Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A further thought on the abuse of anonymity

There are a long string of excellent comments on the death threats against Kathy Sierra at Majikthise, Pandagon and Feministe. [probably hundreds of others by now] And some depth of background at Blogher you might miss elsewhere. But only a few commenters were kicking around ideas about what to do.

At the Pandagon thread, commenter Dr. Science suggested:

1) a Hollaback sort of thing, where guys are exposed and mocked for such behavior.

2) a bunch of A-list male bloggers taking a pledge to toss anyone making this kind of comments

I would like to elaborate on where I was going with my previous post by dropping the rest of my reply to DR Science in here. Basically, what I am looking for is a compromise between living like hermits, which is the opposite of the impact the Internet should have and supporting those venues within the web where the worst fantasies and sickness go unchecked as if they were behavior you would also act out on the streets. I call it unplugging but its really not that drastic.

The abuse of freedom is really hard to curb without curbing the freedom. The hollaback would be a good thing, but if it really worked, assholes would cover up their real identities faster than they cover their nuts in street fight. and spawning pseudonyms is too cheap these days.

there are two scenes for this kind of crime:
[a] your own place. This like the threats left on Kathy’s own blog
[b] supposedly neutral space eg AA, myspace, or the opinion/recommendation services like DIGG

In both places, the mechanism is the asymmetry of identity: unknown assailant can say anything to/about named victim. The usual lo-grade shitferbrains just gets banned. The ones who have already gone postal at first sight get their comments deleted…it was only Kathy coming forth that lets any of us beside the police know what has been going on. [And what do you think the police will do with the potential avalanche of hate speech and misdemeanor sexual threats that we all could corward to their in boxes?…I doubt they are eager to handle this] I am not enough of a criminal psychologist to figure whether the publicity is actually one of the goals of this gang of losers with cum-stained keyboards.

The listing and ranking of which sites promote or tolerate anonymous attacks and threats and slandering should be compiled. A commenter over at Majikthise suggested a DataBase. I am so tempted to suggest a crawler with a semantic analysis back end…but I get paid to do such things…it could be done and take very little human bandwidth to provide its warning service.
It would cover crime scenes in category [b]. Users who are committed to a high level of civility in the exchanges on the web might just decide to forgo the worst of these services entirely. I don’t really know that DIGG was so bad but it was not doing me any good and if I knowledgeable person like Scoble says it is a community with low standards, I unplug from it.

IF [its a big if for traffic dependent sites] you limit commenting to those who are willing to provide more than the casual identity of an email address.
IF[not quite so big but not free] you institute comment moderation and turn it over to a bot or do it by hand,
THEN you will be able to take control of crime scene [a] but you will lose some legitimate traffic.
That's what I mean by unplug. it is a diminishing of the general connectedness that is the web’s greatest strength. And the prospect of that diminishing I feel personally, a freedom we all enjoy is under attack here though not directly. It is a sad trade off to have to make. But not as sad as cancelling your appointments because you don’t know how seriously some quivering little pus-shooter intends his threats.


JahTeh said...

I saw your comments over at Pandagon. I have seen a few stoushes over politics in Oz blogs but nothing compared to what I've been reading about regarding women.
If this sort of thing happened here I don't know how the Police would handle it. The Internet and blogs have been a lifeline to me but I can see how it could become a curse.

GreenSmile said...

Yeah, Jahteh. I have taken to the fight more to defend against the damage being done to our freedom to speak in a wonderful new forum than for that creepy strain of misogyny that has got loose where ever cowards can hide. That is an old problem in a new medium so I don't want the medium blamed when the real problems of sexist culture that crop up there are what need addressing.