Long-time blogger Tim O’Reilly and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ proposed code of conduct has been debated and derided (” civility my ar-se ” as one put it) by the blogosphere all week. The pitch by the newly dubbed “blog cops” comes in the wake of a few high-profile cases of cyber-bullying, and they’ve even suggested that cooperative blogs carry a lame little sherriff’s badge. But not all bloggers hate the idea.
Some are pointing to their own attempts at promoting civility through their comments moderation after run ins with abusive, often anonymous, commenters.
All this bloggy navel-gazing ( Salon for starters has promised to rethink its moderation process) sprung up after high-profile tech blogger Kathy Sierra cancelled conference appearances after receiving death threats. But this stuff isn’t new. Conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin pointed out, “the death threats Sierra received are no worse than I’ve received since starting this blog”.
And Huffington Post’s Carol Es figures, “This is my own revenge on the ill-spirited “anonymous” comment makers on the blogs I frequent daily. No decent humanoid would actually have the guts to say half the things they do on blogs in person. Not even a New Yorker. These drawings remind myself not to take what people say on the Internets so seriously”:
But tigtog, a blogger and contributer to Larvatus Prodeo , is a little more cautious, she told Crikey that LP used to cop a lot of flak for their comments policy , but “people who were upset about it have all been very quiet since the Kathy Sierra incident. We haven’t had anyone that scary because we tend to shut the abusive stuff down early… ”
And it’s not about censorship, “a lot of people who’ve been on various discussion forums and who’ve seen more than one community ruined by unrestrained ugliness… besides, one’s fellow citizens are simply not obliged to publish anything by anybody on their personal piece of cyberspace”.
“Different moderators have different tolerance for certain levels of stoush,” says tigtog. “Other blogs delete comments without ever saying that they do it, Tim Blair’s administrator deletes with no explanation (beyond a single line at the bottom of the posting FAQ that trolls will be deleted and that a troll is anyone who annoys The Management).”
But as for adopting an official sherriff endorsed code of conduct, “I doubt that most politically motivated bloggers will want to use an externally derived standard with a twee badge — we’re an individualistic lot. Tailored comments policies for each blog will end up being far more popular…”
Here’s a snapshot of some high-profile cases of cyber-bullying, and worse, on blogs. The majority of victims seem to be women — as tigtog told Crikey, “Feminist bloggers have been expected to take it with the territory a bit but it’s now gone beyond that…”:
- Software-usability author and blogger Kathy Sierra: Late last month Sierra posted an item on her blog explaining that she had cancelled an upcoming conference speech and other engagements due to overwhelming fear following hate-speech and threats directed at her online. Sierra wrote: “They posted a photo of a noose next to my head, and one of their members (posting as “Joey”) commented ‘the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size’.”
- US feminist blogger Jill Filipovic: claimed she was an object of cyber-sexism on AutoAdmit, a law-school-oriented message board.
- Gardening editor for The Age Denise Gadd: As The Age reports, when Gadd blogged about the frustrations of gardening under water restrictions she was inundated with 17,000 hits and more than 200 comments. The post was “closed as debate flared into vitriolic abuse”. One man compared her to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Another said: “We’d be better off if you were dead.”
- Conservative US columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin: Has received threats and abuse since launching her blog. On a post in reaction to the Kathy Sierra debate, she documents some of the more alarming comments about herself and her family that she’s received over the years. Her advice? “Keep blogging. Don’t cut and run.”
- The Daily Dish’s Andrew Sullivan : Sullivan, who is openly gay, has received comments and mail threatening r-pe and death.
- Nature writer and blogger Chris Clarke: Clarke was teased by commenters as a tree-hugging girly-man for weeks before then getting a credible threat to the life of his dog . He took down his blog temporarily.
- SF Gate columnist Violet Blue : has written of her own experiences with hate-speech directed at her.
- John Edwards staffers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan: The two women received thousands of hate emails during and following the Edwards Blogger Scandal , including hundreds of threats of violent s-xual assault and dozens of death threats.
If you’ve been blog-bullied, or worse, tell Crikey by emailing [email protected] .