My living roomThursday, March 29, 2007 at 3:36 | Posted in Blogosphere, internet, WordPress | 2 Comments
I like to think of my blogs as my virtual living room. The people visiting the blogs, i.e. reading them and dropping a comment every now and then, are guests in my living room. I am happy and honored that so many good people want to return to my living room and discuss the topics of the day with me and my other respected quests.
Respect is an important word here. I respect that my quests may agree or disagree with me. I respect their right to express their opinion. Even if we do not agree on issues, I enjoy having a discussion with my quests, just as I would in my real living room. Most of my regular guests would indeed be welcome to have a drink or five in my real living room and develop the topics discussed in the virtual living room.
If somebody in my real living room were to develop an aggressive tone and even go so far as to express a physical threat against me, I would obviously throw them out at the least. Such a person would also not be welcome to visit my home in the future. If they actually threatened to kill me, I would consider contacting the police.
Every blogger has some experience of trolls and other guests not behaving with respect in their virtual living room. I am happy to say that – apart from spam robots – I have not had such a bad experience in many years.
For many years ago I did not have a Swedish blog but I did post articles in Swedish on my site larko.org. I had a mail form for feedback which sounds like utmost stupid today but at that time spam robots were not so eager to harvest mail addresses in the web. The few comments I received through that mail form were mostly to the point and I would have had no problem if they were spoken in my real living room.
One day I received a message through the mail form which could not be understood as anything else but a threat on my life. I was naturally shocked first but I soon calmed down concluding that somebody in a provincial town in Central Sweden would not bother to seek me up and actually try to kill me. That town is where the IP placed the person and I did send an e-mail to the local police, just to be on the safe side. I have never heard a word from the police but more importantly, not from the stalker either.
For years ago I was also stupid enough to post my then mail address and cell phone number to the web. I did not receive much spam and no bad phone calls at all but a troll, incidentally also in Sweden, performed a nasty identity theft on me. Using my contact credentials, the person posted racist and otherwise abusive comments in guest books and forums allover the Internet.
The nuisance lasted for a couple of years. A particularly unpleasant experience was when the webmaster of a native American tribal site would not believe that I did not write those comments until I happened to be on line at the same time with the troll and was able to leave enough IP tracks to place me in Helsinki while somebody was posting under my name in Stockholm. The person was just minutes away from being caught. I did have a very good co-operation with the owner of the web café the bastard regulary used for posting.
Being practically a nobody in the large context of the global blogosphere, I can only imagine the extent of troll and abuse a real blog celebrity would have to face. The author of Creating Passionate Users blog, Kathy Sierra, has certainly gotten more than her share of abuse. Explicit threats on her life and sexual violence against her have been posted in a multitude of web spaces, apparently by more persons than a few. Quite understandably, Kathy is scared as hell:
I have cancelled all speaking engagements.
I am afraid to leave my yard.
I will never feel the same. I will never be the same.
Need I say that Kathy Sierra has all my sympathy on her side and the persons intimidating her get all the anger and contempt from me that they deserve? Those bastards have gone way over the line and should be held accountable although I would normally not endorse prosecuting somebody for what they wrote in the web. This is not free speech but a coward act against somebody who excercised her right to free speech.
While I understand Kathy’s fear and frustration, I can not agree with one of her conclusions:
I do not want to be part of a culture–the Blogosphere–where this is considered acceptable. Where the price for being a blogger is kevlar-coated skin and daughters who are tough enough to not have their “widdy biddy sensibilities offended” when they see their own mother Photoshopped into nothing more than an objectified sexual orifice, possibly suffocated as part of some sexual fetish. (And of course all coming on the heels of more explicit threats)
This sort of behavior is certainly not accepted by the large masses of bloggers and it is not considered to be the price of speaking up that one gets severely intimidated. That is flat wrong and the blogosphere needs to say so.
More importantly, if these web space terrorists manage to scare Kathy to step aside and shut up, they will have reached exactly what they wanted. So the message from my living room, both real and virtual, to Kathy Sierra is the following: do not give up! While I may not agree on everything you have written, it is important that you wrote it. In the name of free speech I hope that you soon recover from the shock and will be able to return to writing your blog.
I am particulary happy that WordPress.com has promptly taken action against one of the sites apparently dedicated to this coward stalking action. The site (mentioned in Kathy’s post) now looks like this:
I am happy to have most of my blogs hosted where trolls and stalkers are not tolerated.