Online etiquette

On this page, you will find information about the Internet etiquette, or netiquette. The netiquette is a set of guidelines on how to behave online. If you ignore these guidelines, you can easily damage your online reputation.

Note that in addition to these general rules, various services such as e-mail lists, social media and the University of Helsinki have their own specific rules.

Be yourself: always log on to your services with your own username and password. In most services, the use of another person’s ID is prohibited, and identity theft is an act punishable by law. If you leave your computer, even for a short while, lock your workstation so that nobody can access the open services under your name.

Be polite when writing e-mails: when used correctly, e-mail is an effective means of communication. When sending email, you may be tempted to say something it that you will regret later. Do not write anything that you would not be willing to tell a person face to face. Do not send jokes or inappropriate messages to people you do not know personally.

HEy Prof!!!!!!!111
doncha jus love my assignment!!! <3 <3
Cheers raymond “ray” keskivarsen

Your e-mail or other messages may end up with unknown persons by mistake, so be careful about adding personal information to messages. Take the receiver of the message into account as well: the colloquial tone of a message sent to a friend can be completely inappropriate when addressing your university teacher! Please remember that there are some unwritten rules about e-mail messages, e.g. writing in CAPITALS is interpreted as SHOUTING!

Respect the recipient’s inbox: do not burden the recipient’s inbox unnecessarily and do not forward chain letters. Before sending attachments, consider whether they are really necessary and whether the recipient will be able to open them. Your e-mail may be one of hundreds of messages in the recipient’s inbox, so do not expect an immediate answer.

Be considerate in online discussions: if you participate in discussions, be polite and do not disturb or offend others. Make sure that your message stays on topic. Disturbing or offensive users may be tracked down later, even if the discussion has been anonymous. In case of a problem, contact the site administration.

Take care of information security: Keep your passwords in a safe place where others cannot access them. Never divulge your passwords to other people! Make sure you do not send or reply to virus mail (more about malware elsewhere in the course material). If the message title or the name of an attachment looks suspicious, delete the message without opening it.

Know what you are agreeing to: there are services on the web that you have to register for. Read the sign-up instructions carefully and make sure you understand them before agreeing to anything. Do not say yes, unless you understand the question.

If a service requires registration and asks for your personal information, think carefully what information you want to disclose about yourself. Be especially careful in giving out your e-mail address to avoid becoming flooded by spam (junk mail). Also, be extra careful when sending credit card details online!

Be critical: bear in mind that there is no publishing threshold on the Internet, so anybody can publish almost anything. Not all information found on websites is true or accurate. If an offer or service sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Particularly dubious are e-mail messages that advertise significant financial benefits or medicines that may be illegal in Finland or dangerous to the user.

The web has a long memory: do not forget that everything you write in an online discussion, e-mail message or on your own page can be read many years from now.

The law and the web: Everything that is illegal is illegal on the Internet as well.

Laws and regulations

The Internet allows for unprecedented freedom of communication, but the freedom comes hand in hand with responsibility. For example, the author of a website is always responsible for the contents and legality of the site.

Libel and defamation: do not post online false information or insinuations about a person that could cause damage, suffering or contempt. In other words: do not publish online any defamatory material or anything that you would not be willing to express in any other context and be prepared to take the consequences. Also, do not post online any information, insinuation or image of a person that could cause damage, suffering, or contempt.

Copyright and trademark law: do not distribute on the Internet any material – such as music, text, photographs, drawings or trademarks – to which you do not own the rights. Unauthorized distribution and use of such material may lead to legal consequences.

Confidentiality of communication: according to the constitution, every citizen has the right to privacy in their communication with others. The legislation also applies to e-mail and all electronic communications. Therefore, do not open e-mails addressed to other recipients without the express permission of the recipient!

Do not disrupt the operation of the data network: intentional disrupting or overloading of the data network, data transfer, e-mail and other online services is prohibited.

Hacking: intrusion into or unauthorized use of an information system – even if no damage occurs – is a criminal offence which in the worst case can lead to a jail sentence. The mere attempt of intrusion or unauthorized use is punishable.

Creating and spreading viruses: creating and deliberately spreading viruses are punishable offences.

Do not send e-mail advertising: do not use e-mail for marketing purposes unless you have permission from the recipients. It is illegal to send automated mass mail to individual persons. However, sending information to companies, your clients or friends is allowed. Even in these cases you should remove the recipient’s name from the distribution list if they so request. You can make the recipients’ names invisible to others by entering them in the bcc (Blind Carbon Copy) box.

Keeping a register of persons: if you collect personal information from the web or people visiting your home page (e.g. by asking them to register), you must comply with the provisions of the Personal Data Act.

Child pornography: distribution and possession of child pornography is illegal regardless of the format of the material.

Racism: racism and incitement to racism is prohibited.