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Netiquette in digital communication at the University of Cologne

In accordance with its ‘Equal Opportunities Strategy’, the University of Cologne sees itself as a non-discriminatory, safe and non-violent place to study, teach, and work. By actively participating in discussions and by interacting with each other in a factual, respectful, and friendly manner, all stakeholders contribute to maintaining an appreciative, open-minded, and trusting discussion climate, and to constructively promoting academic discourse. This principle also applies to digital communication in all public and internal digital communication spaces at the University of Cologne.

The internal digital communication spaces of the University of Cologne, for example Zoom, ILIAS, and other digital tools for collaborative work used in research, teaching, and administration, are also protected areas. Those who show themselves – and their private surroundings – and interact in these spaces must be able to trust that this is a secure environment. Disregarding the following rules is a breach of trust and violates moral and legal boundaries.

All students, faculty, staff, and guests of the University of Cologne must observe the following rules in all forms of digital communication and conduct their behaviour accordingly:

  1. We are communicating with people. Always be aware that you are also communicating with people in digital spaces. Treat other users and the event management – your fellow human beings in digital spaces – as you would like to be treated yourself.
  2. Communicate respectfully and without violence. Always communicate in an appreciative, polite, respectful, and relevant manner. Back up your verbal contributions with factual arguments. Feedback, criticism, and comments should be appropriate to the topic, factual, and constructive. In all contexts, please refrain from vulgar, violence-glorifying, discriminatory, racist, sexist, hateful and/or unlawful statements or content, as well as aggression in any form (for example, through written communication in capital letters or aggressive emojis). You make yourself liable to prosecution by using insults, slander, defamation, threats, as well as incitements to violence against persons, institutions, or companies. Refrain from such behaviour in all cases.
  3. Refrain from posting third-party content. The University’s digital communication spaces are not to be used for the commercial or private offering of goods or services. This applies to both images and written content. Other content that appears inappropriate or irrelevant should also be avoided. In addition, multiple, disruptive postings of the same content, for example in chats or social media, should be avoided.
  4. Protect data. The protection of privacy and confidential data must be respected at all times. Therefore, please refrain from publishing personal data such as addresses, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers, as well as private correspondence (letters, e-mails, and the like) and learning materials, as well as full citations without the express permission of the rights holders.
  5. Respect copyright. Publishing pictures, videos, and similar data of third parties without their permission is punishable by law and therefore must be refrained from in the communication rooms of the University of Cologne. The rights of third parties, including copyright, personal rights, image rights, and trademark rights, must be respected in all cases.

Violations of this netiquette can take the form of so-called cyber-bullying and cause serious damage to the persons affected. Cyber-bullying is understood to mean insulting, threatening, exposing, or harassing people with the help of communication media, for example via smartphones, e-mails, websites, forums, chats, communities, or video conferences (Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth – BMFSFJ).
If the above rules are disregarded within its digital communication spaces, the UoC reserves the right to take appropriate measures, including:

  • deleting or hiding appropriate comments and postings
  • regulating conversations
  • excluding persons from the use of (certain) university facilities
  • excluding persons from one or more courses or withdrawal of a teaching assignment
  • initiating formal proceedings to investigate the allegations and, if necessary, initiating further measures against the accused person(s) or the institution
  • filing a criminal complaint

For a complete list of possible procedural steps, please refer to the Guidelines for Dealing with Discrimination, Sexualized Violence and Bullying at the University of Cologne.

If you are affected by cyber-bullying or witness a situation that you would like to report, please contact the appropriate counselling centre.

More information and external links:

Please also see the terms of use of the communication tools used at the UoC. The terms of use, data usage information, and data protection information for the use of Zoom are available on the website of the UoC’s Regional Computing Centre (RRZK).