The DD Way
[Please provide feedback below on this DRAFT statement of ethics]
Subject: The Democracy Delivered Individual Ethics Guide is organized around 5 areas that focus on the guiding principles we favor to inform and influence individual users as they develop participant generated media (also known as social media). There are discussions about how participant generated media is used and considerations for DD participants as they interact through the platform.
If you get no further than the following statement in reading this document, consider this:
Conduct yourself online just as you would in any other public circumstance. Consider what the reaction might be to commentary or what the discussion might turn into if you spoke your comments to the person or persons you directed them too as applicable. Treat those you encounter online with fairness, honesty, and respect, as you would offline. Verify information before passing it along. Be honest about our intent. Remember you represent not only yourself, but the community made up DD participants (and any other group you identify with potentially).
The Democracy Delivered Individual Ethics Guide is a living document. The intent of this guide is not to be a code of conduct, but rather a doctrine to inform general use of the social platform. The intent is not to spell out and cover every scenario. In order to create “good” content we rely on individual participants’ conscience and honesty. Different principles are cross-sectional. You will see the same concepts repeatedly in this document. This is intentional for emphasis, but also because their use is applicable to describing the intent of respective areas.
Participant generated media (also known as social media) platforms can be useful tools when handled thoughtfully. Participating in social networking sites has become a popular part of everyday life for many people. Participant generated and shared/re-posted content can be an influential vector to spread information and disinformation. If the content is valid, the information shared can spur general knowledge on a given topic, raise awareness on any number of subjects, spark an interest, or promote
transparency, among other uses.
Principle: Verify, and then verify again. What was “true” in the past may be different today, or tomorrow. If we were to use sports as a metaphor for the lives led by individual humans, it might be best described as a sport played on infinite fields of infinite dimensions governed by rules that change (or move about a circular spectrum) constantly or are applied differently by degrees of influence of the “player” by referees who are sometimes hard to identify or hold accountable. Trying to understand individual
conditions goes a long way in beginning to understand the context of any number of perceptions, outcomes, and/or results.
In order for DD’s participant generated media to be “excellent” we need our participants to exercise at least a nominal journalistic ethic of verifying the information that is being shared or commented on. Participants should strive to be very clear with the intent of whatever is posted that could be considered “topical”. Participants should ask themselves questions like ‘what
exactly am I trying to communicate with this meme?’ for example.
Participant generated media is clearly an information vector, but has limitations like any form of communication. What can be construed as public opinion could actually be just a micro-level snapshot of a particular group (perceived or actual), or even a
n individual, with a specific message, intent, or agenda for example, It can be difficult to judge and/or decipher intent with the written word and while social platforms are well suited for commentary they can be ill suited for discussion. To create “excellent” participant generated media, DD supports the ideas of clearly stated intent, an honest verification of sources , benefit of the doubt, and a “healthy” dose of skepticism. Participants are the first level of quality assurance and we ask that you embrace this role.
Words matter. If words didn’t matter it would be much more difficult to troll, to borrow internet parlance. Principle: Attack ideas, not people. Again, it can be difficult to communicate and/or understand intent. What you write or read is devoid of nonverbal cues (tone of voice, body language) and can also be devoid of context . How many times have you read a quote and had a
reaction akin to “that sounds really bad!” or “that doesn’t sound so bad” and then seen video of the person speaking the words
and had a completely different reaction to the “same” words? In reality, the impact of the words can be completely different because vital nonverbal cues are now part of the communication. Often the question that prompted the statement is not included in the reporting , commentary, or reaction. Sometimes knowing the question can change the inferred intent of any statement because the reader or listener now has a frame of reference for context. Principle: Seek context. Words without
context lose their meaning and should be questioned.
Strive to strike a respectful tone. Again as you comment, imagine you are speaking to the person or group of people you may be commenting on. Would you use the same words? We keep beating this drum, but remember intent is difficult to communicate, more so when nonverbal cues are not part of the communication. What is shared on social platforms can be disliked. This should be expected. We have communicated social platforms have limitations, particularly in describing intent. Again, attack the idea, not the person. One person’s facts are, at worst, another person’s fabrications. Know the difference between “abusive language” and “constructive feedback”.
Spread information with thought. Be skeptical and add/apply context. Communicate your intent. We challenge our participants sharing topical information on the social platform to provide evidence. Again, verification of information is critical to accuracy. For example, if the commentary is opinion based, can the idea expressed be proven or disproved, or is it more belief based? Nothing right or wrong about beliefs inherently, but being honest with intent lends to potentially honest reaction and/or discussion as applicable. If the commentary is reporting based, how were the accounts compiled? On physical
site or via reactions gathered via social platforms for example? Were valid, relevant questions asked? The answers to these questions help form the basis of context.
