How can internet discourse be less hateful and more civil? Newseum CEO Jeffrey Herbst explored this question and other matters of digital “etiquette” in a luncheon speech at The Media Institute March 23, 2016.
Herbst acknowledged that more speech is generally better, and “hate speech” is often protected by the First Amendment, but argued that there is room for civility online without curtailing freedom of expression. “With rights come responsibilities,” Herbst said. “We have not really thought through our responsibilities when it comes to the web.”
Herbst sees the anonymity of the web, and of social networks like Yik Yak, as a significant contributor to “the crisis of civility” online and, subsequently, in society. How best to address this issue? In his speech, Herbst called for “an all-out offensive against anonymity.” Noting that some anonymity is, and should be, protected, including the ability for whistle-blowers to report misdeeds, Herbst suggested setting a strong example of accountability: “Our message should be incessantly to everyone, starting with young people, that it does not count unless you put your name on it.”
Read the full text of Herbst’s speech here.