Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet The Media

Death Threats In the Blogosphere 487

Posted by kdawson
from the way-over-the-line dept.
Several readers have written in about the death threats and threats of sexual harm that have been directed at tech blogger Kathy Sierra. She is the author of a number of books about Java and a popular speaker at conferences. She has now stopped blogging and cancelled her appearance at eTech. She names the names of four prominent bloggers who are backers of two sites on which the threats were posted. Others in the blogosphere like Robert Scoble and Tim Bray have posted publicly in support of Sierra. Scoble in particular emphasizes the streak of misogyny that is still all too evident in the tech world. The Washington Post is also grappling with the issue of vile comment posts that flirt with illegality. One commenter on Bray's post summed it up: "The Internet used to be a university. Then it became a shopping mall. But now, it's a war zone."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Death Threats In the Blogosphere

Comments Filter:
  • simply unacceptable (Score:5, Informative)

    by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:30PM (#18503565) Journal

    Head First Java and Head First EJB are two of the first HF books I'd read. Kathy Sierra is one of the co-authors of these, books in what I consider an amazing series both in its approach and its enlightenment of what can be tediously dry material. Anyone who contributes to the technical community with that credibility is a superstar. Unfortunately superstars end up in the less sane miscreants' crosshairs.

    The blogs and comments posted threatening Kathy are unacceptable, and look to be very illegal. It's a pity there are those who are disturbed enough to post such garbage. Normally I shrug off the garbage I see, but I think Kathy is making rational choices, albeit drastic ones.

    I hate that by Kathy's own words, she isn't the same person, she'll never be the same person. It's a crime this happens to the good guys.

    For those in the slashdot community with any knowledge of who might be making these posts, it is incumbent upon you to bring forward that information. For those in the slashdot community with some sniffing/hacking skills (mine are rusty), have at it deducing who the asswipes are, find them, and report them.

    I hope Kathy sees and realizes enough support from the community and can regain some semblance of self.

    (Aside: I don't think the internet has become the war zone the article describes. I do think the internet has made it much easier and maybe too easy for the disturbed to wreak personal havoc on the unfortunate targets. There may be a case to be made here against anonymous non-traceable postings, but for the most part the internet community seems (so far) to be self-policing. Hopefully that holds true for Kathy, and they find the posters, and prosecute.)

    • by photomonkey (987563) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:44PM (#18503781)

      I read the posts suggesting ill of her, and find them disturbing, but childish and prankish.

      I feel really bad that she is "afraid to leave her yard", but that really only feeds into it. We all have the capacity for malicious action, but nearly none of us ever act on it. This seems like a 'who can be more extreme' pissing contest that went way too far.

      Unfortunately, this will probably only fan the flames for IDing each and everyone connected to the internet.

      I really do feel bad for her. I just don't think any of it was intended to become true, nor will any of it become true. Bullying exists across all demographics. It's just that once you grow up, you're not so afraid of losing your lunch money, so the threats become greater.

      • by TrentC (11023) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:47PM (#18505081) Homepage
        We all have the capacity for malicious action, but nearly none of us ever act on it.

        All it takes is one person. And with the person who created such sickening stuff being (semi-)anonymous, she doesn't know who to watch out for.

        I think she is giving the trollers what they want -- they don't like what she writes (or whatever), so they want to make her stop or go away -- but I understand her reasons for doing so.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dedazo (737510)
      Yes, this is unacceptable. However, it does happen, and it will continue to happen as long as people can continue to be essentially anonymous. It's that anonymity that changes a probably normal person into a blathering, vile fucktard.

      But I think this woman is overreacting a tad. Maybe this is the first time something like this has happened to her. The chances of one of these assholes hunting her down and doing that stuff they so eloquently described in their posts to her is probably about as high as her c

      • by anomaly (15035) <tom.cooper3@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:03PM (#18504145)
        Neither am I, but I know that I can't understand what it's like to maintain constant vigilence - because women can and are abused by men. They are statistically smaller and weaker than men, and easily victimized.

        Ever walk to your car in a dark parking lot? When you do, do you give thought to being attacked? I don't, but almost every woman I've asked says she does. I recently heard that 10% of high school senior girls report having been raped. These are girls under 18.

        I have an acquaintance who was in her work parking lot and rolled down her window to chat with a coworker who smiled pleasantly as he reached in the window to fondle her breast. This was most certainly unwelcome and abusive! Has that ever happened to you? Do you think she will *ever* consider rolling down her car window on a warm day without thinking of that event? Do you ever think "Will my coworker sexually harass me?" I doubt it.

        You mock the blogger's fear as overreaction. Try thinking like a more vulnerable person, and then perhaps you'll respond more charitably.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dedazo (737510)

          You mock the blogger's fear as overreaction. Try thinking like a more vulnerable person, and then perhaps you'll respond more charitably.

