Australia’s first industry-developed Code of Ethics for Online Community Management, launched today, aims to reduce abuse and trolling on owned sites and social media channels.
The move comes as businesses increasingly approve the posting of inflammatory content in their online communities because it is ‘on brand’, boosting their traffic and time on site figures.
However the new Code makes it clear that chasing engagement outcomes at any cost is not an excuse for community and social media managers to act contrary to their public responsibilities.
It recommends ways they can create safe, welcoming, non-discriminatory and productive social environments online and aims to help them and their organisations adopt best ethical practices in community management.
The Code, which is also an international first, was developed by industry pioneers and co-founders of online community management conference Swarm, Alison Michalk and Venessa Paech, in consultation with the Australian Community Managers’ industry group, and digital media researchers Dr Fiona Martin and Dr Jonathon Hutchinson from The University of Sydney’s Department of Media and Communications.
“There’s a difference between hosting provocative or challenging discussion and provoking hate speech,” said Paech, Director, Content & Inbound, Green Hat. “We’re seeing newer social media managers being asked to stoop to tactics that border on trolling in an effort to ‘game’ engagement; justified as long as the tone is ‘on brand’. We think people deserve a better experience,”
“Social media is full of competing agendas and ethical complexities. Community management and social media professionals can be torn between commercial imperatives and best practice – and that’s not a tenable situation,”
“Having a shared ethical framework that extends beyond traditional advertising into the realm of digital relationships will improve the way practitioners and companies navigate these complexities.”
Michalk, founder of leading community management company Quiip, said the Code would assist Community Managers and practitioners to broker relationships that deliver excellent social and commercial outcomes for Australia’s online communities and social media networks.
“As Community Managers, we’re tasked with owning digital spaces and managing the discussion within. This can mean hundreds of judgement calls a day as to what is and isn’t acceptable to publish,”
“Given the Internet is already rife with content that aims to cause damage, hurt and harm, the Code aims to support Community Managers in making better calls.”
“Managing communities successfully and ethically are not mutually exclusive goals. Experience tells us that groups that thrive long term are not run using the lowest common behavioural denominator,” Michalk said.
The Code of Ethics for Online Community Management is available at http://www.acmcodeofethics.com.au