Monday, May 7, 2007

Flaming Blogs

In an article published online today (May 7, 2007) in the San Jose Mercury News the author delves into the potentially dangerous world of “Flaming”. Flaming involves the criticism or verbal attacks (sometimes violent in nature) that have plagued online communities such as blogs since their creation. Recently there have been several well publicized events involving blogs in which an author’s life has been threatened in response to controversial posts put on their blogs. The attacks have involved both comments to the author in which she was told she would have her throat slit as well as a picture posted of her with a noose around her neck. In response there have been suggestions to institute codes of conduct on blog sites, but these have been met with huge resistance.

Obviously a huge part of this aggression comes from the fact that the threats can come with complete anonymity. I personally feel that this is simply the nature of the beast, in that the freedoms the web has granted us come with a price. Jeff Jarvis of the City University of New York states the issue quite clearly, “No one edits the Internet,” Jarvis said. Traditional "media are things you sanitize, control and put a bow on." The Web is not. Does this issue bring forth a need for some sort of control? Because the “flamers” in these groups represent such a small minority of the blogging community, it may be possible that a general and informal “be nice” code may be able to apply enough pressure on the “flamer” minority that the threats can be neutralized. Kirk Hanson (Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics) of our own Santa Clara University is also featured in the article supporting the idea of a code of blogging conduct. This very real problem does need a real solution, a code of conduct may help, but the problem may be much deeper than this.

Flame on: Hateful discourse in blogs scare some users away

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