I don't know if you've read about the death threats made against blogger Kathy Sierra and the blogosphere's response, including discussions about the need to foster a culture of web civility.
If not, you can catch up with this post and link from Sierra's blog, this joint statement by Sierra and Chris Locke (some of the threatening comments and images were posted on Locke's meankids.org blog, in addition to on Sierra's blog), and this NYT article, "A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs," that discusses the issue and offers links to some suggested codes of conduct.
This morning, I read "Bloggers, Don Imus and free speech," a column in today's Salon.com by Joan Walsh, who earlier wrote this thoughtful piece about the Sierra threats, "Men who hate women on the web." It got me thinking about it all again.
I don't know how I'd react to such threats online. However, I do clearly remember getting a nasty, anonymous note in response to a "letter to the editor" I'd written (criticizing some Bush administration policy) that was published in the Mercury News a few years ago. It was unsettling to think that some warped individual was angry enough and motivated enough to look up my home address and send me an obscene, threatening note. It made me feel like I should be looking over my shoulder; it made me wonder if this nutcase was motivated enough to show up on my doorstep someday. It was kind of scary.
Clearly, that note was meant to intimidate me...to shut me up. Unfortunately, I have to say it did...at least for a while. It made me think twice about submitting any more letters to the editor. It didn't totally stop me, but it did give me pause...and if I'm completely honest, it probably deterred me from writing a few times...before I got over it.
And that was just one threatening letter. I really don't know how I'd deal with an onslaught of nastiness and threatening comments on one of my blogs.
None of that has stopped me from blogging. And if you've read my blog, you know I don't shy away from criticizing the Bush administration. But, hey, my blog isn't exactly well-known or popular, so it's not exactly an issue at this point.
What I do know is that I'd have no qualms about deleting blog comments that are offensive, or blocking comments from mean, nasty or threatening individuals...on this blog or any of my class blogs. Maybe it's the teacher in me; maybe it's because they're my blogs.
I've never had to remove a student post, although I have talked to a student about a post that I felt was inappropriate. I explained why, and I asked the student to modify the post. That took care of it.
I hope that's the most I ever have to do.
Oh, if you have a moment, please check out Kathy Sierra's blog, Creating Passionate Users. Right now she's put up a "best of" series of posts that's simply fascinating. She's an original thinker, and it would be a loss to the rest of us if we let nasty web trolls knock people like her off the web.
(A version of this post is cross-posted on one of my class blogs.)