Open Season on Women

by Carla Schroder

Not that it's anything new, I'm just grumpy that this sort of crap is so widespread and so tolerated:
Blog death threats spark debate
"Prominent blogger Kathy Sierra has called on the blogosphere to combat the culture of abuse online."

"It follows a series of death threats which have forced her to cancel a public appearance and suspend her blog."

Gee, a tiny bit of the rampant bullshit that's directed at women online finally makes the news. Maybe now all those idiots who tell us it's not a problem and we shouldn't let it bother us with get a clue? Nah, probably not. Idiot reform is a hopeless cause. But dealing with this sort of junk on online forums and blogs isn't rocket science- it's called "admins, grow a spine and hit the delete key."


2007-03-27 12:50:33
thank you!!! I get so tired of being told "get used to it" or "just ignore them and they'll go away." I guess geeks are supposed to be too cool to be bothered. my opinion is why should we allow tolerate hateful, trollish behavior? Let them go fund their own online playgrounds, we are not obligated to do it for them.
Gloria W
2007-03-27 13:19:01
*applause* Carla, thank you.
2007-03-27 13:53:09
where are people defending these remarks in the name of free speech? I've seen a lot of comment that it's a nonsensical argument in favor of these sick folks, but I've not seen anyone pushing the free speech point anywhere.
2007-03-27 13:58:30
Thank you! When are people going to realize that the web isn't a democracy, it's a feudal system? My web site is my castle, and I control it. If I make a policy against crappy postings, then I'll delete them! If people complain about my intolerance, they can make their own web site!
People who troll and post crappy stuff are barely better than vandals, IMHO. In fact, some of them are a lot worse. I've never seen Free Speech yet that required allowing trolls or "destructive buttheads."
Let the idiots of the world go to web sites that allow their crass stupidity. I'll hang out at places with more class.

2007-03-27 14:59:15
Actually death threats are not protected free speech. Few if any people support them.

But I'd like to know what exactly do you think someone who reads a death threat in a blog's comment can do? They can't track the guy to real life, the person behind the threats probably won't care what the rest of the comment say so denouncing it probably won't help. So what do you recommend?

And next, what makes you think this is Open Season on "Women" If you read Kathy's blog. I quote:

"disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs... blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. People you've probably heard of. People like respected Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Chris Locke (aka Rageboy)."

Unless I'm mistaken Chris Locke is a man.

2007-03-27 15:16:13
While I don't agree with the use of threats people spread on forums, I do think that the blame lies ENTIRELY on the shoulders of the admins whenever it is permitted. People will say things that are hurtful. This is and always will be the case for many people, and in many ways it is just human nature. On a regulated forum people who can't control themselves should simply be removed from the discussion.

On the other hand the beauty of the internet is it's ability to freely and anonymously express yourself. If someone wants to use the internet as a forum to express ideas/opinions they should expect a certain amount of adversity from people who don't agree. This includes being cursed out and even death threats. I would hope that they have taken the pertinent steps to keep their exact identity private. If they haven't, then part of the fault lies with them, and they cannot hold the jackholes who spout the BS entirely responsible for their feelings of insecurity.

Just my two cents.

Stephen Starling
2007-03-27 15:32:14
Very well said, Carla! I don't spend much time on forums that allow these poisonous people. Why should I? The internet has gotten so big now, that I'll just go to some other forum that covers the same topic. In short, I don't just ignore the trolls, I end up ignoring that whole forum.
2007-03-27 15:32:56
'death threats'???

We're not just talking about the 'politically correct' hate crime here. There is a huge difference in an insult (i.e., I hate your guts), and a threat against someone's life. A serious 'I'm gonna kill you' is regarded in the US as 'criminal assault', whether it's a man or woman. That needs to be followed up and prosecuted by our legal system. Time for anonymous thugs to get what they deserve.

2007-03-27 15:52:28
you better tell Lisa Stone that her web site is revealing far too much about her database, and is creating a security risk for her.

I got this message when I attempted to access

Fatal error: Can't open file: 'sessions.MYI' (errno: 145) query: SELECT u.*, s.* FROM users u INNER JOIN sessions s ON u.uid = s.uid WHERE s.sid = '81f0feb279b8170d364782a6d930276d' AND u.status < 3 LIMIT 0, 1 in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 66



2007-03-27 16:31:05
Well said, Carla! This is really another indicator of the moral decay in our society. And the individuals/groups that promote tolerance of this garbage are aiding and abetting. Personally, when I hit a forum, blog, whatever, that allows this sort of trash to participate in its exchanges, I hit delete and never return. People that behave like that or tolerate AND make excuses for allowing behavior like that have NOTHING to offer.

BTW, R0nin is correct. It is criminal assault.

