The cruel web

Dateline: Wed 01 Aug 2007

Pete Miesel of Boulder sent an interesting and timely article from USA Today, regarding the anything-goes mentality when it comes to rude, crude and threatening comments that litter the web. The issue plagues not only bloggers and their readers -- Wilson Allen of Indianapolis complained Tuesday that he was called a "fairy" in comments on Abdul's Indiana Barrister blog -- but also newspapers. All you have to do is read the comments sprinkled over Indystar.com to wonder if anyone is monitoring these sites, which is the point Miesel raises:

"Considering how nasty and racist the Indy Star boards have rapidly

become, do you think Ryerson is paying attention?" he asks.

In an email sent Tuesday, Wilson Allen sounded a similar concern:

"We all read Abdul Hakim-Shabazz Indiana Barrister now and then but

last night Abdul let the discussion thread get totally get out of

control. I was called a deviant and a fairy - when I complained to

Abdul, I was told to leave and to get out. Some of his commentators

chimed in and approved. Abdul told me I had to learn to take it like

he does. Sadly, he said he is too busy to moderate. He permits

grossly homophobic cracks to remain. Gays are not welcome to

participate obviously."

Here are some excerpts from USA Today:

"Nasty comments, sometimes even death threats, have become ubiquitous on virtually any website that seeks to engage readers in discussion.

"'Ur ugly u suk and u should die,' says a typical comment beneath one of Brodack's many videos. Such vulgar messages have inspired heated discussions, and video responses, on YouTube.

"The Internet always has had an anything-goes atmosphere where flame wars and harsh language are common. Now there are more places than ever for people to spout their thoughts, often with relative anonymity, thanks to the explosion in blogs, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and comments sections on nearly every news site.

"But a series of incidents, including one involving a female technology blogger who briefly went into hiding after receiving sexually explicit death threats, has made online incivility an increasingly hot topic and fueled a debate over how to balance free speech with social etiquette.

"'The information superhighway has become the mean streets of cyburbia," says Silicon Valley technology forecaster Paul Saffo. 'It's just gotten steadily worse.'"

This blog has been fortunate to have intelligent readers who keep their cool. If anyone ever reads anything here that is offensive to the point of cruelty, however, call me -- 317-371-3925 -- or fire off an email. I prefer to keep civility alive a bit longer.

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