Kathy Sierra situation: Bloggers code of conduct to stamp Cyber Bullies
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Kathy Sierra situation: Bloggers code of conduct to stamp Cyber Bullies

You must have heard of the Kathy Sierra situation; Bloggers-commenters ‘killing’ bloggers..

The female technology blogger — Sierra is a programming instructor and game developer — has come down under severe attacks for her views, and was inundated with hate mails and threats of sexual violence — mostly from anonymous bloggers-commenters.

The net effect is to stop her from blogging, and to prevent her from attending and speaking at blogs and industry-related conferences. In short, to kill her existence in the blogosphere.

The reality is: Sierra, author of popular blog Creating Passionate Users, has quit blogging after receiving several death threats. The prominent one was a post that featured a picture of her next to a noose (see screenshot below as the offensive blog has been suspended by wordpress.com).


All sorts of victims

However, when the Kathy Sierra situation was exposed, what startled Internet thinkers is that Sierra’s case wasn’t an isolated one. Cyber bullying, in fact, is rampant.

“As well as around 900 comments on my blog and hundreds of comments on other blogs, I have received around 300 personal e-mails and about 70% of them say they have been through a similar thing,” Sierra told the BBC News recently.

It is unclear who the authors of the threats are but Sierra said she was particularly disturbed that some of them were hosted on blogs that are authored by or owned by a group that includes some prominent bloggers.

While blogging feuds are common, Sierra believes the campaign against her is more likely to be because she is a woman in the male-dominated technology world, the BBC reported.

Interestingly, too, there were bloggers who claimed that their online identity had been hijacked (compromised, imposted etc) in the attacks against Sierra.

Allen Herrell, one of the accused attackers in the Kathy Sierra controversy, has written a long email to Doc Searls explaining that his entire online identity has been compromised. And Mitch Ratcliffe, another ZDNet blogger, seems to support Herrel’s theory.


That prompted Internet luminary in the league of Tim ‘Web2.0’ O’Reilly to voice out, calling for immediate remedy. Recently, Tim spoke through BBC Radio Five Live on the need to formalise blogging behaviour:

“I do think we need some code of conduct around what is acceptable behaviour, I would hope that it doesn’t come through any kind of [legal/government] regulation it would come through self-regulation.”

While condemning the bloggers who issued the threats, Mr O’Reilly was keen that the whole blogosphere should not be tarred with the same brush.

“The fact that there’s all these really messed-up people on the internet is not a statement about the internet. It is a statement about those people and what they do and we need to basically say that you guys are doing something unacceptable and not generalise it into a comment about this is what’s happening to the blogosphere.”

Denise Howell, a US lawyer and blogger who writes the Lawgarithms column on ZDNet, has a take on the isseu pursuant to Tim’s opinion over BBC.


How do we deal with anonymous commenters who spill hatred and issue threats? “There is an unwritten rule in the blogosphere that it is wrong to delete nasty comments. It suggests that you can’t take criticism but now there is a sense that this is nonsense,” Sierra said.

Sierra has called upon her blog readers and the blogger fraternity to enter the debate.

“If you want to do something about it, do not tolerate the kind of abuse that includes threats or even suggestions of violence (especially sexual violence). Do not put these people on a pedestal. Do not let them get away with calling this “social commentary”, “protected speech”, or simply “criticism”,” she said on her blog.

For a start, many bloggers have turned off the readers feedback facility on their blogs that allows for anonymous posts.

Robert Scoble, founder of the Scobleizer blog who works as PodTech.net‘s Vice President of Media Development, decided to stop blogging for a week in support of Sierra.

That’s the other end of self-regulation for you.