And it is not unreasonable nor intolerant to expect respect.

2007-03-27 17:58:29
So why does it take something like this for people to start SAYING "Hey lets be decent" and SAYING "Hey lets doing something about it". It should never have gotten this far.
2007-03-27 19:41:15
I 100% agree, Robert.
Kevin Mark
2007-03-28 01:43:23
Hi Carla, I was just reading /. and then and it horrible to see such treatment continue. I said in another comment that if the project/group does not attempt to address the issue, folks should do something like create an e-petition against a particular project/group telling them to 'get with the 21st century'. FLOSS is about bringing people up and not putting them down. All projects should do everything they can to get 1/2 of the world to add their power to FLOSS.
Roy Schestowitz
2007-03-28 03:14:24
Well said, but could use a gentler language. ;-)
Jeremy M. Jones
2007-03-28 04:21:14
I just heard about this on a podcast this morning. I absolutely could not believe it. This really doesn't matter much, but I wonder if the death threat was real or if the guy(s) thought he(they) were just being funny by the response it caused. Regardless, the outcome is the same. (And, might I add, that any death threat needs to be taken very seriously.) They've disrupted someone's life (which is the least of their offenses) and instilled needless fear into their minds.

I guess I've been pretty spoiled to the environment here on the O'Reilly blogs. Even when people disagree with me, they're typically pretty cordial. I think I've maybe had to delete one message for being abusive to another poster. But the world out there can obviously be harsher than it is in here.

These idiots need to have legal action taken against them. But, this is a pretty extreme case. If you have suggestions for how to foster a warm, open, dialogueing environment, I'd love to hear it. Is it just about moderation and not tolerating crap posts? It seems like it should involve more than just that.

Oh, and I disagree with Roy. There are times when forceful language is wholly acceptable. And this is one of those times.

Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter. And just speaking for myself here, but when you see inequity on the web, I'd be interested in reading your commentary on it. Thanks, Carla.

2007-03-28 04:42:51

I don't use the delete key. I prefer to use uid 0 instead.

2007-03-28 12:31:44
Why focus just on death threats against women, and why are we assuming it's a guy/guys posting the death threats?

Speaking as a man, I can honestly say I've had a few death threats. I've always done the dumb thing and ignored it. I suppose a few Romance-centric fools will point out that my nickname ends with an 'a' therefore making me the target of woman-haters...maybe, but it just exposes 'em even further as idiots. :-)

O. Fended
2007-03-29 07:55:44
By using terms like, "taking a big hot steaming dump", you have proved that it is you who should be deleted from polite company.
jeremiah foster
2007-03-29 12:07:24
I agree with your Carla. This whole issue is so sad, and so indicative of the misogyny that is endemic in society at large and concentrated by the online dis-inhibition effect.

We cannot just hope this goes away, we have to actively stand up and say we will not tolerate this. Good for you for speaking out.

2007-03-30 01:56:34
On our website we have sufficient strong women, and hopefully men, that this will not become an issue. Your article has sparked me to formulate the policy that would be what comes natural to me..


2007-03-30 14:06:39
regeya, it's not just about death threats. It's about the misogynistic slant to the death threats -- the rapist language and sexually humiliating images that a normal, decent person could never even imagine, no matter how angry they are at the intended target. This sort of stuff happens to women and only women, and is 1000 times worse than death threats alone.

I've been on forums and had normal conversations and debates with no problems -- up to the point that forum members realize I'm a girl. Often it's at that point that the entire tone changes. Suddenly I'm no longer on the same level as others, as objectification begins to creep into posts bit by bit. I usually get out of there before it gets to the really offensive point, just because I know what's coming. Too bad.

But there are other instances, most notably the fact that I have a professional column online that displays a small picture, like one would in a print publication. Because of that, some of the comments I receive I could not print here. I realize they are anonymous "trolls". However, I guarantee that the same trolls, if I talked to them face-to-face, would never say something like that to me. Why? Because it's socially and politically unacceptable in real life, and there are potential consequences. Sad that we can't self-govern ourselves well enough online to curtail this sort of behavior.

2007-03-30 19:03:53

I appreciate the open nature of the discussion here. I didn't come here to troll or cause trouble and was actually looking to send a letter to Mr. O'Reilly. I believe Kathy needs to clarify her position.

I've explained what I could and apologized to Kathy for people who send her hate material. I'm certain Kathy knows, since she visited both sites repeatedly, that I often criticized her books and line drawings. Perhaps one of my criticism wasn't up to professional standards; but nonetheless, she had to have understood the context.

