January 25, 2012 at 2:26 am #150777
This discussion question is inspired by tonight’s State of the Union address and some of the posts I’ve already seen on Facebook tonight, some positive, some negative…..We all know that the distance and optional anonymity that the internet provides generally makes online commenters bolder than they would be in person, say, at an elected government board meeting.
How do you deal with heated political discussions in government spaces online? Do we end the comments in the interest of neighborly behavior, or allow fully open discussion?
January 25, 2012 at 9:20 am #150823
I “wish” that all the commentators would not make any statements that they wouldn’t make if they were identified and always preface their remarks with “my opinion”. Knowing that this doesn’t always happen, I will often “just consider the source” and move on. It probably doesn’t make a lick of difference but at least it will save me a tad of frustration.
January 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm #150821
My opinion is all discussions should be open. This was a country of majority rules that now has turned into minority rules. Besides I listen to both sides and try to weigh the consequences.
January 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm #150819
My opinion: keep it open. While I detest people who like to hide behind a computer screen and act big, we simple can’t censor the conversation because then it loses it’s legitimacy.
January 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm #150817
On a personal level I think there is something about respecting the individual, who has a right to be able to say what they think, but also the aspirations and the integrity of any debate itself.
In a professional context, if I’m moderating or managing a community debate I normally ensure the terms of participation are pretty clear from the outset. The web is a pretty big place – if you can’t respect each other, go do it somewhere else. From an organisational perspective there is usually pretty strict guidance on what we will, and won’t put up with.
January 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm #150815
I think a lot of it is scoping the input you want. I”ve noticed generally the more structured and focused the feedback request – the fewer the crazy comments.
If you simply ask “Should Tampa adopt mass transit” – you’ll get a crazy debate that is pretty viscious
If you get more tactical, “Should the downtown to USF corridor be served by a light rail or a dedicated bus lane” – you’ll get a little better discussion (never perfect)
January 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm #150813
If it is a government website, keep it open but require the same level of personal id disclosure as what would be expected of individuals submitting statments for the record at a public hearing or commenting on proposed regulations. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, not anonymity.
January 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm #150811
I’m with Peter on this issue. Anonymity encourages a lot of unproductive, inflammatory discussions. Participants should be held accountable for their opinions. If they are ashamed to share them, don’t bother.
January 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm #150809
I believe the beauty of our nation is our freedom to speak out. With open transparency comes open, honest and sometimes negative discussion. I believe the individual must take into consideration the consequences for their words. I think open discussion should be allowed. I know for myself that I always try to stay positive, especially on social media channels.
January 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm #150807
If you’re going to allow comments, then they’re going to develop in ways (good and bad) that you can’t anticipate. That’s one of the primal laws of the Internet – you can’t control commenters.
January 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm #150805
I agree in principle that people should be accountable, but the whole issue of anonymous vs. non-anon and real names is kind of complex, and I don’t think there’s any easy solutions. I could imagine situations in political discussions where people might fear for persecution, and with some of the digital attacks recently (on SOPA supporters as a non-political example), the Internet isn’t quite as “safe” as it once was.
So, I suspect one has to moderate based on behavior within the forum, but that can be labor intensive in busy forums and discussion areas.
But on another note, I really have a problem with discussions of ANY partisan political discussions on any government website. There’s ample space elsewhere.
January 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm #150803
There is a time and a place. If you are on a government website, I would think comments would be moderated so that a professional, respectful environment is assured. Same as at work. If I want a no-holds barred political discussion I have all kinds of forums for that. If we’re advertising this govloops as a safe social networking site for our “at-work” co-workers and trying to justify that to management, then we have to have some sort of restraint in place. You can’t tell me you have complete “freedom of speech” at your workplace. In fact, in this day and age you really aren’t protected by a web-nick either. Just recently in my city one of the frequent commenters on several local news websites (very sarcastic, angry, and demeaning stuff) was identified as a local politician and it was all over the news. I’ve also heard of (frequently) people losing their jobs over what they did on their own time on social networking sites. So, yes, it is what it is. Work time, work rules. Your own time – well you can take all the chances you like and say whatever you feel comfortable saying. Just my opinion.
