Can STOMP really teach good internet behaviour?

STOMP, Singapore Press Holdings’ “citizen journalism” portal, is now taking it upon itself to teach the Internet good manners.

“Stomp has received many contributions about netizens behaving like idiots on facebook. They commit various inappropriate acts on facebook like making racist comments, scolding their parents, smoking, posing for photos in a state of undress and damaging public property, just to name a few,” says an article on it’s Don’t be a Facebook Idiot campaign. “Stomp will regularly highlight such errant behaviour in the hope that netizens will refrain from making offensive postings on facebook.”

In other words: STOMP is going teach people manners by putting them up on the website for a good ol’ session of shame-and-flame.

I’m not sure that the logic of “fight troll with troll” works so well in this instance. STOMP itself is not exactly known for its restraint, maturity or responsibility. After all, a website unaffectionately dubbed as “shitizen journalism” isn’t exactly in the best position to seize the moral high ground.

It’s not hard to predict what will actually happen to this supposedly noble endeavour: STOMP’s audience will be encouraged to turn into online vigilantes, scouring social media networks for behaviour they disagree with.

While public shaming can sometimes be justified (I find the Public Shaming Tumblr a good follow) STOMP has itself been the host of misogyny, sexism, racism and xenophobia.

Its STOMPers aren’t exactly known for calling out such harmful behaviour, either; they are more known for snapping photos of couples kissing on trains. A voyeuristic post on migrant workers sleeping in a train station is so valued that it’s being considered for an award.

So what we will end up with is an online mob hauling up random individuals – the first entry is a secondary school boy who curses his entire family for locking him out of their home – for scorn and ridicule, labelled as “Facebook idiots”. It’ s unlikely that much will be done to explain what’s problematic about the behaviour; there will be no education here. All we will be left with is vitriol.
Is this really what STOMP wants to achieve? What’s the value in publicly flaming a secondary school boy; will this really improve his relationship with his mother? How will this help Singapore’s online community?

STOMP’s Don’t Be A Facebook Idiot campaign is the last thing we need.

It would be much better for us to recognise that we cannot control everything online, and that there is little point in policing other people’s social media presence. There will always be Facebook idiots. We should be careful we don’t join them.

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