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Just War Principles for Social Media

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St Augustine (and then St Thomas Aquinas) adapted Just War theory (originating with Greece and the Roman Empire) for Christians. I think its principles can help us respond on Social Media.

People regularly use the THINK acronym to decide about posting online:

T – is it True?
H – is it Helpful? Hurtful?
I – is it Inspiring? Illegal?
N – is it Necessary?
K – is it Kind?

Let me take the Just War principles and apply them to Social Media:

jus ad bellum (the right to embark on online confrontation)

Just cause – there must be a good reason to engage this social media post
[Comparative justice – in responding, are you going to end up hurting the person you are responding to more than this person is hurting you or others?]
Competent authority – do you actually have expertise to bring to the online thread?
Right intention – why are you posting?
Probability of success – there are some people online who are so clearly fixed in the position that you disagree with that engaging with them about this has clearly little to no chance of changing their mind; furthermore, this person may be surrounded by others who have a similar perspective, and your engaging with the thread may reinforce rather than disarm what is being presented
Last resort – rather than possibly publicly humiliating someone, have you tried messaging the person privately? NB some people (there is a generational element to this) regard a direct, private message as more invasive than a public response; it is not unknown for people online to attack someone publicly for sending them a private message!
Proportionality – is the result worth the energy expended?

Jus in bello (how should we act in our online confrontation)

Distinction – don’t drag others into the online confrontation
Proportionality – as above
Necessity – do not embark on excessive and unnecessary attacking and embarrassing
No means malum in se (wrong in itself) – eg. doxxing – searching for personal information and using that to hurt the person you are engaging in the thread.

What do you think?

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