Freedom Of (Online) Speech

Whenever we talk to a property management company or a neighborhood board of directors about eNeighbors, there is always a concern that comes up:

How do you keep negative comments off the site?

First of all, the eNeighbors application has the ability to screen, moderate and ultimately deny someone from posting unwanted information. But I’m going to challenge this line of thinking and potential course of action.

The neighborhood leaders are always concerned about what people might think of the community if there is nothing more than negative commentary from the residents. Guess what, everyone already knows about it — after all, they live there too.

Here’s the deal, if people are pissed off about their neighbors, neighborhood policies, management, etc., deleting their online posts isn’t going to fix the problem. If anything, I would encourage community leaders to act on the negativity and thus effect some positive change. You’d be amazed at the turnaround in attitude of your neighbors if you show that you actually care enough about them to listen and do something about it.

And another thing… social responsibility.

Most online social networks do an excellent job of policing themselves, and if a rogue user is trying to pick a fight, the community at large usually shuts them down pretty fast (if not, then the admin can always revoke their account privileges). In addition to that, if you have a personal dispute with a neighbor, the online neighborhood website is NOT the appropriate place to resolve that conflict — walk across the street.

Ultimately, only good can come of promoting a healthy discussion between neighborhood residents. If it ends up being a flame war and constant insult trading, then I’d argue there are bigger problems at stake, and at least you can address the specific problems since you now know about them.

With all that said, the majority of our current online communities behave themselves. They post relevant news information and keep an ongoing friendly dialog about current issues and concerns. Giving people the power to act does not always mean they will. It just shows that you trust them, and in turn they respect you for giving them the opportunity and the means.

The freedom of speech is a dangerous and wonderful thing.

One thought on “Freedom Of (Online) Speech

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