One day, Socrates received the visit of a friend to tell him gossip about one of his disciples. The great philosopher interrupted his speech and asked if he had applied the formula of the Three Filters: truth, goodness and utility. The man replied that he had not, and the wise replied: “If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”
In society there are people who enjoy to gossip and need a constant attention from others by the vicious spreading of hearsay. In this context, some social media have had several problems trying to find technological solutions to control harassment and offensive comments without violating the basic principle of free speech.
Instagram added the toggle “Hide Inappropriate Comments”, a filter to combat trolls or users who post constantly provocative messages with the sole purpose of bothering. Twitter also rolled up its sleeves and developed a function named “Silenced Words”, which prevents from seeing any type of tweet or hashtag that include the prohibited words that the owner of the account has set beforehand.
But these tools are not the panacea for eliminating offensive content on social media. For this reason, before posting a comment on one of these online platforms, it is necessary to ask oneself whether Socrates’ three filters have been successfully checked. Only in this way can we create a safe place for self-expression.