Allison at WebWeaver’s World has an interesting post today about Kathy Sierra, misogyny on the web, and the Blogger’s Code of Conduct:
I have little faith that a Blogger’s Code of Conduct would, in itself, stop the nutjobs out there from doing what they do. People who are determined to go online and deliberately hurt people (or worse, go out there in real life and deliberately hurt people) aren’t going to be put off by some “let’s all be civilised about this” set of online guidelines. But I do agree with Tim that it’s time we took another look at our perceptions of what is and isn’t OK, and made a concerted effort to change them.
I haven’t commented on the Blogger’s Code of Conduct and the various discussions about it that I’ve read, but Allison has pointed to some interesting research about online harassment, and also opinions from others.
As far as my blogs are concerned: I own them and I delete what I want to. I encourage people to leave comments and I’ll leave those comments alone for the most part. But I delete any I consider spam (my software automatically deletes several thousand such comments each week).
I would also not hesitate to delete any that I considered offensive or derogatory, towards me or any other person. If comments contained hate speech or offensive words they would be deleted in a flash. There is no place on my blog for such things.
And no, I don’t feel any need to report back on those actions. This is my private blog. I pay the bills for it. I attempt to keep it clean and tidy. Commenters are here as my guests. If they were to misbehave they would be ejected. Apart from the spammers, I haven’t yet had cause to delete anything, I’m glad to say.
But something bothers me about this whole ruckus, sparked as it was by the death threats and threats of violence that Kathy Sierra exposed: it’s as though people are surprised that such behaviour is occurring on the Internet.
Why? The Internet is yet another arena where people express themselves, as they do in real life and in fiction such as books, TV shows, movies, magazines and newspapers.
In a world which gets its laughs from one person routinely mocking another (think mother-in-law jokes, and certain TV shows); where politicians encourage racism, we are exhibiting a fundamental attitude of disrespect towards others.
It’s an attitude I hate. I won’t watch TV shows where characters are routinely mocking others, making fun of them and abusing them. It’s not funny; it’s unacceptable.
A TV show that makes its laughs from people not respecting others may be considered funny, but it’s at one end of a continuum that passes through text and online bullying all the way to stalking, threats of death and violence, and potentially actual violence and death.
Kathy Sierra was courageous and correct to expose the threats against her. I approve of all efforts to stop bullying behaviours, but it is a social problem that goes deeper than a code of online conduct to a code of human conduct.
And actually, this was something that Kathy herself wrote about back in June 2005 in relation to the Javaranch community:
I believe that enforcing a “Be Friendly” rule can be one of the best moves for long-term growth and retention of the community.
Be Friendly (and respectful) seems to me a good a Code for Human Conduct, online or offline.