          I am not mocking her. And this has nothing to do with whether or not women are more likely to be victimized by men. What I'm essentially saying is that her chances of being raped in a parking lot by a stranger are probably higher than one of these people actually tracking her down and inflicting harm on her. For them, the threat is the thrill. It's an infantile power pl

          • I write to my local paper a lot, and periodically I get a phone call supporting something I've written. My wife has made it quite clear that the first time I get a nasty and/or threatening call, my days as a writer are over. Being married twenty years has given me the opportunity to see that women, by and large, do not grow up with the same sense of control over their person and surroundings that you or I do.

            So, while I cringe at Ms. Sierra's language of defeat and withdrawal, I have come to understand that for a good many (wo)men, flight overcomes fight when reacting to threats. You can objectify the odds, but it doesn't always overcome the subjective fear.
        • by radtea (464814) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:36PM (#18504835)
          Ever walk to your car in a dark parking lot? When you do, do you give thought to being attacked? I don't

          Well you should. Rates of male victimization for all crimes other than rape are considerably higher than female victimization. [usdoj.gov] The rate of rape in males is very hard to estimate, but is reported at about 1/4 of the rate in females. [cdc.gov] Given that males are much less likely than females to report themselves as victims of rape, it is quite possible that the rate of rape in males is comparable to that in females. It is certainly the case that rates of violent assault and murder are about four times higher in males than females.

          This is because we as a society do not care two figs about violence against males. We do not value our young males, and we do not teach them to take care of themselves. Quite the opposite: we teach them to be careless of their own safety, and we teach them they are cowards or worse if they take reasonable precautions like giving a thought to being attacked when walking to their car in a dark parking lot.

          This is not to say that violence against females is acceptable. It is obviously not. But any time I hear anyone decrying "violence against women" as being particularly bad I have to wonder if they think violence against men is OK? Or at least not so particularly bad? And if they do think that, I really have to wonder why. If they are even remotely decent and humane it certainly cannot be the fact that most violence is committed by men, because it is also the case that, for example, in the United States most violence is committed by black people, and there is a word for people who think that that fact makes violence against black people OK.
          • by urbanradar (1001140) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .gnidleifyhtomit.> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:59PM (#18506487) Homepage

            This is not to say that violence against females is acceptable. It is obviously not. But any time I hear anyone decrying "violence against women" as being particularly bad I have to wonder if they think violence against men is OK? Or at least not so particularly bad?
            Well, you mentioned one potential reason higher up in your posting -- males are less likely to report sexual violence commited against them than females, so we hear about it less and don't assign as much significance to it.

            Another reason why we hear (and thus think) about violence against women more is because women -- or, the emancipation movement -- needed to do a *lot* of talking for the injustices carried out against them even to be acknowledged.

            If they are even remotely decent and humane it certainly cannot be the fact that most violence is committed by men, because it is also the case that, for example, in the United States most violence is committed by black people, and there is a word for people who think that that fact makes violence against black people OK.
            Completely ignoring whether it is that fact or not, there's something in your statement that I have to disagree with. There is no inherent difference between black and white other than a superficial one (skin colour) and in some cases also an artificial one (culture). But there is a fundamental and important difference between men and women: Men impregnate, women get pregnant. Since reproduction is one of the most basic instincts a human being has, this does have an effect on thought and behaviour.
            Hormonal differences also need to be considered. Men have more testosterone and are thus generally more prone to aggressive behaviour. And men are generally raised to be more aggressive than women (although less so then they used to be).
            It could also be said that since men are generally stronger and larger than women, they have more opportunity to be aggressively dominant over the other gender. And finally, it's also a primarily male instinct to impregnate as many women as possible, in order to ensure diverse genes in offspring. Females also have this instinct, but it's less distinct with them, and manifests itself in a different way.

            Racism is idiotic because it's not based on fact, whereas there are real reasons to perceive the actions of men and women differently. I don't think you can compare the two.

            I very strongly believe that men and women should be equal in rights, respect, opportunities, payment and social status. I don't think that one gender is somehow worth more than the other. But anyone who suggests that men and women are generally equal is, in my eyes, overlooking some important facts.
        • How do you know? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jythie (914043) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:39PM (#18504901)
          Seriously.

          I have heard plenty of women, including victims taking strength back, say similar to the above post.

          It should also be noted that males are the victims of violence too, by both males and females (though police still tend to laugh in the face of female->male abuse victims so they are kinda underreported). Rates of males being victims are still higher the female so in some ways males are more at risk (granted when it comes to sexual assaults, female rates are MUCH higher, same with harassment rates, though I have known males who were sexually harassed in the workplace).

          And while the previous poster was probably a bit more mocking then could be called for, I am seeing a disturbing amount of 'if you are not riding to this women's defense like a good white knight they you are insensitive!' group think. Which in some ways does more damage to the treatment of women in tech then the harassment. Just another way of looking down on them, treating them as 'lessers' that need protection and sympathy because the poor dears can not take care of themselves and need nice big strong men to protect them from the evil nasty other men.....

          Did the blogger overreact? Hard to say. She felt threatened enough that she does not feel safe outside her home. However, if these types of comments are really that common within this community (I have never heard of any of these sites so I can't comment there) and most who receive such slander do not react that way, then it would, by community standards, be an overreaction. It isn't a case of 'thicker skin' but of weighing the realities of risk.

