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Death Threats In the Blogosphere 487

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."
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Death Threats In the Blogosphere

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  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:34PM (#18503625) Homepage

    Why do you think George W Bush has bodyguards?

    To stop him from running with scissors and to keep his fingers out of electrical sockets?

  • Yea... (Score:5, Funny)

    by koreaman ( 835838 ) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:37PM (#18503677)
    First the internet was a tree. Then it was a painting. THen it was a mass of shitty analogies...
  • by FSWKU ( 551325 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:07PM (#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]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:07PM (#18504215)
    Rape is down to 10%? In the early 70s the militant feminists insisted that every woman had been raped. I guess we've cleaned up a lot in 30 years.
  • Re:Yea... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jaqenn ( 996058 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:09PM (#18504237)
    The internet exists as a method to deliver car analogies. It's like those 18-wheelers that carry other vehicles.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @04:03PM (#18506561)
    "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."

    This from someone who worships C.
  • by pi_rules ( 123171 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @04:52PM (#18507377)

    There is no inherent difference between black and white other than a superficial one (skin colour)...
    The US Olympic track team, NBA, and NFL would like to have a word with you.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @05:26PM (#18507873)
    "I'm gonna rip your head off and shit down your neck"

    If I had a quarter every time I heard that...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @08:54PM (#18510107)
    "Hah! I finally found you. Now prepare yourself...mooohahahaha!"

    We've got cows posting AC here now?

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas