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As a process focusing on conflict resolution through an impartial third person, mediation has established itself as a number one choice for parties seeking a neutral, confidential, and flexible out-of-court approach. In addition to becoming the go-to method for resolving family and business disputes, mediation has substantially shifted toward the online realm in the past few years. Technological development and the global pandemic have generated the need for a remote approach to dispute resolution.
However, as practical as it may be, an online mediation raises several ethical concerns that both the mediators and the parties must address to ensure a fair and neutral process.
In this blog post, we will briefly go through online mediation trends and statistics and focus on presenting central ethical concerns that have occupied the attention of mediators, scholars, and professional organizations in recent years. Ready to dive in? Read on to learn more!
The modern, fast-paced, and digitally-driven world dictates how we interact with other people, do business, and resolve disputes. Here are noteworthy trends and statistics in the realm of online mediation platforms:
In the past two years, online mediation platforms numbers have exploded. According to the available statistics, online mediation increased by 40 %. That coincides with the global pandemic and the need to switch from in-person contact to virtual interaction. Because of its many benefits, the rising trend is likely to continue.
Unlike meditation involving parties that are physically present during sessions, online mediation enables a cross-border approach to dispute resolution. Parties from different countries, cultural backgrounds, and perspectives can now participate in real-time, enriching the mediation experience.
In addition to an increased number of online mediation platforms, the virtual approach proves more efficient. The studies show that parties reported being satisfied with the process and the outcome in over 80% of monitored cases.
As in other areas of the digital realm, artificial intelligence is gaining ground in online mediation, too. AI-powered tools improve accuracy and efficiency by scheduling sessions, managing information, and offering potential solutions.
Recognizing the potential issues involving the increased use of online mediation platforms, the International Council for Online Dispute Resolution (ICODR), a nonprofit professional organization, issued Video Mediation Guidelines. The ICODR deals with standards for resolving disputes using modern information and communication technology. Here are some of the fundamental issues the Guidelines cover:
Unlike traditional mediation, where in-person sessions allow controlled discussions, online mediation raises confidentiality and data security concerns. Because online mediation occurs through intermediary platforms and servers, parties are reasonably concerned about data security and confidentiality. Unauthorized access is more likely in virtual chat rooms than in traditional mediation sessions where parties communicate face-to-face. To address these issues and protect sensitive information, mediators must use secure platforms employing blockchain and encryption techniques.
Mediation is a voluntary, out-of-court dispute resolution method. No state-appointed judges impose decisions nor procedural mechanisms coerce parties into compliance with the procedural rules. Everything is about free will in mediation. The same applies to the digital realm. Voluntary participation, based on informed consent, is a cornerstone of the process. Ethical rules oblige mediators to ensure parties understand the process, its potential outcomes, and its limitations. In online mediation, obtaining informed consent plays an even more significant role. Therefore, mediators must ensure parties approach the process voluntarily, fully understanding its implications.
Neutrality is at the heart of all mediation efforts. It defines the process more than any of its other attributes. The mediators must remain neutral and impartial throughout the process, avoiding the pretense of favoritism, bias, and prejudice. However, online mediation sessions can be challenging neutrality-wise. Parties can perceive mediators’ actions as favoritism toward the other side for purely technical reasons. Bad internet connection, unfamiliarity with the platform, and low technical skills can result in feelings of inferiority and thus create an image of an unfair process. Mediators must ensure parties are knowledgeable and comfortable with the platform and that no technical obstacles hinder the resolution process, leaving the impression of bias and one-sidedness.
Even litigation, a vindictive venture, guarantees equal access to justice. Mediation goes several steps beyond, and online mediation should be a paradigm of equality and accessibility. However, the digital world poses multiple obstacles to achieving that ideal. Technical limitations, digital illiteracy, and economic differences can significantly diminish the potential of some parties and prevent them from participating in online sessions fully. Mediators must foresee these challenges on time and invest efforts to promote accessibility, equality, and fairness.
A global reach and cross-border participation are some of the vital contributions of online mediation. These attributes promote broad accessibility, bridging national, cultural, and socio-economical boundaries. However, they also shape mediation into the breeding ground for cultural clashes. As in other forms of online communication, mediation platforms bring together people who would otherwise be thousands of miles apart. With video conference tools, they are suddenly in front of each other, making offers and counteroffers. Diverse backgrounds and social norms determine how those participants see dispute resolution, which may impact the mediation experience. Mediators must be aware of that and, if necessary, undergo cultural competency training to navigate these issues and promote fairness and neutrality.
In contrast to traditional mediation experience, mediators conducting online sessions must establish special rules for record-keeping and documentation sharing. Exchanging digital format documents requires secure and confidential cloud memory and online signature tools, including access protocols to prevent data breaches and unauthorized access.
Our fast-paced, digitally-driven world leaves little time and space for in-person contacts. Virtual platforms have taken over and almost replaced many personal and business interactions, including dispute resolution.
Online mediation offers an efficient alternative to traditional face-to-face sessions. But it comes with risks and ethical concerns.
Kim Torres, a Supreme Court of Florida-certified mediator, is aware of potential problems and shares the concerns. But, thanks to her in-depth mediation expertise, technological knowledge, and decades-long experience, she is up to the challenge.
Following professional guidelines and best practices in online mediation, Kim can conduct the process ethically, preserve its integrity, and foster equitable and fair solutions in the digital realm for everyone involved.
Time is the scarcest resource in the modern world. There are not many prime online mediators out there like Kim Torres. Do not miss your opportunity. Call immediately at (321) 821-9995 or reach out via email at email@example.com to schedule your consultation.