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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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  • simply unacceptable (Score:5, Informative)

    by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:30PM (#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 bigtangringo ( 800328 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @01:55PM (#18503997) Homepage
    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
  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:04PM (#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 Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:15PM (#18504395)
    Here's a back in the day story, that starts out, originally enough "Back in the day..." ... of Usenet News, there was this one rather contentious news group that had a lot of fanatical religious folk on one side and scholarly level-headed ordinary folk on the other. So these ordinary folk would bait the fanatics, exposing their own contradictions and hypocrisy for all to see. One fanatic was so inflamed that first he threatened one of the ordinary folk in the manner common of the day, with vile threats known as flames. He started responding to every post with something along the lines of "your mother was an unwed ape" and so on. He also prolifically posted his dribblings in other posts, which assured that there was plenty of cannon fodder to bait him with, which a small group took on to see if they couldn't make the fanatic see the light, so to speak, including the original target. This inflamed the fanatic to such an extent that he started making bodily harm threats to the original target and the community at large. He actually showed up at the original targets work 1500 miles away.) Look up David J. Rasmussen [google.com] some time. I believe he may have been the first, or one of the first, net.loons.

    The difference at that time was everyone on the net was traceable.
  • Damn kids... (Score:4, Informative)

    by rtechie ( 244489 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @02:32PM (#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.

  • Clear mysognism (Score:4, Informative)

    by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @03:29PM (#18505957)
    Maybe you missed this comment by "Rev ED", given in a screenshot in Kathy's blog post:

    If you didn't have legs, you would leave a trail like a garden slug.
    If you didn't have a cunt, we would have a open season on you with high bag limits.
    (That was apparently from the blog Unclebobism, which I see has now been suspended for violating terms of service.)

    If you don't think these comments and many of the others are misogynistic, you need to examine your own attitudes.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray