It's worth asking the question. Even in the absence of answers, we should all stop for a moment and ponder what it means to have privacy in the age of new media. AdWeek just published an interesting article that discusses issues like libel and invasion of privacy (re: Martin Sorrell of WPP):
"... in an era when digital communications allows anyone to become a publisher, the case is believed to be one of the first high-profile actions based on blog postings and an e-mailed jpeg."
This case will shed some light, unflattering that it may be, on the very important issue of invasion of privacy. The truth is, we are not prepared with a consistent and rock solid body of laws; this is still uncharted territory. Alan Dershowitz spoke similarly about the serious issue of preemption from his new book a few months ago: the body of jurisprudence is not formed around it yet.
Conspicuously absent in this conversation is the idea that we should expect a reasonably safe environment online. After all if it is possible to track digital signatures for the purposes on convenience, it should also be possible to do that in cases like the one Kathy Sierra is facing now (warning: graphic content displayed and strong language). Death threats?
Alas, once again, the target of violence threats is a woman. Shrouded in comfortable anonymity, the bullies du jour display unacceptable behavior. This is a terrible thing that threatens everyone's sense of well being and the very freedom that these tools allows us to have.
And somehow diminishes us all in that we share a common trait in humanity. It is reasonable to expect privacy, yet we should fight anonymity. When we attach a name to a statement, we shine a light of accountability on people's actions. That is good.
This is not only a case of collegial support. This is as serious as it gets. Others have said it with me, in different ways:
- Misogyny and anonymity, Seth Godin
- On Death Threats and the Blogosphere, Steve Rubel
- The Ugly Side, David Armano
- In Solidarity with Kathy Sierra, Roger von Oech
- The Blog Post I Hoped I Never Had to Write..., Hugh MacLeod
- My Internet is a Bully Free Zone, Gavin Heaton
- The Dark Side of the Moon, Gianandrea Facchini
- Taking the Week off, Robert Scoble
- Women as Targets of Violence Online, Stephanie Quilao [update]
It's worth asking the question, and raising the issue. For all of our sakes. This kind of behavior did not start online. It is my hope we can stop it there in its tracks, legally and very publicly. How can we support Kathy and others? By sharing information on ethical behavior and teaching guidelines for online conversations.