January 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm #150801
My process: acknowledge, sometimes validate, understand where the person is coming from; oftentimes, people just need to vent, but it may be at an inappropriate time or place. Still, it’s better to address it rather than avoid it and hope it goes away. Sometimes discussions need to take a pit stop to address a deeply rooted cocern or fear that might emerge as anger. Though reactionary responses are annoying, it’s important that people feel they are heard. Once they do, then they listen.
January 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm #150799
Good point – am pretty certain civil service guidance precludes this from happening in the UK.
January 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm #150797
I completely agree with avoiding any partisan political discussion on open forums like GovLoop. Not only because of the Hatch Act, but also because partisan debates just cloud the issues, and because as a Federal Employee, I may have to work for one of these candidates in the future. I will only discuss the issues, never the parties or candidates.
January 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm #150795
I posed this question on GovLoop’s Facebook yesterday and got the following responses:
Steve Boggio I find that they have to go negative because they don’t have facts on their side. I positively rebut using CBO,BLS, CBpp, etc sources. I also push back with the alternative buzz words that characterize the alternative that they fail to mention.. Iike ObamaCare – BushyCare, trickle down – trickle ON
John Bordeaux I have exited comment threads when someone goes beyond negative. Most recent example, someone who said: “I heard a rumor that 60% of the military hates Obama, so a coup is likely. I hope it’s peaceful,” At that point, I advised the commenter to seek professional help and “unfollowed” the thread. There has to be a limit, no?
January 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm #150793
I second this sentiment. Ask a huge question and you invite all the “out theres” to the conversation.
January 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm #150791
I totally agree with you. There’s really no point to arguing with people in an online forum. Once you accept that you save yourself a lot of mental anguish! In a government discussion, at least having the ability to comment I think allows the public to feel a sense of participation, no matter how wrong we think they might be!
January 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm #150789
January 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm #150787
One aspect brought up in the State of the Union was Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program/BTOP and the President’s goals of increasing these important avenues for connectivity with all segments of our population using as many communication tools presently available. In the State of Washington, the various levels of state networking from agency levels to local governments to educational facilities all can begin to address openness and creative methods of citizenry engagement. These networks were legislatively begun to increase effective communication avenues and it is time to allocate more capabilities for inclusion into the political debates wherever it leads.
January 28, 2012 at 12:36 am #150785
Thanks for the articulate comment, Shannon. I couldn’t agree more. Our country exists in large part because other countries in the world denied people the ability to voice alternate viewpoints to the majority. One thing I struggle with as a federal communicator is resisting the urge to stop a conversation or to limit access to those viewpoints that I know aren’t going to be “helpful.” However, as long as those viewpoints aren’t hurtful, I feel as though it’s my obligation as a steward of public trust and user of taxpayer money, to limit expression and access to my programs and colleagues as little as possible. “Negative nellies” pay taxes too.
January 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm #150783
I think that people who post negatively and go as far as to make ad hominem attacks are taking themselves out of the conversation regardless, at least in the eyes of the people who are willing to actually sit down at the table and work out the issues. Then again, that may be a bit idealistic because sometimes it’s those who scream loudest that are heard the most, and not the most rational.
January 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm #150781
Matthew Wayne GonzalesParticipant
In my opinion with these heated online discussions, you simply take everything for what it is worth. Understanding how the forum functions, and the psychology behind it is a great way to stay in control and navigate the information in the forum. Unfiltered, raw input is the best as long as some civilized structure is maintained. I think we all could agree that the best channel for discussion, is live and in person. If we are left with the internet channels to conduct these discussions, just understand that some things come with the territory. I believe I am repeating a few things that people have already said, but I am definitely a big advocate of this “seeking to understand” approach.
February 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm #150779
If the poo is flung and it cannot be ignored or side-stepped, request that the poo-flinger cite his/her sources. That usually shuts down troll.
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