          And finally, the statistics bit is a bit of a slippery slope. Ok, women are, statistically, smaller then males. But the same thing could be said of, say, black males to white males. So does that male white males easily victimized and they should feel constantly threatened and vigilant?

          As for your acquaintance... each person must cope their own way with trauma, but that really does not sound like a healthy reaction. If she is thinking about that event every time she rolls down her window that is obsessing on a mental injury and is a class of coping that usually does some long term harm. While understandable, dwelling on an assault is NOT a solution...

          *awaits the -1 flaimbait*
        • by PCM2 (4486)

          You mock the blogger's fear as overreaction. Try thinking like a more vulnerable person, and then perhaps you'll respond more charitably.

          You don't have to be a vulnerable person to be a victim of crime. Anybody who receives death threats or threats of bodily harm has a right to take them seriously. I myself have received threats over the Internet that included very specific information about what I looked like and mentioned real-world places I was likely to frequent. I was within inches of notifying the

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CDarklock (869868)
          No, I don't ever wonder if my coworkers will sexually harass me.

          But I wonder if asking my coworker out for dinner will get me fired.

          After all, it might make her uncomfortable, and then she might be completely unable to focus on her work because she's constantly wondering whether I agreed with her idea because it was a good idea or because I want to bone her. If she says no, maybe I won't pull my weight on the team anymore, and it will make her look bad. If she says yes, exactly how much do I expect of her t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS (41445)
      I hate that by Kathy's own words, she isn't the same person, she'll never be the same person. It's a crime this happens to the good guys.

      That's why "retreating" is the absolute last thing she should be doing. It will do her more emotional harm in the long run; its more than likely that no threat is actually intended, it's just meant to terrorize her and make her submit, anyway (why issue a death threat if you're planning to carry it out?).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:29PM (#18504719)
        With respect, I think it's very easy to talk about what people should do in particular extreme circumstances (such as this one, but it's a general problem IMO) in situations which one has never personally experienced. For the first few years I was driving a car, I often wondered how I'd react if I got involved in an accident. The fact is that, as the cliche goes, you really don't know what it's like until you've experienced it, and I suspect that applies to lots of situations at various levels of trauma. (And as a man, you are pretty unlikely to experience rape or threats of rape.)

        (Incidentally I have been raped [and am a man], and whilst it was a pretty unpleasant experience in itself, it's the long-lasting psychological effects that have the potential to really fuck up your life. I'm doing pretty well now, 13 years later, thanks for asking :)

        (And no, it wasn't in prison!)

        Well golly gosh darn, now I have to post anonymously.

    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Illegal? Where? How? Who is there to enforce any sort of "rules" for use of privately created web pages on the Internet?

      There is no "right of free speech" here - there are no rights (or wrongs) at all. No authority except that which comes from the power to delete.

      People know there are no consequences whatsoever for whatever they do on the Internet, so they are emboldened to do anything they want. No behavior, no matter how extreme, seems to have any real world effects connected with it. And, most of t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Irvu (248207)

      or those in the slashdot community with any knowledge of who might be making these posts, it is incumbent upon you to bring forward that information. For those in the slashdot community with some sniffing/hacking skills (mine are rusty), have at it deducing who the asswipes are, find them, and report them.

      Definitely a bad idea. Vigilantism, as cathartic as it may be is never never a long-term solution. It's often disasterously bad in the short term as well.

      In the short term any information collected by su

    • It's just a reality on the internet that people will make outrageous threats toward people they don't agree with. And internet or any other medium, if you piss off certain people they'll resort to physical threats...I sold off the last of my guns when I was 20, and bought the first of a new set after I someone my journalist wife pissed off started harassing us...The truth can be a weapon, and some people will treat it as such.

      It's the way of the world, and it's unfortunate, but it's a fact of life. If you'r
    • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:29PM (#18504715) Journal
      I just have to wonder who the hell gets that worked up over an author of Java books for C's sake. I can't imagine having that strong an emotional response over a programming language. I wonder if this guy (I assume it is a guy) also gets that worked up over cordless drills. "Damn you Black & Decker scum!!"
  • Blogosphere = ??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325) <(akahige) (at) (trashmail.net)> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:35PM (#18503639) Homepage Journal

    The blogosphere has turned into spam, flamewars, threats, and general kookery. Welcome to the new Usenet.

  • by ScytheBlade1 (772156) <scytheblade1&averageurl,com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:35PM (#18503645) Homepage Journal
    People are people. People have the right to express their opinions about someone else.

    So where, as far as the law is concerned, is "too much"? If it is one person's opinion that another person should be shot and raped, does that person have the right to express that opinion?

    My personal opinion is that death threats and rape threats are far beyond the free speech line, simply because they infringe and threaten another person's right to life. Which, in my opinion, is a rather important right. I support her fully, and personally think that the posters of said comments need to have charges brought against them.

    But to what degree do the law books say too much is too much? Where is the line as far as the books are concerned?

