Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This Crap Stops Now

Like Leonard Pitts said last month, "This is the first and last time you'll ever read this: I agree with James Dobson."

I guess I'm having a Leonard Pitts moment: At some point, you have to stand up for decency. I got that freedom-of-speech stuff pounded into me pretty good at the Indiana University School of Journalism, and I have to say I still believe that John Milton got it right way back in 1644, with the Areopagitica:
And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter.
But read this post by Kathy Sierra, about how blogged threats of murder and sexual crimes are keeping her a prisoner in her home, and you begin to wonder. I don't think the answer is to legislate morality on the Net. But I do think that, anonymity and geographical isolation aside, we are a community, and we'd bloody well better act like one and ostracize these animals.

I, for one, would be perfectly happy with a Net that's strongly authenticated. Level playing field: I can't post without revealing who I am, but the FBI agent snooping my blog is traceable too, as well as the terrorist schmuck he's after.
Whether or not we get that, socio/psychopaths won't give a rip if we shun or despise them. But for those who feel safe offending merely because they think they can't be outed:

Think twice.

Once you post this kind of garbage, you can never be sure that tomorrow you won't find your name plastered all over the Net as that of a wannabe sex offender. You know, the Net that your kids live in? That one. Can you really trust everyone in the chain to keep your secret? Because that's all it takes, you know. The ISP. The person on whose blog you comment. Someone performing an analysis of your text and comparing it with what you might have posted elsewhere, under your real name. Your friend or family member who happens to catch this sick stuff on your monitor.

Oh, we won't libel you. No need. All it takes is your identity, connected with a reasonably high confidence factor to some of the filth you put online. Nonrepudiation's a bitch, ain't it?

I'm off to offer Kathy a word of support. Hope you do too.



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