What is Netiquette? A Guide to Online Ethics and Etiquette

Netiquette is a combination of the words network and etiquette and is defined as a set of rules for acceptable online behavior. Similarly, online ethics focuses on the acceptable use of online resources in an online social environment.

Both phrases are frequently interchanged and are often combined with the concept of a ’netizen’ which itself is a contraction of the words internet and citizen and refers to both a person who uses the internet to participate in society, and an individual who has accepted the responsibility of using the internet in productive and socially responsible ways.

What Does Good Web Etiquette Look Like?

Underlying this overall concept of socially responsible internet use are a few core pillars, though the details underneath each pillar are still subject to debate.

For Society:

  • Recognizing that the internet is an extension of society. The internet isn’t a new world in which anything goes, but rather, a new dimension of the world around us.
  • Applying the same standards online as we do in public. In simple terms, this means that the values society has in place against hate speech and bigotry, child exploitation, and child pornography, copyright violations and other forms of theft, remain intact. Values around courtesy, kindness, openness, and treating others with the same respect we wish to receive should also be adhered to.
  • Refusing to empower abuse and harassment while online. Accepting that the laws which are currently in place to protect the rights and dignity of citizens apply online and that where needed, laws are updated to reflect these rights in the extended environment. Theft, harassment, and bullying while online is still theft, harassment, and bullying, period.
  • Acknowledging cultural differences. Even when national boundaries no longer apply, cultural respect and tolerance should remain. This requires finding a way to accept that the social values and norms of some netizens will not be the social values and norms of all netizens.

For Businesses:

For companies, being a good netizen, applying online ethics, and using netiquette include:

  • Respecting rights of privacy for offline employees. Information possessed by citizens in their offline interactions should be respected.
  • Maintaining transparency in information policies. By taking action so that consumers can easily and quickly understand how that company is using their information and protecting them from harm, companies can provide users with a clear means of ownership and self-determination as to what is, and isn’t shared about them, which strengthens the consumer relationship.

Most internet users automatically apply the same responsible respectful behavior online as they do in every other environment and by nature apply netiquette an online ethics, and are good netizens. The minority that fails to apply societal values in some or any environment- including the internet- are quickly identified as exceptions to be dealt with on a social, or criminal level. When you choose to partner with technology companies, especially for something as important as internet security, it’s imperative you ensure that the partner shares your understanding of what it means to act ethically online.

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