#MakeGoodComments is a social media campaign that aims to raise awareness and discussion about online harassment via comment trolling as well as the importance of civil commenting. The project includes multiple multimedia pieces talking about the best ways to leave online comments, such as a website with guides and resources, an animated video, and a quiz on Playbuzz.
Why This Project
Online harassment, particularly via comment trolling, has driven a lot of minority and marginalised voices from journalism, hindering both their freedom of speech and the opportunity to explore multiple points of view. It has also led to suicides and death threats, making the online journalism space highly unsafe for all but a privileged few.
While there are plenty of anti-harassment and anti-cyberbullying campaigns, they tend to be focused on preventing cyberbullying or protecting yourself from being the victim: they don't necessarily address people who perpetrate cyberbullying. The negative effect of comments in news article is currently being investigated further in academia (as "online incivility" and discussed in the newsroom, but these are relatively recent developments.
We are thus tapping into the zeitgeist affecting a number of key issues: the simultaneous platform growth and further marginalisation of minorities, including people of color, queer & trans people, and sex workers from media outlets; the desire of newsrooms to find better solutions to problems with online commenting; and very high-profile incidents of online comments making a major real-world impact - usually in a negative way.
That being said, a purely technological solution is not enough. There are quite a few efforts to build better apps and tools to support moderation and anti-harassment (including a project in this hackathon, Safety In Numbers, that started from the same seed and has collaborated with us). However, all the tech in the world will not make a dent of difference if the people using that technology are not supported or given space to use it productively.
Aims For The Project
We hope to gain enough financial and in-kind support to turn this project into reality, which will enable us to create and develop better resources around online commenting, such as:
- More (and better) animated videos talking about online commenting and online harassment using humour and silliness to communicate with those that cannot or do not choose to read written content
- More resources targeted towards maintainers of websites that enable comments, such as sample comment policies and moderation tips & tools
- More interactivity, such as more quizzes, petitions, or ways to help victims
- Collaborating with a major media outlet on joint projects highlight the dangers of onlline commenting
- Curricula for teachers and group organisers to talk to their students about online harassment