    Just honest curiosity.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865)
      Regardless of how vile people can be (as I mentioned my own experiences in another post here), it's still the internet. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to take a threat on the internet serious. My information is completely publicly available and I've had people who I've banned for their behavior on my site spread offensive rumors about me on the web and even threaten to cut my head off. But what are you gonna do? It's the internet. Going to spend a few months of your life with the police and a lawyer hunting d
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bigtangringo (800328)
        Interstate? I'm not sure, but in Arizona [state.az.us]:

        A. A person commits threatening or intimidating if the person threatens or intimidates by word or conduct:

        1. To cause physical injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another; or...


        The law continues. Anyway, if the proverbial "reasonable person" would feel threatened, then it's probably a threat in the eyes of the court.

        CAPTCHA: hostage
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by djan (121552)

      People have the right to express their opinions about someone else.

      This is true, but a lot of people don't realize that you need to bear the consequences of expressing your opinions.

      If you are in the record business and spout off a la Dixie Chicks about GW Bush, expect to suffer backlash in the form of fewer record sales from people that disagree with you. If you threaten to kill someone, expect to have law enforcement to become very interested in having a talk with you.

      Free speech is great, but prices are

    • The problem is that context is just as important as what was said. Sure, people said some shit they probably shouldn't have. They didn't actually do those things, though, and being the Internet, it's unlikely they have any plans to do so or actually believe that these things should be gone through with. People talk shit on the Internet. People say things just to be dicks on the Internet because they can be fairly certain it's not going to result in the ass kicking they probably deserve.

      In this case spec
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      But to what degree do the law books say too much is too much? Where is the line as far as the books are concerned?

      Saying you think someone should be shot is legal. Saying you are going to shoot someone is a crime.

      Telling people in a position and with a will to shoot someone that someone should be shot can be considered illegal as it is inciting someone to commit a crime. But telling people with no history of violence that someone should be shot is probably not a crime.

      It all depends on how good your lawy

    • by FSWKU (551325) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:07PM (#18504211)
      Disclaimer: The usual "I Am Not A Lawyer" applies here.

      While I'm not a lawyer, I have studied media and mass communication law. One of the things we had drilled into us from day one was the full text and meaning of the First Amendment. What we started getting drilled into us from day two, was that your rights under the First Amendment end where someone else's rights begin. That is to say, freedom of speech gives you a wide berth to say what you want, but as soon as you cross the line into threatening someone or directly impacting their safety or well being, you are no longer protected.

      I haven't read the comments, but it sounds like they may be walking a very fine line. Saying things like "you should die" or "you should be beaten with a riot baton" are, while vile and nasty things to say, protected speech. However, if they were to say "I am going to kill you", or "I am going to fuck you until you see things my way", then that is NOT protected speech. Bottom line is that threats carry with them the reasonable expectation that they will be carried out, even if they are made anonymously via the internet.

      If the comments were made to walk the fine line between protected and unprotected speech, yet with the intent to cause emotional or psychological distress, then the law would most likely point to the comments being unprotected, as they are harrassing in nature. If Ms. Sierra has reason to believe that those comments could lead to actual physical harm, then she is taking a (sadly) prudent and necessary course of action.

      While I have not read any of her work, and have formed no opinion of her, there is no excuse for the comments that have been aimed her way. While I don't believe the internet is a war zone, I do believe that anonymity tends to override people's better judgement, and can result in cases like this. For a summation of this last paragraph, I ask you to refer to John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. [penny-arcade.com]
  • Close (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toddhisattva (127032) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:36PM (#18503655) Homepage

    "The Internet used to be a university. Then it became a shopping mall. But now, it's a war zone."
    The universities became shopping malls and war zones. The Internet merely reflects the decay.
  • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:36PM (#18503665)
    I've had members of my site become brutal and rather scary after I've had to ban them for fraudulent and other unacceptable behavior against other users. On more than a couple occasions, they have done things like dig up my phone number and make threatening phone calls. Call police in my state and make various absurd false reports. Spread insanely ridiculous things about me on the internet, email me and post to my website the most vile, disgusting, threatening things you can imagine.

    But what can you do? Are you going to lock yourself in a bunker the rest of your life to keep yourself safe from mentally imbalanced teenagers and idiot, vindictive, insane adults?

    I've had people flat out threaten to hunt me down and cut my head off if I didn't restore their banned accounts and I've had one post things across the web that are among the most vile and disgusting and insulting things you can claim about a person. But I'm not out there asking everyone to stick up for me or... well.. even wasting two seconds on it. People are dicks. Life is hard. A lot of people say a lot of shit and don't follow through. Either grow a spine or go away. There's no sense being a big baby about it because someone hates you. And if someone really has you fearing for your life, then do something about it besides blogging about it and trying to manipulate other people into sticking up for you.
  • Yea... (Score:5, Funny)

    by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:37PM (#18503677)
    First the internet was a tree. Then it was a painting. THen it was a mass of shitty analogies...
  • PC Backlash (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:37PM (#18503683)
    When you can't say intellectually controversial things in public, on TV, in print, or anywhere else that repressed need eventually bubbles out from somewhere. Unfortunately, when it's on the internet and self-authored and published, the respective screening (getting beat up, losing your license, reputation flushed down the toilet) leaves and we're left with a river of hateful slime.

    Like Ghostbusters 2. Only more serious. I suppose this makes this post controversial, as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by apathy maybe (922212)
      I assume you use "PC" as short hand for "politically correct". In which case you obviously don't know what being politically correct is all about. It has nothing to do with saying intellectually controversial things, unless you think something like "Jews rule the world and control the government" is somehow intellectually controversial.

      Political correctness is about not making stupid comments that hurt minority groups or other groups in society when there is no

      So, in summing up, I think you are wrong, and
  • by Friedrich Psitalon (777927) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:38PM (#18503689)
    While I respect anyone in the public limelight, I think Kathy is being a tad bit naive. As a mildly well-known member of a gaming community once upon a time, I came to realize that some people really do get their rocks off on simply making vile threats. (Yes, I know, the scale is very different, but the concept is much the same.)

    Odds are very poor that many of them are serious, and in the case of the incredibly slim few that are, most of them are so functionally disturbed that they wouldn't be able to make a trip to a convention anyhow. They're too worried about the peanut butter covering their sidewalk or the time cubes floating in front of the bus station.

    Part of being a celebrity on any level for any topic means accepting that you gain both fame and infamy in parts. Refusing to continue doing good because of the threat of others doing evil against you is (while perhaps the most understandable kind) simply cowardice.

    I'm a schoolteacher. I *KNOW* because I'm a teacher who connects with kids, and has a knack for reaching troubled kids that my odds of being the target of an angry, weapon-holding students are *GOOD*... someday, I'm going to stare at that terrifying situation. I still teach - I know that I do good things, and I will not live in fear of evil ones.

    Kathy should recognize that her acts do far more good than the risk of harm merits and go on. Courage of the unknown is a tough thing, but an important thing - it is what makes (most) of the greatest humans great.
    • by Skyshadow (508) * on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:52PM (#18503937) Homepage
      I'm a schoolteacher. I *KNOW* because I'm a teacher who connects with kids, and has a knack for reaching troubled kids that my odds of being the target of an angry, weapon-holding students are *GOOD*... someday, I'm going to stare at that terrifying situation. I still teach - I know that I do good things, and I will not live in fear of evil ones.

      Interestingly, I think you're encountering another aspect of our new-ish non-local culture.

      Consider: Kathy's problem is one of communication. Those sickos who have developed an interest in her due to her degree of public figure status would be out there regardless (stalkers being nothing new), but the internet allows her to see them which, quite naturally, terrifies her.

      You, likewise, are being made fearful by our non-local culture. You see a couple of school shootings a year spread out nationally, but since each gets attention and, as an attention-getting item, is reported nationally in the same way that you might expect a local incident to be covered. As such, you've come to the expectation that school shootings are in fact commonplace enough that you're expressing the absolute certainty that you will, someday, "stare at that terrifying situation".

      Both of your fears seem to have the common root, and it's something I find interesting. I wonder if that's a problem that has a solution -- after all, reasonable people look for things that threaten them, and mass communication's only going to get easier... Maybe eventually we'll all life either in fear or blissful intentional ignorance.
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:39PM (#18503709) Homepage
    Yeah, back in the day you never would have seen this sort of thing on the web, assuming that by "back in the day" you mean "the time between when Tim Berners-Lee came up with the web but before he told anyone about it".

    Not to say this sort of thing is all right, of course, but while this is almost certainly a sad byproduct of the culture of the internet, there's nothing in the post she pointed to that I find disturbing or even all that unusual. As she noted, you get everybody online and give them anonymity, this sort of thing happens.

    This doesn't mean, however, that it's happening *more* than it would have back before the internet, just that now it tends to be visible. Public figures, even minor ones, have always run the risk of attracting sickos, especially when they're decent looking women. Going so far as to suggest this is something new that's being caused by the internet just seems ridiculous, and trying to paint it as a byproduct of the culture of men in software development is even moreso.

    I know it must be disturbing to realize you're the focus of this kind of thing, but let's try not to make more of it than it is.
    • there's nothing in the post she pointed to that I find disturbing

      Maybe, but you are not her. Different people have different comfort levels with threats of bodily harm. I am not sure that your post reflects an appropriate standard for all victims, and I suspect that you would change your tune fairly rapidly if you, yourself, (or, worse, someone you loved) were the target.

      Going so far as to suggest this is something new that's being caused by the internet just seems ridiculous

      I don't think anyone familiar with Usenet thinks this is anything new, but it must be acknowledged that the Internet has greatly facilitated this sort of anonymous abuse. What's different from Usenet in this situation is that it is entirely within the ability of individual bloggers to stop this sort of abuse by their participants.

      trying to paint it as a byproduct of the culture of men in software development is even moreso.

