Death Threats in the Blogosphere

[fr] Kathy Sierra, blogueuse réputée, fait l'objet de menaces de mort (et d'autres menaces à caractères sexuel) laissées sur son blog et sur un ou deux autres blogs gérés par d'autres personnalités connues de la blogosphère anglo-saxonne. A bout, elle a annulé ses conférences prévues aujourd'hui à ETech et est enfermée chez elle. Une enquête de police est en cours.

Kathy Sierra is somebody whose blog posts I never miss, because they’re always really really good material, and very though-provoking. I was about to head to bed when I saw a new one of her pop up in Google Reader. Just a quick nice read before I go to bed, I thought.

Not so.

In her latest post, Kathy Sierra reports that she has been receiving increasingly disturbing threats (death threats, and of sexual nature), to the point that she has cancelled her appearance at ETech and has locked herself up at home.

Many, many years ago, during my first year of discovering the internet, I received an e-mail containing quite graphicly described rape threats. I received two e-mails in total. The e-mails were anonymous, but it seemed clear from the wording that the person sending them knew at least something about who I was. They were for me, not a random send.

I started suspecting all my online friends, wondering which one of them was the nasty e-mail sender. I wasn’t too worried as I had been very secretive about my name and exact location at the time, but still — it was not a nice feeling at all. A few days, later, through an abuse complaint to Hotmail and a little sleuthing on my part, I managed to find out who it was. I played dead, nothing else happened, I left it at that and life went on, with no particularly averse consequences for me.

In this case, the threats Kathy has been getting have been left in the comments of her blog, or even published on other blogs managed by known names in the blogosphere.

For the last four weeks, I’ve been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that’s not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs… blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. People you’ve probably heard of.

Kathy, being her smart self, perfectly understands how threats like those she received do their damage.

Most of all, I now fully understand the impact of death threats. It really doesn’t make much difference whether the person intends to act on the threat… it’s the threat itself that inflicts the damage. It’s the threat that makes you question whether that “anonymous” person is as disturbed as their comments and pictures suggest.

It’s the threat that causes fear.

It’s the threat that leads you to a psychiatrist and tranquilizers just so you can sleep without repeating the endless loop of your death by:

  • throat slitting
  • hanging
  • suffocation and don’t forget the sexual part…

I have cancelled all speaking engagements.

I am afraid to leave my yard.

I will never feel the same. I will never be the same.

Unfortunately, understanding how it works is not helping her alleviate the damaging effects of those horrible threats.

Was all this intentional? Was this somebody (or a group-effect) taking “play” too far without realising they had crossed a line into (a) illegal and (b) really damaging behaviour?

I don’t know the people involved here — neither directly, nor really indirectly. I’m not sure who sides with who, who hates or despises who, or what the history is. Reading Kathy’s post gives some ideas, but no real answers. I sincerely hope the person/people behind this are found out. What’s going on here is utterly unacceptable.

And Kathy, hang in there. We want to see you back amongst us.

Selected posts on the topic (updated as comes):

Update: a little information about the background to meankids and unclebob can be found on the blog linked to in this comment (look through the February archive too).

Update, 28 March 2007: please read my second post on this topic too — Disturbed About Reactions to Kathy Sierra’s Post.

Update, 30 March 2007: for various reasons, I need to take a little distance from this whole sad affair (reasons like: not letting issues that do not concern me directly eat me up — and don’t make me say what I haven’t said with this, thanks). If I do bump into interesting links, I’ll keep adding them here, but please don’t expect this to be a complete list. It never was intended to. And it’s going to get spottier.

  • audio interview of Kathy Sierra about the whole mess
  • Kathy Sierra—When Blogs Attack — with a poll
  • Not looking for sympathy or anything by Dave Winer: Everyone played a role in this, the people who stopped blogging, the people who threatened their friends, the people who called it a gang rape, and yes indeed, the mean kids. But they’ve paid enough. It’s time to welcome them back into the blogging world, and in a few weeks, ask them to reflect on what they learned. These are all intelligent and creative people, who have acted badly. But they didn’t deserve what they got.
  • In the Matter of Kathy Sierra by Ronni Bennett
  • It’s all about Control by Shelley Powers
  • I Own my Own Words, indeed by Tara Hunt (apology re here)
  • Kathy Sierra, Meet Chris Locke. This is CNN. by Joey deVilla (Monday 6-9 Eastern)
  • Just a Few Words by Jeneane Sessum
  • Coordinated Statements on the Recent Events by Kathy Sierra and Chris Locke: Kathy Sierra and I (Chris Locke) agreed to publish these statements in advance of the story which will appear tomorrow (Monday 2 April 2007) on CNN, sometime between 6 and 9am on “CNN American Morning.” As used in the somewhat Victorian title slug, above, “coordinated” is meant to signal our joint effort to get this stuff online, not that we co-wrote the material you see here, or had any hand in prompting or editing each other’s words. We hope something new comes through in these statements, and that they will perhaps suggest more creative ways of approaching the kind of debate that has been generated around “the recent events” they relate to.

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This entry was posted in Connected Life, Stuff that doesn't fit and tagged Anecdotes, Announcements, bloggers, blogosophere, Blogosphere Interest, blogs, Citations, deaththreats, etech, etech07, kathysierra, meankids, Offsite, threats, unclebob, unclebobism, Vie de la blogosphère. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Death Threats in the Blogosphere

  1. Henning says:

    It is disturbing indeed. I am disturbed about the motivation, asking myself what this person hopes to achieve. I don’t think several people are behind this all. Threats are usually something emerging out of personal hate or jealousy. Rarely they are formulated by a group of people.

    Whoever it is, he takes the risk of being exposed. He obviously doesn’t fear that risk, maybe it’s even something he craves. He may share the urge for recognition with many alike, people who can’t produce much of their own, so they seek to become recognized for the only action they are capable of, destruction and disturbance.

    Without any substance, this is meant to be dismissed. But I fully understand the personal fear and disturbance Kathy must be going through.

  2. Lloyd Budd says:

    Most I hope that all the people involved will be able to heal.

  3. Shocking stuff. I’ve also posted about it.

    Great site BTW

  4. Stephanie says:

    I see my concern changing as the blogwave catches on. Now more and more people are reporting distorted versions of the story (by oversimplifying), and calling facts things which are hypotheses.

    I hope there is not a backlash created by the mob effect which will make more victimes than there already were in this story.

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  6. Joey says:

    There was no threat made to Kathy. The entire thing is a misunderstanding or an intentional hoax which stems from my criticism of her books. I am the “Joey” she is referring to and I ask that you read my reply at her site; assuming she doesn’t delete it.

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  12. J S Zolliker says:

    I could find no justification at all; nevermind the arguments. Intolerance, violence, sexual harasment is all I find. Why, I ask. Where is the critisism there? I’ve had my share of threats since I publish a lot of political issues, and I do confirm it changes your life and perception. Why the hell does anybody does something like that ? I mean, I’m aware I step in some serious interests, in some big toes, but what the hell is happening here?… Jeez! Im shoked!

  13. With respect for Kathy…


    Kathy Seirra, one of the top three bloggers that I know of has been under attack. The short story is some people thought it would be comical, daring, or cool to slander the woman over the internet for whatever reason. The entire situation is foolish bu…

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