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Acceptable Internet Usage

As the internet has become part of our daily routine, we take it for granted that our employer allows us to access the World Wide Web (www)....

As the internet has become part of our daily routine, we take it for granted that our employer allows us to access the World Wide Web (www).

Your organisation should have an acceptable use policy, which outlines the common laws in the use of the internet. If however your organisation does not have an acceptable use policy, you need to remember the following is regarded as unacceptable:
  • Visiting internet sites that contain obscene, hateful, pornographic or otherwise illegal material.  
  • Using the computer to perpetrate any form of fraud, software, film or music piracy. 
  • Using the internet to send offensive or harassing material to other users. 
  • Downloading commercial software or any copyrighted materials belonging to third parties, unless this download is covered or permitted under a commercial agreement or other such licence. 
  • Hacking into unauthorised areas. 
  • Publishing defamatory and / or knowingly false material about your organisation, your colleagues and / or your customers on social networking sites, 'blogs' (online journals), 'wikis' and any online publishing format. 
  • Undertaking deliberate activities that waste staff effort or networked resources. 
  • Introducing any form of malicious software into the corporate network.
  • Representing yourself as someone else.
Acceptable Internet Usage

1. Remember the human: The golden rule your parents and your teacher taught you was pretty simple: Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you. Imagine how you'd feel if you were in the other person's shoes. Stand up for yourself, but try not to hurt people's feelings.

In cyberspace, we state this in an even more basic manner: Remember the human. When you communicate electronically, all you see is a computer screen. You don't have the opportunity to use facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice to communicate your meaning; words, lonely written words, are all you've got. And that goes for your correspondent as well.

When you're holding a conversation online, whether it's an email exchange or a response to a discussion group posting, it's easy to misinterpret your correspondent's meaning. And it's frighteningly easy to forget that your correspondent is a person with feelings more or less like your own.

2. Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life: In real life, most people are fairly law-abiding, either by disposition or because we're afraid of getting caught. In cyberspace, the chances of getting caught sometimes seem slim. And, perhaps because people sometimes forget that there's a human being on the other side of the computer, some people think that a lower standard of ethics or personal behaviour is acceptable in cyberspace. The confusion may be understandable, but these people are mistaken. Standards of behaviour may be different in some areas of cyberspace, but they are not lower than in real life.
· Be ethical
· Breaking the law is bad Netiquette

3. Know where you are in cyberspace: Netiquette varies from domain to domain. What's perfectly acceptable in one area may be dreadfully rude in another. For example, in most TV discussion groups, passing on idle gossip are perfectly permissible. But throwing around unsubstantiated rumours in a journalists' mailing list will make you very unpopular there. And because Netiquette is different in different places, it's important to know where you are. Lurk before you leap. When you enter a domain of cyberspace that's new to you, take a look around. Spend a while listening to the chat or reading the archives. Get a sense of how the people who are already there act. Then go ahead and participate.

4. Respect other people's time and bandwidth: It's a cliché that people today seem to have less time than ever before, even though (or perhaps because) we sleep less and have more labour-saving devices than our grandparents did. When you send email or post to a discussion group, you're taking up other people's time (or hoping to). It's your responsibility to ensure that the time they spend reading your posting isn't wasted.

5. Make yourself look good online: Know what you're talking about and make sense. Pay attention to the content of your writing. Be sure you know what you're talking about. When you see yourself writing ‘it's my understanding that’ or ‘I believe it's the case,’ ask yourself whether you really want to post this note before checking your facts. Don't post flame-bait, be pleasant and polite. Don't use offensive language, and don't be confrontational for the sake of confrontation.

6. Share expert knowledge: The strength of cyberspace is in its numbers. The reason asking questions online works is that a lot of knowledgeable people are reading the questions. And even if a few of them offer intelligent answers, the sum total of world knowledge increases. The Internet itself was founded and grew because scientists wanted to share information. Gradually, the rest of us got in on the act.

So do your part. Don't be afraid to share what you know.

7. Help keep flame wars under control: ‘Flaming’ is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. Does Netiquette forbid flaming? Not at all. Flaming is a long-standing network tradition. Flames can be lots of fun, both to write and to read. And the recipients of flames sometimes deserve the heat. But Netiquette does forbid the perpetuation of flame wars.

8. Respect other people's privacy: Of course, you'd never dream of going through your colleagues' desk drawers. So naturally you wouldn't read their email either.

9. Don't abuse your power: Some people in cyberspace have more power than others. There are wizards in MUDs (multi-user dungeons), experts in every office, and system administrators in every system. Knowing more than others, or having more power than they do, does not give you the right to take advantage of them. For example, system administrators should never read private email.

10. Be forgiving of other people's mistakes: When someone makes a mistake – whether it's a spelling error or a spelling flame, a stupid question or an unnecessarily long answer, be kind about it. If it's a minor error, you may not need to say anything. Even if you feel strongly about it, think twice before reacting.

If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake, point it out politely and preferably by private email rather than in public. Give people the benefit of the doubt; assume they just don't know any better.