WPP AUNZ Interim CEO John Steedman has issued an open letter to the industry on anonymous trolling.
In it Steedman calls on all industry media outlets to take a stand and ban anonymous posting on comment sections, following what he calls a “concerning decline in the quality of online comment sections in our industry media”.
“These comments are the coward punches of public debate and the ability to comment anonymously simply acts as a shield for unacceptable behaviour. It simply has to stop,” he says.
Read Steedman’s open letter below:
It’s time to stop anonymous trolling: the coward punches of public debate.
I write today asking that you review anonymous posting policies on your website. Trolling is not a new phenomenon, but this ugly side to online communications has reached a tipping point and it’s time to act.
During the past couple of years, I’ve seen a concerning decline in the quality of online comment sections in our industry media. People are being attacked for their sexuality or appearance, for their perceived ability or public views.
These nasty comments are the coward punches of public debate and anonymity provides a shield for unacceptable behaviour. All comments need to be attributed and moderated.
Anonymous comments are a cheap laugh for the people behind these posts, and those who trawl through them, but they often causes real and lasting damage to those on the receiving end. Some of those impacted have been my friends, colleagues or competitors. All of them are going about their daily business, striving to deliver results like the rest of us and share honestly held opinions on important topics of discussion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always open to feedback and honest debate of issues. This plays an important role in finding better ways of doing things. But anonymous trolling is not the answer. It’s time we pulled the plug on the freedom of consequence currently enjoyed by these cowards.
I’m asking you to ensure that everyone who comments on stories or posts on your site must log in using their personal or work email address. I’ve called on the support of industry associations and will also be reinforcing our views with clients.
This is a very simple but effective way to make sure people only post comments they’re prepared to see their name against. This would instantly put a stop to the worst of this behaviour and make all of us accountable for our opinions.
At WPP AUNZ, I’m reminding our people that openness and integrity are among our company values. We’ve updated our social media policy for all of our employees to explicitly address commenting behaviour. I will continue to remind our employees that cyberbullying won’t be tolerated.
We need to take a stand together against hateful, destructive and derogatory behaviour. It wouldn’t be accepted in person and shouldn’t be tolerated online. It’s time we stopped giving these anonymous trolls a platform for spreading their cowardly hatred. We have the power to stop this despicable behaviour but actions speak louder than words.
Interim CEO WPP AUNZ