Are you responsible for the opinions you express online? The answer should of course be yes. You shouldn’t write things you are not prepared to defend.
After Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist acts in Oslo the blogger Peder Jensen revealed his true identity. He had been a known writer in the anti-jihadist movement, but was just known as Fjordman. He didn’t like going public, but Breivik referred to him 111 times in his manifesto, so he felt he had to justify his own theories. Besides, he had to “assist the police in their inquiries”, so there was no way he could remain anonymous.
Should trolls be allowed to stay anonymous even when they use their full name? The editor of the fashion magazine Elle says no, and I believe the law supports her. In her editorial for March she is discussing net trolls, and she named specific people and some of the things they had said about her. In a debate on the biggest newspaper in Norway a man said that it must be difficult working in a fashion magazine when you look like a troll, and someone else said that she needed psychiatric treatment. These people were upset when she repeated statements from an open online comment, and they felt that she should have asked for their permission first. Some people seem to forget that when they post something to an open forum, they have already accepted the fact that it’s public.
This is an important debate because it’s common in Norway, and it’s even worse in Sweden, to abuse women who take part in the public debate. There have been worse cases where women have felt that this was a threat to themselves or their family. This is being allowed, as if you are being too sensitive if you feel that this is wrong. I have some ideas about evil that I am going to discuss in a later post, and I believe this is an evil behavior.
There have been several cases where politicians have written something on social media they clearly shouldn’t have. They thought it would stay among friends, but if you have a prominent position in your community these things tend to find their way to a newspaper. Sometimes politicians intend to go public, but don’t seem to understand how social media works, or see the consequences of their statement. A very strange political crisis quickly developed in Denmark this week. They have a coalition government with a minority in parliament, and they rely on support from the Conservatives. This party believes that the minister of agriculture has misled parliament, and wanted a vote of no confidence against her. The situation got more serious after the Prime Minister wrote a twitter message before a meeting where the leaders of the coalition would discuss this crisis. He said they would have to see during the night whether the government had enough support to continue as a government. They suddenly had the choice between replacing one minister or the whole government.
I guess my message is that we should always work on our communication, and if you can’t defend your words you shouldn’t write them. Our skills need to improve all the time, and in a wider perspective we have a free will. If we choose loyalty to the wrong ideals, we should pay a price.