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“Netiquette”: a social guideline for digital etiquette.


The Bible cites: ‘‘treat others the way you want to be treated.” Put another way, if you behave towards others in a certain way, you expect them to imitate this behaviour towards you and thus creating a reciprocal relationship. As humanity used this social principle to build society, Netiquette refers to the application of “golden rules” that create an internet society, according to the book ‘Principle of Netiquette’ by David Chile.

The term Netiquette is a combination of ’net’, derived from internet and etiquette. It covers the rules of internet behaviour i.e. the dos and don’ts of on-line communication. It means respecting other users’ views and indicates common courtesy when posting thoughts and any other form of communication into cyberspace.
As etiquette within wider society is always changing and evolving, therefore, so does netiquette. However, although what constitutes as etiquette can vary amongst cultures and social groups, netiquette is devised to comply with the 'five pillars of ethics' provided by the Internet Activities Board (IAB) in 1989, regardless of culture or social group.

There are five behaviours which should not be engaged in by the users of the Internet and are listed below:

  1.  Seek to gain unauthorised access to the resources of the Internet.
  2. Disrupt the intended use of the Internet.
  3. Waste the resources of the Internet.
  4. Destroy the integrity of internet based information.
  5. Compromise the privacy of internet users.

As internet services have evolved over the years including the introduction of the Web 2.0, the Web 3.0 and Voice 2.0 technologies, the internet community has expanded simultaneously and thus allowing far greater social interaction.Websites including Facebook and Twitter, as well as voice and audio applications such as Skype, have revolutionised online communication so much so that the importance of netiquette has never been greater.

The Internet ethics of the IAB can be expanded upon to include the following:

  1. Do not: use abusive or threatening language.
  2. Do not: post racist, sexist, homophobic and offensive remarks.
  3. Do not: spam message boards or chat rooms with useless messages.
  4. Do not: use someone else's name and steal their identity.
  5. Do not: distribute material that is deemed illegal.
  6. Do not: try to obtain or use someone else's username or password.
  7. Do not: try to obtain personal information about someone.
  8. Do not: harass someone who no longer wishes to communicate.
  9. Do not: use bad grammar and spelling on purpose.
  10. Do not: share personal details of someone without their permission.
  11. Do not: refer to people in a derogatory way, e.g. nerd, noob or a geek.
  12. Do not: post in capital letters, viewed as shouting which can seem aggressive.



People who don’t respect the ethical cyber rules and perpetrate online harassment are referred to as “trolls” and “flaming" (what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion).

A troll is (in respect to a website forum, chat room or newsgroup) a person who posts negative comments in order invoke anger and bait other users into arguments. Whilst a troll and 'trolling' behaviour started out fairly harmless in the infancy of the World Wide Web, it has become a more serious issue now that social networking websites have become so prominent. Trolls have been responsible for posting deprecating comments on pages dedicated to recently deceased family members and this has resulted in trolls being tracked down by the Police and being prosecuted in court.

We expect other drivers to observe the rules of the road when we are in a car; the same is true when we travel through cyberspace.



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