It has been said “a picture says a thousand words”, however a picture coupled with an intentional caption can completely change the meaning or context of the image. The image might not even be directly related to whatever the “story” is, but a stock or found photo that fits the narrative. A video with an intentional lead-in can completely bias your mind to see what is implied by “what you are about to see is (this)”. This can be especially true if you already believe in whatever the messaging is.
Again, be skeptical. Where applicable, apply your own experience. Equally important, be honest with yourself if your experience on any given topic is lacking. At times media is presented in snapshots and engineered to spark an emotional response.
We would be willing to bet if you know anything about a particular subject and then see reporting or imagery on the particular subject, you may view the media product as best incomplete. Apply this same skepticism to subjects you have less personal experience with. Humans are visual creatures, but it could be argued vision is a sense we overly rely on in divining the “truth”. In other words, we can see what we want to, or are led to, see or not see.
Emotions are elementally human, keep us “safe” and “help” us decipher the world we sense. The fear you might feel walking up
on a bear in the wild unexpectedly and ill prepared might help you survive for example. However, we implore you to also use the thoughtful, skeptical side of your humanity as well to analyze your world. Again using the bear in the woods analogy, fear that devolves into panic might disallow us to think at all and cause paralysis vice useful action. Have the emotional reaction,
you’re human, but allow for a thoughtful pause and ask yourself ‘why do I feel this way?’ Reading something on the internet
that causes an emotional response, “good” or “bad”, is not urgent and time-critical like meeting a wild bear in the woods. Ask the ‘who, what, where, why and how’ questions that help us arrive to thoughtful, introspective, and reasoned conclusions
and allow for critical thinking.
The DD social platform is a public platform. In other words, it is not private. The marketing of this entity encourages participants to join at the premium level, but also at a general (“free”) participant level. The stated goal of this company is unbridled growth in terms of participants. Hundreds of millions, or even billions of people interacting with the platform is a welcome future goal. We
foster an environment and culture that is intellectually and functionally honest and thoughtful. Represent yourself honestly. What
you post on the social platform not only represents yourself, but also DD as a collective of humans. Do not create a “fake” persona. Don’t behave any differently on the DD platform than you would in any public setting where you would encounter diverse opinions, expectations, and life experiences. Be circumspect about your behavior, even when the exchange feels private or anonymous. Once you share information on the world-wide-web you lose control of the message. Start with honest intentions.
Social platforms are public spaces. Depending on who is participating, social platforms can begin to resemble echo chambers (the reaction echoes the original idea or concept shared). This “echo chamber” affect can support or lead to “group think”
where dissenting opinions are “shouted down” and unquestioned loyalty to the group is over-valued potentially. A subject view can be viewed as “normative” and/or “right/wrong” when in reality it may very well be “fringe” or “unacceptable” to a larger population of individual thinkers. In reality, due to the public nature of social platforms (easy, encouraged registration, loose/difficult verification of individual identities) anyone with access to the Web can ultimately see what it is you have to say or share to a degree. The line between private and public activity has been blurred. Blog entries can easily be circulated beyond the intended audience. Again, you represent not only yourself, but also the community of participants that makes up
Democracy Delivered. Be accountable to this notion. Favor “open-minded” skepticism (‘I’m not sure, but I’ll listen’) to “close-
minded” cynicism (‘I disagree, no matter what you say’).
Express yourself freely but don’t confuse your 1st amendment rights as protecting you from the court of public opinion or from DD content monitoring efforts. This is what the 1st amendment says about speech (among other rights), “Congress shall make no law....abridging the freedom of speech.” DD is not Congress. DD exists to serve all participants and favors democratic concepts like access, transparency, and respecting the rights of individuals while keeping the health of the collective in mind. DD reserves the right to arbitrate, monitor, and reject “offending” content determining whether the ideas expressed, symbols and/or language used, and actions supported or expressed are based on arbitrary and capricious judgment or standard.
We recognize that almost any, if not all, ideas, symbols, language, or actions can be construed as “offending” based on individual reactions. One more important distinction DD will make in analyzing any “offending” material in question is this: is the content in question grounded in promoting democratic ideals like access, inclusion, equal rights, fairness, etc., where a potential for common understanding exists or is it grounded in undemocratic ideals like exclusion, divisiveness, generalizations, marginalization, etc., where the only course of action is conflict (no middle ground, agree or resist). DD promotes a culture where content expressed that can be linked to the democratic ideals previously listed should not be viewed as “offending.”