      I wish I could say that I agree with you, but I work in information security and have responded to a number of internal online sexual abuse cases over the years. Your assertion does not completely correlate with my personal experiences with software developers. As with any male-dominated culture, there's a certain percentage of men who think that behaving rudely, crudely, and threateningly towards women is just fine. This is true in any culture; what's important is the group's tolerance for repellent, abusive behavior towards a female minority, and a principal sign of a lack of cultural maturity in this regard is for those not directly involved to sit back, as you just did, and say, "oh come on, it's not so bad, she just needs to get a grip", which is really just a backhanded way of condoning such behavior.

  • by LionKimbro (200000) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:44PM (#18503789) Homepage
    I'm a big fan of Kathy Sierra; I own several of her books, and have evangelized for her for a long time.

    But right now, I'm worried about mob "justice."

    I've seen that, several times, "Joey" has said, "This is a big misunderstanding," and "please, let's talk about this."

    The response? "We've seen all the evidence we need-- shut up, you're in big trouble."

    Have they seen all the evidence they "need?" Need, for what purpose? I agree that they've seen disturbing, gruesome pictures. But is it all connected up right? I'm not so sure-- did e-mailed death threats really come from Joey & Co.?

    But there is something that I'm sure of: Due process is not happening here. We're witnessing a dog pile. I'm sure that a great many of these people are hearing Kathy's story, seeing the pictures, and then calling "Get a rope."

    I read the story. It's disgusting. I know how the wanna-be vigilantes feel. But this is no way to do things, and I find the popular response disgusting, as well.

    If some of the people responsible are willing and ready to talk, and have a side of the story, it's everybody's duty to give it a fair hearing. We should be encouraging conversation right now, not discouraging it. I'm sure Kathy & Joey & all can have a conversation, and work this out, and make a follow-up announcement.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      I'll kill you for advocating due process!

      You are absolutly right, due process must always be observed by all parties.
      The facts need to come out, then justice can be served rationally.

  • Green Blackboards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:44PM (#18503793)
    Just another example of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. [penny-arcade.com]
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:46PM (#18503835)
    Before there were blogs there was usenet, that pristine unadulterated source of helpful ideas and good manners.

    Some people just have no idea...

     
  • Thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LarsWestergren (9033) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:46PM (#18503839) Homepage Journal
    I've been following this today, on and off. I feel really sorry for Kathy Sierra. What is scary is the number of bloggers (mostly female) who describe being subjected to similar things, some even worse. Most of the bloggers mentioned by her have apologized for participating in such a site though, even if, as they claim, they did not do any of the objectionable content.

    I think Don Parks [docuverse.com] summed up how I feel about this best. With reality TV the tolerance of bullying has unfortunately been increased. If something good can be said to come of this, it is that a few online bullies are getting their well deserved come-uppance. I think it was Chad Fowler who wrote [pragmaticprogrammer.com] that the net never forgets, and building a reputation becomes ever more important. The stuff you write may come back to haunt you for a long time, and never forget that there are real people with feelings on the other side. Even if you disagree with them they deserve to be treated as human beings.
  • If whoever did this - at least some of them - were stupid enough to leave traceable IPs, they'll go to prison. And they deserve it. And if it is because some trolls simply didn't see that somewhere beyond the limit of decency was another limit, a legal one, they deserve to learn the hard way.

    I'm angry. Not angry enough to be happy with the various means of online surveillance that law enforcement has appropriated, but angry enough to hwant to see them used, fast.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:51PM (#18503923) Homepage
    The first thing I thought of when reading this was, "how are these people making the threats any different than the people issuing fatwahs against 'enemies of Islam'? I thought of a friend blogger, Anarchangel, who's had a fatwah [blogspot.com] issued against him.

    His solution? Tell 'em off and make it known he's packing pistols. Over a year later and he's fine. I'd suggest she do the same, for her own safety. And don't back down, for goodness sake! That's what they're after - terroristic behavior is done to make you back down and give ground.

    Apparently there are some folks out there who really don't like Java. I mean, I dislike the damn stuff myself, but I'm not crazy about it or anything...
  • True (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:52PM (#18503947) Homepage

    "The Internet used to be a university. Then it became a shopping mall. But now, it's a war zone."

    That's the truth and one of the first casualties of that war was Civility. Free speech ends at the door of death threats and threats of physical violence. That is not unique to the internet and perhaps a new and open media requires a new type of law enforcement. It doesn't have to be invasive or Constitutionally questionable. A few of the worst offenders making headlines going to trial, and a couple of the worst overseas offenders extradited here for trial, would likely be all it would take to end most of the silliness. There will always be those few, desperately in need of therapy, who push the bounds. But we do have to respond. Just like real serial killers usually start out torturing animals, real acts of violence start by giving voice to the desire.

    Funny, but I see more of what I could classify as hate speech on right wing web sites. Death threats, suggestions for snipers to take out some imagined offender and many along the lines of, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" And this from people counting themselves among the religious right. Shame. Tactless comment coupled with faithless religion.

    Besides, why would anyone want to threaten a JAVA programmer? .NET or C++, that's understandable. But JAVA? The humanity!

