Netiquette or good manners on the Internet

Netiquette or internet etiquette

If Internet users enjoy a great freedom on the Internet, their actions are framed by rules of good conduct, known as netiquette. The question is whether these principles are really effective.

What is netiquette ?

Netiquette is the association of the words “net” and “etiquette. As the name suggests, these are rules that Internet users are expected to observe.

The web is a space where everyone can act freely. But as in society, freedom is a right that cannot be without limits. Also in real life, you can’t always count on everyone’s goodwill to make things work. Binding rules, which are therefore accompanied by sanctions, are necessary.

There is not one but several rules of good conduct. Indeed, different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, set standards that users must follow. The commission of an offence is subject to a sanction, most often graduated. Only people who commit particularly serious offences (e.g. incitement to violence) can risk a permanent ban.

And still, some manage to slip through the net of moderation.

Netiquette is not a magic wand. But it is necessary if we want interactions on the Internet to be healthy.

What are the rules of netiquette ?

The rules laid down by the major platforms are supplemented by the standards set by groups and other discussion forums. On many points, these standards are similar to each other. We can even say that netiquette is a digital transposition of the legal rules that apply in society.

Netiquette in discussion forums

The rules of netiquette are not so different from those of everyday life. Thus, Internet users are not allowed to insult, provoke or threaten others. They can’t hold hate speech or spread false news..

Forums are not just about moral issues. They also ask from their members:

  • To respect rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation;
  • To formulate clear and concise sentences with arguments.

Redundancy is also unwelcome in threads. So, before asking a question or making a comment, it is best to take the time to read the answer(s) that have already been given.

Netiquette on social networks

Anonymity is one of the advantages of online exchanges. Many Internet users use pseudonyms when chatting with other users. By doing this, they are not breaking any rules.

But they obviously cannot use anonymity (or pseudonymity) to make comments that may offend others.

Internet users must always :

  • Respect the standard set by social networks, which prohibits among other things hate speech, insults, etc. ;
  • Respect the rules of the groups they belong to, which also require mutual respect;
  • Respecting the privacy of others, for example by not posting images without consent.

The netiquette in an email

When you send an email, you must observe a certain number of rules which, for many, are self-evident:

  • The email must begin and end with a polite greeting;
  • The message must be clear and concise;
  • Grammar, spelling and punctuation rules must be followed;
  • The email must be signed.

Security and data protection rules

There are written rules concerning the attitude to adopt on the Internet. RFC 1855 is one of the most important netiquette documents. It addresses different issues:

  • What to do in an online discussion ?
  • How to manage copyrighted content ?
  • How to protect yourself from spam ? Etc.

Some digital communities have taken up the basic rules laid down in the 1990s. The technical aspects have however been put aside in favor of communication.

Who judges the respect of the netiquette ?

The rules are naturally accompanied by sanctions. These rules are usually graduated. Even people who repeatedly break the rules may get a second or third chance, if not more. Simply, the penalty is more severe the more the user reoffends. On Facebook, for example, when a member makes a hateful comment, their account can be suspended for a few days.

He can no longer publish or comment. He can’t even like or share a post. If he/she re-offends, the period of restriction of his/her account will be longer, and so on.

The moderators are the gendarmes of the netiquette on the various platforms of the web. The moderators of a YouTube channel can, for example, ban a person who makes disrespectful comments during a live broadcast. Those of a Facebook group can suspend for a few days or weeks a member who does not know how to debate calmly..

But moderators can’t do everything. Other users who feel aggrieved can report a post or a comment either to the moderator or the administrator of a group or directly to the moderation of the social network. In some cases, this reporting is not necessary. The algorithms of the platforms know how to spot words or expressions that may reflect the desire to make hateful comments, intimidation, harassment or incitement to violence, among others.

The only problem is that these bots can’t tell the difference between truly disrespectful posts and comments and humorous content.