Today marks the end of the 5th International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution in association with United Nations bodies. The conference drew over 100 participants from 29 countries to Liverpool. The participants ranged from government officials, lawyers, mediators, students, academics, and practitioners. I had the happy duty of chairing a session called “Transformative Conflicts and Peacebuilding” indluded presenters from Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Tanzania, and Argentina.
The members of the forum prepared and accepted the following statement on respectful online communication. This is the first such statement by the Forum, and represents a universal step in the management and resolution of disputes online.
Statement on Respectful Online Communication
Drafted jointly and agreed to by consensus April 20, 2007 at the 5th International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution in Liverpool, England – held in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
“While information and communications technologies (ICT) enable unprecedented interactions between individuals around the world, they also introduce some dynamics that can degrade dialogue.
ICT enables people to communicate immediately and anonymously, often without moderation, and in some circumstances this encourages behavior (such as threats or insults) that most individuals would never engage in face-to-face.
This behavior may make people feel unwelcome, disrespected, or harassed in their online interactions. Ultimately, individuals may be dissuaded by these dynamics from participating, which undermines the vibrancy of our global conversation.
As a result, we encourage individuals to:
• communicate online with respect
• listen carefully to others in order to understand their perspectives
• take responsibility for their words and actions
• keep criticism constructive
• respect diversity and be tolerant of differences
We embrace full and open communication and recognize the unique opportunity for expression in the online environment. We support freedom of speech and reject censorship. These principles are not intended to address what ideas can be expressed, but rather the tone with which communications take place.”