Monday, March 26, 2007

Stalking? Death threats? Hey, people, that's not free speech!

I have nothing brilliant to add to the burgeoning discussion about the cyberstalking and abuse that Kathy Sierra is experiencing.

It's gross and appalling and truly incomprehensible. It makes me sad. Not just for Kathy, but for those of us who believe in the positive potential of the blogosphere and the Internet in general. What a blow to optimism and to passion to see the dark side of the Internet in such stark relief.

I fear that the online world makes it easier and more untraceable for sickos to go after the prominent people that catch their anti-fancy for whatever reason they do. Death threats have been arriving in the mailboxes of women leaders and actors and politicians and news anchors for a very long time (and men too, I should hasten to add) and just as the Internet allows us to distribute our views across time and space in a way that simply wasn't possible in the past, so too does the Internet enable hate to be the message that is thus widely and rapidly distributed.

Only not really. There are some things that cross legal lines.

Kathy has done the right thing by taking legal action, I have no doubt about it.

And I want to thank Robert Scoble for being a very prominent male blogger who is willing to connect the dots between the smaller indignities that women experience in our world and the clearly-over-the-line abuse that Kathy has experienced. Women have been saying it for quite some time, and I may not like it that those statements have not been enough, but if it will help, then I will take every male supporter we can find.

If we operated in an industry where it was not tolerated for conference backchannels and blog comments to regularly discuss women's body parts and said body parts having some relationship to brains, then perhaps it would begin to address some of the issues I regularly talk about here regarding women at conferences, and in tech in general.

Would it stop the truly sick f*cks by whom Kathy has been unfairly set upon? Sadly, I doubt it. There will always be truly sick f*cks, and they need to be found and dealt with as criminals.

But maybe it might make plain old jerks and a-holes think twice.

Sorry, but I think sometimes profanity is appropriate, and I think this is one of those times.

Sad day in the blogosphere.

And you can be sure that violence against women makes every day a sad day somewhere in this world.


U.S. Government Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook

U.S. Government Office on Violence Against Women

Amnesty International's Stop Violence Against Women program

Working to Halt Online Abuse's compilation of cyber-stalking laws

Online Harassmen/Cyberstalking statistics

Thanks for posting this, Elisa.
And just because you have freedom of speech, that doesn't mean I have to think everything you say is fine. Some of it is perfectly legal and yet morally reprehensible.
Thanks for writing this Elisa! It's heartening to know you feel about it. That helps.

- Liz H.
Thanks everyone.

Totally agree that legal does not equal socially acceptable.

We can all take actions. I strongly believe in economic boycotts for example. Refusing to spend money with companies that behave perfectly legally, but against my ethical standards, is my most powerful political tool (IMHO.)

On the internet I suppose traffic and links and attention are our currency.

Which begs the question: are we actually filling the coffers of evil by blogging so much about this?
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?

MAY 04, 2007






5429 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

May 25 - June 30, 2007
Performances: Friday and Saturday 8PM For Tickets Please Call: 323-525-0600 Ext 2# Tickets $20

"One of the finest, most disturbing American plays in years"--Richard Zoglin, Time Magazine

Director Cindy Jenkins versatile Los Angeles directing credits include Stephen Sondheims' Assassins, Foe Pa: Episode 6 at the Fountain, Voices From Chornobyl and Philoktetes.
Cindy had the rare pleasure of stage managing Sir Ian McKellen's one-man show A Knight Out In L.A. at UCLA live. She is a member of Syzygy Theatre Group, for whom she recently produced, Tender, the hit show, chosen Critic's Choice by the L.A. Times and will also will host a reading of her newest play Greek Cycle:The One True Gods. A graduate of NYU in Drama Direction. Cindy directed many works in NewYork, including Missing Something by Stephen Fulchino. Antigone at Collective/Unconscious and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She has adapted several children's stories
for the stage, including King Arthur and is currently the Dramaturge for Venice: the Musical by G.F. Mlely. Her husband is the talented Lighting Designer Dan Jenkins.

Playwright Rebecca Gilman was a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for her play, The Glory of Living. Her drama credits include Dollhouse, Boy Gets Girl, and Blue Surge. Her plays have been produced in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre, in London at the Royal Court Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, Joseph Papp’s Public Theater,Manhattan Theatre Club, and Manhattan Class Company including theaters around the country and abroad. Gilman is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Prince Prize for Commissioning New Work,
The Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, The Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, and The George Devine Award. Her film adaptation of her play Spinning Into Butter, will star Sarah Jessica Parker,

For reviewer reservations, industry comps and media requests
Please Contact: Integrity Publicity
LA:Robert Axelrod- 213-483-1449
NY:Sheryl Mandel- 718-352-6976

Its getting crazy out there, now there are whole companies dedicated to helping you manage whats being said about you online. I found this article/video about a company that helps you to do that.

Probably a little to extreme for everyday cyberbullying, but in extreme cases, or when it might impact your professional life.

I think that this is a good stop gap, but law enforcment really should go after these people with stronger penalities.
I just want to let everyone know that I think the ad for the production BOY GETS GIRL on this blog is morally reprehensible and please know that I was not the person who posted it, and am appalled that my name is on it.
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