RG has a limited budget and that patrolling its website for cyberbullies would add to its costs, but it seems to me that there are two relatively easy steps that can be taken to reduce this problem.
First, put a limit on the number of words that any commentator can make. If letters to the editor are limited to 500 words, surely the number of words per commentator should be limited to some similar or lesser number. Second, add another option such as “cyberbully alert” to the “like” and “dislike”, etc choices under each comment. That will allow readers to flag bullying, making it easier for the RG to quickly remove rude and ad hominem attacks.
By taking these small steps, the RG will better protect the integrity and civility of the community discussion it facilitates and further enable Bermuda to find solutions to its difficult problems.
San Diego, California