  • This is new? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:53PM (#18503957) Journal
    I remember getting quite a share of death threats and hate mail from lots of folks back in the mid-and-late '90s. It came with the territory when playing around in alt.flame and trolling other USENET groups for fun... back when trolling was actually an artform (and even educational if you did it right)- not the crude and obvious idiocy that we see today. Got lots of hate in my inbox as a result (and even more mailbombing attempts, etc etc... procmail was my bestest friend in those days...) IOW? Yeah, I was stupid.

    That said, the cure for such threats was rather easy: Post the thing verbatim, along with every ounce of information you could dig up on the person. Odds were good that a sharp admin could figure out who sent it, email the ISP (back when they actually paid attention to the inbox of abuse@...), and humiliate the punk online.

    Of course, back then, there were lots of advantages: it was easier to track people back then, and I'm a guy with a passion for hunting and target-shooting. I also lived in a state that had some very loose laws considering the disposition of trespassers and those who would threaten bodily harm to persons or property (Arkansas). A few simple public postings in the source's favorite newsgroups w/ all evidence, a letter to his/her ISP w/ all the evidence, and the threat-maker was gone. I had never seen anyone dumb enough to actually try for it, in spite of my (admittedly reckless habit of) publicly calling them out. Most simply went away and stayed gone. But it was a whole other Internet back then.

    I suspect that OTOH a woman, who doesn't really make a hobby of pissing people off like I had, and catching crap in an Internet that has now become swamped with a cornucopia of anonymizing tools and techniques? Prolly not so easy for her to simply post and humiliate.

    Props to her for posting them verbatim, though... and it's a very good start to name and shame the sources that can be found. Let the bloggers who host such stuff publicly deal with the fallout.

    Though this will sound trite, I'd take such postings with a block of salt... the vast, vast majority of idiots who post such garbage don't have the nerve, transportation, or means to pull off anything that they threaten. I daresay that they're little boys who managed to squeeze off something that makes them feel big n' bad when mommy wasn't looking at their monitor.

    /P

  • If those "prominent bloggers" are connected, send them off to the big house for threatening her and harassing her. Do something with the existing laws now to make a case against new laws in the future.

    Quite frankly, if I caught up with someone who wrote about my wife like that and threatened her so viciously, I'd have a mind to pistol whip them until they could recite the entire series of Emily Post etiquette materials.
  • There have been studies about this. Annominitiy on the Internet emboldends people to be stupid and say things they might otherwise filter out. It's a real shame that people can't be mature about differing points of view.

    Gabe and Tyco said it best. [penny-arcade.com]

    • by geekoid (135745)
      DO you have an actually cite for anyu of those studies?
      Penny-arcade is not a cite.
  • Cut the hype.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wes Janson (606363) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:58PM (#18504059) Journal
    Calling the internet a "war zone" is idiotic hype. If you want to see what one actually looks like, go to Iraq, or Somalia, or any number of other low intensity conflicts around the globe. A far better metaphor would be calling the internet a playground filled with shouting, arguing children who sometimes say threatening or stupid things.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:04PM (#18504159) Journal
    >The Internet used to be a university. Then it became a shopping mall. But now, it's a war zone.

    It's *ALWAYS* been a war zone. There were flame wars escalating into death threats on usenet in the '80's. My college suspended a kid for posting violent rape fantasies to email lists in 1986. The only difference is that now enough people know about the internet that stories about it sell newspapers. Anyone who thinks it used to be all nice and safe is either delusional or wasn't paying attention. If you have a forum where governments can't track down and kill political opponents, you have a forum where nice people can't track down and hold liable nogoodniks who froth hate. That sucks for the nice people, but I think our need for widespread, anonymous communication outweighs their discomfort.
  • by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:05PM (#18504165)
    Pampered western journalists whinging and grizzling about other people's use of free speech is not a "war". People being so cowardly that they can't function if someone threatens them is not comparable to being carpet bombed because you happened to be born in the wrong place or have the wrong religion.

    Win the "war on terrorism"; stop being afraid!

    People are such cowards these days. It's NAUSEATING.
    • by TrentC (11023) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:42PM (#18504955) Homepage
      People are such cowards these days. It's NAUSEATING.

      Out of curiosity, are you including or excluding yourself from that generalization? I find that lots of people on /. like to deride others for cowardice or other moral failings when, truth be told, they wouldn't act any better in similar circumstances.

      This woman was not the subject of a harshly-worded argument or even a juvenile personal attack; people were posting Photoshopped images of her in sexually degrading situations, and posting graphic descriptions of violence, mutilation and rape. Maybe that's something you can just laugh off and ignore, but it's getting to the point where women can't even do that any more [wftv.com].

      And if she does get assaulted or killed, the same type of people who are condemning her for being too weak to simply put up with it will be condemning her for not taking the threats seriously enough. It's a no-win situation for women and victim-blaming is an easy way to avoid having any empathy for the victim, or feel the need to press for change.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by asninn (1071320)

        It's a no-win situation for women and victim-blaming is an easy way to avoid having any empathy for the victim, or feel the need to press for change.