What doesn't make sense to me is that while Kathy has made me central to the reasons why she's juxtaposed MeanKids criticism or even meanness with her own privately received and horrible threats, and has had information about me that can easily identify who I am, why my lawyer can't find any charges whatsoever related to me. She, my lawyer, is still looking but has assurances that I'm not a wanted man. And why should I be? Nothing I wrote was a threat to Kathy.

Kathy continues to claim she filed a police report, but all I can say is that she apparently hasn't filed any against the people she's trying to hold responsible from MeanKids. I view that as further, although indirect, evidence that she's aware she's manipulating criticism of her into a threat of some sort. I think she's angry at my criticism, not scared of any threat she claims I made.

Certainly you, readers of this blog, can blame me for trying to "spin" things in my defense, but I am not a professional marketer who claims to "use brain science to aid education". The least you can do is use your own critical minds and *carefully* read what Kathy wrote.

This whole situation is a nightmare and perhaps a blessing. Some Internet issues are getting the attention they need: fight against people who make death threats; fight for women's rights and safety. But also, fight against people who abuse social trust through skillful manipulation of the facts or use gender issues in disingenuous ways.



Caitlyn Martin
2007-03-31 12:18:43
Thank you for posting this, Carla. Abusive posts in blogs can be part of cyberspamming if accompanied by other threatening activity. The FBI has a task force setup to deal with such issues.

What starts out as threats and abuse can lead to real life criminal activity. I've been living with the fallout of just that for seven months now.

2007-03-31 14:52:16
I think it is important to draw a very clear line between mere forum nuiscances, even if they are very nasty, and illegal death threats or other threats of physical violence. The latter is a matter for the police, and it's really sad to see someone's life affected severely by this kind of behaviour. Death threats are not protected by any freedom of speech law I have ever heard about.
Amy Stephen
2007-04-03 06:25:36
Women's issues on the Internet are not new. Sadly, we wait until someone's life is threatened to discuss the sexism faced online. Here are three excellent resources I share when I see far more minor, but damaging, injustices in online communities. We need to get more sensitive and use the delete key earlier, long before sexually explicit, life-threatening comments are made.

I appreciate Kathy's advice - she had an article once about having one simple rule - "Please be friendly." and I have clung to that. That rule fits here, too. These resources can help others understand what is and what is not appropriate behavior online as it relates to supporting women.

Geek Chicks - what do women bring to an open source project? (Why does it matter?)

Barriers to Women in FOSS - recent conference where the question "Why aren't there more women in FOSS?" was discussed.

Do's and Don't s of Encouraging Women in Linux - good guidelines for helping sustain a positive climate.

It is a good time for each of us to look at online communities we are responsible for and to develop a culture that is "fun and friendly" and safe and supportive of women.

Hurt (again)
2007-04-14 11:54:49
Women create misogyny the way trees produce oxygen. They sugar coat the poison pills.

They flock to men who abuse them, avoid the "nice guys" and then complain about "domestic violence."

Men are not stupid, they have learned from examples taught by women that kindness and respect DO NOT WORK.

How many women online profess a weakness for "bad boys." Guess what - bad boys hit. Either avoid them or stop complaining. There are men out there who won't hit - but you toss them to the curb in search of someone who will beat you until you love them.

If I lived with someone who hit me, I'd move. But not women, they think he'll change, but it was his violent tendancies that attracted her to him in the first place.

2007-04-21 07:09:15
Don't feed the trolls, I know, but I'd like to add that straight women like men, and unfortunately most of the "kind" ones mentioned don't display the traits that attracts the oppositte gender ie power, strong personality, protective-looking, courage, bravery, and overall strenght, but are rather "affeminated", so don't blame us... It is the same the other way around, btw, as men are attracted by women that are "trouble", instead of the righteous "plain jane" amongst us that don't look like models or bimbos. It is just plain simple traits of our primitive nature (aka 'id'). Thank you.
2007-05-06 07:56:47
Has anyone considered using the new IMBRA law as a precedent to regulating men's communication on blogs and the Internet in general? That is exactly what IMBRA does and it has been upheld by a federal judge. IMBRA does not permit American men to communicate, by email or any other means, with foreign women (can't even say "hello") unless he completes a lengthy form and submits very personal background information. Then she must (even if she does not want to) read it and sign that she read it and send it back before he can send her an email.

So if IMBRA can set conditions for speech just to say "hi" to someone in a friendly way, why can't there be a law that somehow restricts men from making unfriendly and threatening communication on blogs?

2007-05-08 18:31:16
All of you just need to grow up and remember where we live and what we stand for...

2007-05-08 18:38:23
How shameful!
2007-06-20 09:30:13
Trouble is that sort of person I suspect will just carry on and probably move to a new identity. Makes me wonder if filtering on the basis a person is on your list and recurse that to them being in the tree of "my list" X removed. Then slowly they get locked out for their abuse.