May 7, 2007

Safety on the 'Net

Kathy Sierra is a female blogger in the U.S. who ran a tech support site that, by everything I can find, was a great resource. She recently shut it down because of the vile, threatening posts that were made to her site, and to others about her.

I've steered around this because it's a hornet's nest. If you're going to put yourself out there, you take the shots. I believe this, and my skin has thickened a million times over these past three years. However.

The nature of the threats made to Sierra were evil. They were sexual, misogynistic, hateful and totally outside the arena of what her site is even about. She isn't some Amanda Marcotte engaging in good ol' male bashing (and, ergo, leaves the door open) or some Ann Coulter pretend-talking head who we can only wish would go away. No, her site was for and about computer software designers and users.

There are some who say she overreacted. Bull. In Slate today, there is finally a decent summation of this whole thing, which I believe has taken a few weeks to surface because its taken a few weeks for this to settle for all of us.

The fact that anonymous forums exist does not give carte blanche to every evil twisted sick psycho to post at will and remain above the law. And here's a head's up: if we can't differentiate your intent, we'll err on the side of safety.

I get a lot of mail (no, not computer crashing amounts, but mail) and for 99.9% of it, it's great. I let posters post in my blog, and I leave up the nasty bits. If they swear, I'll take it down, but I can take someone telling me I'm a crappy writer. I can take being called an idiot, or being told I'm ugly. It goes with the territory. For the .1% that is unacceptable, I go to the authorities. Count on it.

But if you deliver a spewing screed full of bile, it won't end here. No woman should have to tolerate or excuse being threatened, or having her family threatened. Kathy Sierra did what she had to; to anyone faulting her decision, I say receive even a fraction of what she did, and let me know how you'd react. I also believe anyone encouraging such behaviour under 'free speech' acts is full of it. The Internet is not your portal to finally be big and important. For some it seems it is their chance to display all their woman-hating, twisted thoughts.

Who the hell raised these men?


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