Recently a few people have asked me about banning people on my social media pages, saying that they were rude to them or otherwise offended them in an online discussion.
It’s difficult for me because I don’t have a good answer for these well-meaning individuals. The fact is that I haven’t banned anyone (with the exception of those commenters who make direct threats of violence) in several years, and have largely left it up to everyone to block bad actors on their own.
I’m in a bit of a conundrum, because I do want friends and followers to be treated with respect when engaging on my fan pages. I value decency and civil discussion, but I also value something else: exposing terrible ideas and people.
If I block a rude person from commenting, I’m not taking away their free speech. I’m really just ensuring that the individual will use that same tactic elsewhere. And when they do it on my page, I’m able to screenshot the misconduct and show the world.
For example, how else would everyone know this person is out there? That’s important information to have.
In addition to exposing people like Sarah, which I do a lot, keeping offensive people or “trolls” around helps me change minds. Occasionally, someone who begins a message with malicious or even violent intent can alter their entire outlook on the situation. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is a beautiful thing to watch.Here’s an example:
My policy on banning also helps prevent the dreaded echo chamber, in which people so often get stuck. Allowing for all voices is healthy for civil dialogue, but not everyone believes in that form of rational discussion. So, there has to be a line.
For me, the line is crossed when someone directly threatens a fellow commenter. I have held this line for years, but I’m also open to evaluating my processes. So, what do you think? Is having an open and available platform a good thing when it is used to expose bad people and ideas? Or should I be doing more to protect people who want a positive commenting experience? Is it enough to leave it to individuals to block people all on their own?
I have been asking myself these questions and others, so I figured I’d open it up to everyone else. Thoughts?
Yours in Reason,
David G. McAfee (Support my work here)