One of the newspapers I read online almost daily is The Washington Post I also read The Washington Times for balance. Today the Post had an excellent article, "Sexual Threats Stifle Female Bloggers" , which I read with great interest in the wake of the Kathy Sierra debacle. In blogging as well as other areas online participation, threats of sexual assault and violence are rampant and while men are harassed, too, women receive 25 times as many sexually-oriented and threatening messages as men and many women are opting out of online activity as a result. These women are not shrinking violets or prudes who balk at the use of a 4-letter word. These are strong, intelligent women who are very, very afraid.
This makes the Kay angry but not surprised. It just follows her contention that we live in a world that has lost its sense of decency. I have disallowed anonymous posts on my blog and keep comment moderation on because I won't allow things on my blog that I wouldn't allow in my home. I report offenders as well. I am here to write about a variety of topics and exchange my thoughts with those of others. That there are those who are hiding behind anonymity and the First Amendment to make vicious threats offends me greatly.
Years ago I used to chat on MSN -- yeah. yeah, it was silly but at that time I needed silly. However, it was not without value as I met some really great friends as a result like my buddy Mary B. in Texas who is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. It was there that I met two of the people I like best in the world: AlwaysQuestion who encouraged me to set up shop here and is one of the kindest, nicest men I know and The Man who is my best friend for life. After my initial shock at some of the "whispers" I received, I asked questions and developed a strategy for offenders. I would copy and paste improper "whispers" (before putting the offender on "ignore" ) and send them to the host who would then send it to MSN and when the perpatrator received enough bad reports, MSN would ban them. Mary B. would paste such in the chat room to let the other women there were jerks about. They, too, would iggy them and the "gentlemen" would have to take their sick minds elsewhere. My daughter once told me, "Mom, you are soooooooo naive -- you like everybody and you trust everybody. Mom, you can't do that!" I think she would be proud of me now -- I have learned, as I tend to learn everything -- the hard way, that there are people out there who aren't nice and will try harm you. However, I'll be damned if I'm going to let them run roughshod over me and curtail my freedom. I highly recommend that others -- both men and women -- develop strategies to protect themselves online.
What should be done? I don't think a code of conduct for the blogosphere is the answer. I do think that there should be something in place to rid it of people who make vicious threats and commit fraud. Perhaps someone wiser than I has a solution. In the meantime, policing our space in cyberspace is our only option as good manners, decency, and courtesy aren't coming back any time soon. Sigh.