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.
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
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):
- Way Way Over the Edge by Tim Bray
- What is Wrong with Internet People? (or: Kathy Sierra vs. the Internet Creeps) (and also The Downside of Having a Web Presence (or: Kathy Sierra vs. the Anonymous Web Thugs)) by Joey deVilla
- Death Threats Against Bloggers by Maryam Scoble
- This is Unacceptable by Michael Arrington
- Thank you Kathy Sierra, and Best Wishes! by Sean Osteen
- Taking the Week Off by Robert Scoble (how much of this is a knee-jerk reaction? I personally don’t think it’s a good idea) Update: check out How Awful.
- Kathy Sierra Death Threats by Stowe Boyd (with some insider info)
- Kathy Sierra Getting Death Threats, Internet Reaches New Low by Josh Bancroft
- Patriarchy exists and we’re kicking its ass by Liz Henry
- Disappointed by Shelley Powers (context here! Yes, Shelley, some of us would really like more of this context thing…)
- Creating Passionate Users: Death threats against bloggers are NOT by John P. Daigle
- Blogger Gets Death Threats by Frederic (comment on blogohysteria, the blogmob I’m just noticing now)
- Misogyny and anonymity by Seth Godin
- Death and rape threats are criminal by Kevin Marks (more background information here)
- Mere Anarchy by Frank Paynter (background on unclebob and meankids from one who set them up)
- “Joey” comments on Kathy’s blog: one, two, three, four, five; does this shed light on some horrible misunderstanding, or are they just lies? See also Brent’s response to the first comment.
- Safe havens for hate speech are irresponsible by danah boyd
- It’s Awful. Yes. by MJ (about harassment)
- re Kathy Sierra’s allegations, by Chris Locke (his side of the story)
- Mind Killer by Baldur
- Memo to Kathy Sierra and Chris Locke: Shut Up by Jerry Bowles
- Women as targets of violence online by Stephanie Quilao
- The threats of death and sexual assualt by Eric Rice
- The Unsinkable Kathy Sierra by Tara Hunt who has first-hand information
- In defense of Chris Locke by Nick Denton (a bit ironic IMHO as the first VW post contributed to putting Locke’s role forward)
- Was Kathy Sierra’s Life Threatened? by Lewis Green
- Anonymity, Interpellation, Truth, Ignorance, and the Stakes by AKMA
- Are Scoble & Sierra Wrong To Stop Blogging? by Piers Fawkes
- A message to the techblogging elite by Michelle Malkin
- Getting past the bottom of What Went Wrong by Doc Searls
- I had Death Threats in High School by Chris Pirillo
- Alan Herrell on The Meankids Mess by Stowe Boyd (Alan Herrell reports being victim of identity theft)
- Kathy Sierra interview in MacWorld
- The Sierra Saga Part 1: Dissecting the Creation of the Kathy Sierra Blog Storm and The Sierra Saga Part 2: Big Bad Bob and the Lull Before the Kathy Sierra Blog Storm by Jim Turner (good account of the facts so far, exact as far as I can say)
- Intention, pain and webs by Tom Matrullo (background info on meankids.org by a contributor)
- actually, head off to Google Blogsearch or Technorati for the latest.
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.