        You're creating a false dichotomy here when you say that any poster who's not entirely on her side like a yesman is automatically engaging in "victim-blaming". What's happening to her is horrible, and I know from experience that this kind of crap can REALLY make you sick, but ultimately, she's an adult - she's responsible for herself. And if she acts in a

  • by sharp-bang (311928) <sharp...bang...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:19PM (#18504481) Homepage
    ... of course, are the bloggers who let themselves be conduits for abusive speech. This thread is now over 100 posts and I've seen almost nothing on this. C'mon, all you messaging admins, everyone who has to answer abuse@domain mail... what is their culpability?
  • Damn kids... (Score:4, Informative)

    by rtechie (244489) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:32PM (#18504761)
    I find it amusing that many of the bloggers seem to think this is something novel. I used to post to Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) in the 1980s, and yeah, death threats and (especially) crude sexual comments were pretty common. Of course this should not come as a shock to anyone because these were KIDS posting. Y'know, 13-year old boys? This woman is facing childish pranks and getting a little too worked up over it. The postings were on a site called, of all things, "meankids".

    You want threats, go post over on FreeRepublic. After about a week of posting people managed to track me down and started putting up pictures of the front of my house, accompanied by threats and accusations of terrorism. THAT'S when you should start getting a little worried.

    • Re:Damn kids... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by daigu (111684) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @05:12PM (#18508503) Journal

      I assume you were posting things on FreeRepublic that would be counter to the perspective of that forum - liberal, democratic or whatever. I do have a question for you: what is the attraction?

      I subscribe to The Nation [thenation.com]. I read its blog posts and the commentary of posts I think are interesting - just like Slashdot. I find that there is a sizable contingent (maybe as much as a quarter?) that basically trolls the boards offering libertarian, conservative, and other perspectives that differ significantly from the general perspective of The Nation and its readers. What I cannot figure out is - why?

      I would never think of spending time reading blog posts from the Free Republic, National Review, Washington Monthly, Townhall.com or other conservative sites. Maybe an article here or there when I'm looking for different perspectives on a particular issue or an issue of these magazines when I am trying to understand what issues seem to be top of mind for conservatives. But I would never read blog posts or commentary - or troll those forums.

      Why did you do it? Did you think you would change people's minds? Were you trying to get people's goat? What motivated you?

      It seems to me that participating in forums where you don't agree with the thrust of the forum - whether it be an issue (Luddites posting to Slashdot, gun control advocates on NRA sites or whatever) or political philosophy - is a huge waste of time. Yet, it seems like no matter what forum you choose - someone is doing it. Why? Any insight?

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) * on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:39PM (#18504893)

    In response to vile, arguably illegal threats in cyberspace, the object of those threats has written:

    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.

    Yes, the threats were vile and intended to cause emotional distress. The seriousness of them and the capacity of the posters to act in accordance with their stated intentions is very much in question. But EVEN IF THE THREATS ARE REAL, meaning, even if the posters really would kill her given the chance, her reaction is excessive. Way excessive.

    You must live your life. Despite the wackos, you must live your life. Sticking your head in the sand solves nothing.

    I've had jobs that put me in conflict with people rather severely. On two occasions, I've been assigned a personal bodyguard for a period of weeks until the person trying to kill me was caught and jailed. I've been chased on foot by a drug-addled cowboy who continually screamed that he was going to kill me. I've been chased in my vehicle twice, once by someone who tried to run me off the road and once by someone who was trying to follow me to my destination to do me violence. Hell, I've had a shotgun unloaded at me (from an excessive distance by a drunk with lousy aim, thank God).

    I didn't stop living my life. After each of those events (and sometimes during) I walked out my front door and went to work just like normal. I can't imagine someone being so weak of spirit that they would do otherwise.

    OK, go ahead and scream at me that I'm blaming the victim. I'm not. For the short term, recoiling in horror from a threat is reasonable. For the short term, only until the threat can be assessed fully, it's a reasonable reaction. But if this lady remains afraid to leave her yard next week, she's got far bigger problems than a few weirdos who might or might not pose a threat to her.

  • by kimanaw (795600) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:09PM (#18505595)

    "The Internet used to be a university."
    For about 15 minutes.

    "Then it became a shopping mall."
    Specializing in penis enhancement products and pornography.

    "But now, it's a war zone."
    Not a war zone. More like a public restroom in the seedier part of town.
  • by cyranoVR (518628) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {RVonaryc}> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:58PM (#18510139) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago, I started receiving death threats on my Slashdot journal. After several emails to Taco, which were ignored, he finally responding saying that there was nothing I should do and that I should just ignore them.

    I wonder if he would give the same advice to Kathy Sierra?

    Links:

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=102543&cid=874 9281 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=102942&cid=879 0160 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=102942&cid=876 9738 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=103078&cid=878 1756 [slashdot.org]

    Granted, no one photo-shopped pictures of me to have a noose next to my head, but a death threat is a death threat. Taco had the opportunity to take action, and he chose not to.

Bus error -- please leave by the rear door.

Working...