I read a few posts today on the deplorable harassment of Kathy Sierra (read Scoble, Feld, Kathy’s Site). Basically, Kathy is giving up on blogging and public speaking out of fear due to a series of death threats and online sexual harassment.
It’s absolutely disgusting. And as someone who has been a member of online culture since the BBSs of the 1980’s, I’m simply embarrassed.
There is one way to describe those who perpetuate this- fucking cowards.
I know these people. They are everywhere on the Internet- hiding behind semi-anonymous IP addresses and spewing their garbage on every forum, IRC channel, or blog they can slap their pathetic personality on. I know them in the real world; too cowardly to face authority, but more than willing to make anyone they perceive as weaker miserable for no more reason than to inflate their pathetic egos. I’ve helped more than a few of them learn just exactly how “special” they are as we kicked them out or took them to jail.
I’m probably violating my policy of not blogging about technology, but this is a cultural issue, not an industry issue.
Except that it highlights the need for those of us in security and law enforcement to provide the same protections online that we do in the physical world. We can’t do this just by hiding behind our own walls; we need to band together as a community and figure out ways to improve online safety without violating online privacy (the usual mistake). Our society has very very few limits on freedom of speech, but threats and harassment to create fear are clearly unacceptable.
Reading Kathy’s blog it looks like she is already working with law enforcement, and I sincerely hope they catch and prosecute those involved.
There is no excuse for this. We cannot tolerate it. And those of us in security have the same responsibilities online as we do in the physical world to do our part.