Website of the Week: CiviliNation

Through Facebook I recently was introduced to CiviliNation, a non-profit education and research group dedicated to advancing civility in cyberspace. Founded in 2009, CiviliNation (website here) describes itself this way:

Our mission is to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment, or lies.

I believe this organization holds a lot of promise to raise awareness and influence our national discussion about online civility, harassment, and bullying.┬áCiviliNation’s founder and president is Andrea Weckerle, a Washington D.C.-based attorney and communications consultant. She’s well connected; her board includes Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. The seeds are there for important work to be done.

And we sure do need it. The Internet’s marvels are matched increasingly by its nastiness. Through some combination of education, consciousness raising, and regulation, we need to save ourselves from ruining cyberspace. Here’s hoping that organizations like CiviliNation can help to lead the way.

7 responses

  1. David,

    Many thanks for your support of CiviliNation. Yes, there is much work to be done, yet I’m confident that we can create positive and lasting change!

    Andrea

    ——

    Andrea Weckerle
    Founder
    CiviliNation

  2. David, I’m sorry to be “nasty”, but you should look a little more closely about the success rate of Jimmy Wales projects where he’s a stakeholder.

    Bomis – failed.
    OpenServing – failed.
    Wikia Search – failed.

    CiviliNation has had plenty of time to ramp up and do something meaningful, but thus far, it’s all too much padding for someone’s resume.

    Besides, isn’t it a bit hypocritical to have Jimmy Wales, the so-called “founder” of Wikipedia, on a board that’s vested with improving truth online? (See Larry Sanger for insight on this.)

    • Gregory, although I welcome your feedback to posts, it strikes me that your main beef is with anyone or anything connected with Jimmy Wales. I’ve never met him, and I have no direct financial interest in his business enterprises, so I assure you that I have no axe to grind one way or the other.

      I do understand there’s been some bad blood between Wales and Larry Sanger about the founding of Wikipedia that apparently has been quite the talk of the Internet world, but I’m not sufficiently versed to take sides.

      In any event, small non-profits often take some time to “ramp up,” as you put it. My post looked to CiviliNation’s promise, not its early track record. How is starting a non-profit that isn’t yet running on all cylinders somehow “too much padding for someone’s resume”?

      • You have accurately pigeon-holed my “main beef”. What I don’t understand is how bloggers and reporters and interviewers — even when given the direct links to the facts about Jimmy Wales, so that they might inform themselves — typically seem to come back with “I don’t have enough info to make a judgment against the man”. They then go about their merry way, giving the usual “softball” serving of more PR pablum that supports whatever it is that Jimmy Wales is involved with.

        I’ll hold off on any more dirt here, but you may want to consider the relationship between Wales and Weckerle, then ask if they are really, honestly, trying to do something useful with CiviliNation. You can get back to me in 2015, and if CiviliNation has done anything of media-worthy substance, I’ll eat crow.

      • Greg, in the interest of telling that full story, isn’t it relevant that Wales banned you from Wikipedia after you launched a commercial business to write Wikipedia entries for a fee?

        You see, a thread like this can go on and on. My purpose was to feature CiviliNation and suggest that it has promise to help us civilize the Internet. You used the post to launch into an attack on Jimmy Wales. I realized that maybe I should check on whether you have a vested interest, given your unusual attentiveness to Wales and his projects.

        Maybe CiviliNation isn’t your cuppa tea, and maybe Wales isn’t your kind of entrepreneur. Fair enough. But the practice of people hunting down blog posts and articles that mention Wales, in part for the purpose of criticizing writers who don’t share your obsession with taking the guy down a notch or two, highlights why we need voices for a more civil Internet.

  3. CiviliNation.org is practically moribund, and never really amounted to anything in the first place. It’s nothing more than a blog, and a resume-padding device for Weckerle. And frankly, the last person anyone should turn to for help in dealing with the online civility “crisis” is Jimmy Wales, or anyone else connected with Wikipedia.

    Let’s face the facts here, too. The problem of online incivility can only be “solved” via censorship. Personally, I believe it’s possible to have a reasonable amount of censorship and still have a productive, even free-spirited discussion. But I seem to be in the minority – most people seem to take an all-or-nothing approach to censorship that often approaches irrationality. That’s fine too, but let’s not kid ourselves (as Weckerle is obviously doing) that the main issue is “civility.” The issue is whether or not one’s behavior online is more important than whether or not one has a valid point.

  4. As a former editor of Wikipedia who never had any contact with Jimmy Wales, I have to view with deep suspicion any enterprise he is significantly involved in to promote “civility” on the internet. Wikipedia has rules to ostensibly promote “civility” which are in fact used as cudgels by administrators and other “power users” to stifle dissent and opposing viewpoints. On his various “talk” pages on Wikimedia websites, Wales has personally demonstrated a similar attitude by denouncing serious questions or criticisms of his own or other admin actions as “trolling”. While it is neither true nor fair to say he invariably does this, he still does it often enough that it is hardly unusual.

    Given the regular attempts to suppress serious dissent or criticism on Wikipedia, and the toleration of foul-mouthed and bullying behavior on the part of some of its admins, one naturally wonders how Wales proposes to deal with bullying on the internet generally when his own house is in such disorder. The lack of significant activity on the CiviliNation website also fails to inspire confidence. One does not need to have personally come into conflict with Wales, or lost money in one of his ill-starred ventures, to have grave misgivings over the success of this venture.

    And before anyone asks; no, I was never blocked or banned from Wikipedia, nor was I under threat of the same when I stopped contributing there.

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