Monday, April 30, 2007

Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers

From the WaPo

A female freelance writer who blogged about the pornography industry was threatened with rape. A single mother who blogged about "the daily ins and outs of being a mom" was threatened by a cyber-stalker who claimed that she beat her son and that he had her under surveillance. Kathy Sierra, who won a large following by blogging about designing software that makes people happy, became a target of anonymous online attacks that included photos of her with a noose around her neck and a muzzle over her mouth.

As women gain visibility in the blogosphere, they are targets of sexual harassment and threats. Men are harassed too, and lack of civility is an abiding problem on the Web. But women, who make up about half the online community, are singled out in more starkly sexually threatening terms -- a trend that was first evident in chat rooms in the early 1990s and is now moving to the blogosphere, experts and bloggers said. more

This confirms something I figured out a decade ago, that the internet allows people to behave badly with no consequences. As internet usage has become more widely available across the globe the number of people the number of people that are inclined in that direction has increased. In fact one could probably argue quite successfully that the internet attracts the very worst of those as the media content they would be most interested in can be found easily, privately, and on demand 24/7.

Thats being said there are a few things that female bloggers can do to help prevent such threats and once they occur to assess the actual level of danger involved.

The article advises that one should have a code of conduct posted and then moderate any comments that don't adhere to that. I have a few additional ideas that may be of use.

1: I don't recommend that anyone gives out their whole name in a public forum (especially if you have an uncommon last name like me). Its easy to use someones IP address to locate the city and zip code of a site user and use that info to get your phone number and then your address. That doesn't work if you're blogging as an expert in an industry.

2: Always moderate and never respond to threats and for Pete's sake don't go posting on their blog afterwards or even visit it (unless you use a proxy server like

3: Asses the level of threat. Somebody half the world away isn't as much of a physical danger as someone in the same city. If your blog software doesn't provide user location data based on IPs then consider installing sitemeter which does track that info.

4: Report their threats to the local police, their web host, and their ISP. Such conduct is against the terms of service of most ISPs and hosting companies.

We can't stop this behaviour but we can all do something to discourage it. If I've overlooked anything feel free to make suggestions.