one thousand words and a good deal of rage.

In doing my research on the death threats Kathy Sierra received and the reactions to them, I was initially surprised at Sierra’s decision to remove her original blog post discussing the threats and announcing her withdrawal from the eTech conference. Since the blogging movement is so invested in a bottom up dissemination of information, it seems bizarre to me that Sierra would not want her personal detailed account of her harassment online. The reaction in not only the blogosphere but also in traditional media has provided the public with sundry opinions on ideas around internet free speech versus hate speech. Most of these articles link back to Creating Passionate Users, either to a dead page or to a page explaining that Sierra has removed even the off homepage original post. In this post, Sierra explains that the original post had caused too much pain for her friends, her family and herself.

While I understand and respect Sierra’s decision to remove her original post, not providing a concise description of her struggle puts her story in the voice of major news outlets or other bloggers.

In class, the first question that came up in response to the disgusting treatment of Kathy Sierra was “Why?” Call me cynical, but that question hardly crossed my mind – at least in regards to this particular incident. The anonymous nature of the internet, which can be a very positive thing, ensures that there will be a space for people to be mean on the internet. This is neither a new or novel concept. The class aspect of the internet, although largely diminished in recent years, continues the power plays that happen offline. Misogyny, racism, classism and ableism thrive on anonymity, some more than others. It takes little more than a Google search to see hate speech/imagery against women. The excess of pictures of sexualized objectified women on the internet brings to mind Laura Mulvey’s work on the gaze, in which she posits that traditional male directed images objectify or fetishize women.

I am so glad that Kathy Sierra made use of her bloggingg voice and fame and spoke out against the hate speech and misogyny that runs rampant online. Even more important are the reactions by the blogging community, largely supportive of Sierra’s call for an end to internet bullying. The rare blogger who questioned or de-legitimized Sierra was put through the runner by other bloggers.

Michelle Malkin did have an interesting criticism, criticizing Sierra for her decision to quit blogging, and calling out the blogosphere for their bias. Malkin reports being harassed onling for many years, even on one of the “top liberal blogs.” Malkin’s method of dealing with such harassment by reporting the serious threats to law enforcement and continueing to blog. Malkin’s method of refusing to feed the fire provides a discussion worthy contrast to Sierra’s attention raising campaign.

Scoble, a prominent blogger, opted to take a week off from blogging in solidarity with Sierra, offering his own experiences of online threats.

Awareness of the impact of hate speech on the internet has grown around the Sierra incident, as seen in greater media coverage, PSAs and various drafts and versions of a Blogger’s Code of Conduct. Below is my favorite.
A code of conduct for bloggers and commenters

  • Be courteous.
  • Give accurate information in the spirit of being helpful.
  • Respectfully disagree.
  • Use the correct venue for your post.
  • Admit the possibility of fault and respect different points of views.
  • If you screw up, take responsibility for your actions.
This code of conduct is inspired by the Gentoo Linux code of conduct. It is more concise and based on human action than technological implementation than the primary, wiki blogger code of conduct.


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