Personal Attacks

Today I have spent lot of time reflecting on our class discussion from last Monday, regarding personal threats that may appear on blog sites. Unfortunately, as we acknowledged, verbal and physical attacks are common issues that present themselves in our society on a daily basis. I immediately thought about the article we read, titled: "Death threats against bloggers are NOT 'protected speech'" as I came across a related issue last night. I was at the Mickey Avalon concert, which took place by the CMC senior apartments. A close friend of mine was pushing through the crowd (just like everybody else was doing), in hopes of getting to the front and having the honor of shaking Mickey Avalon's hand. A drunk, and seemingly irritated boy started yelling at her for cutting in front of him, and purposely poured his entire cup of beer all over her head. Understandably startled, and attempting to defend herself, my friend asked him what his problem was, and yelled at him for spilling his drink all over her, simply because she was pushing through the crowd like everybody else. Next, my friend decided to walk off and get away for a bit, as she decided to sit down on the curb and take a breather. The boy followed her and suddenly kicked her really hard in the back, yelling a bunch of terrible things at her.
Ok, so we're not exactly dealing with death threats or inappropriate sexual connotations in this story, however it truly captures the ultimate concepts displayed during our class discussion. Each day, innocent people are attacked for innocent behaviors – sometimes minor behavioral mishaps. This occurs in public situations, such as that of my friend's, and this occurs all over the Internet, such as in cases like the death threats provided in our class handout. Unfortunately, it seems that only in situations such as my friend's, do our society and police department take the verbal and physical violence to heart. I began to wonder: If the security guards at the concert could take the time to comfort my friend, and encourage her to file a police report against the man who was making nasty verbal throats, and actually following the act of physical violence, why can't they do the same for people who receive threats over the Internet? I completely agree with the last page of the article, when Kathy Sierra states: "I would never be for censoring speech--these people can say all the misogynistic, vile, tasteless things they like--but we must preserve that line where words and images become threats of violence." If this is the case for those who encounter verbal and physical threats of violence in the world outside of the web, then the same rules should apply to those that spend time blogging on the Internet, as blog sites have made their name as a world of their own. I know it sounds strange, but it feels as though there should be a "web police," where somebody monitors and charges those who make inappropriate remarks or threats. Maybe this already exists and I am completely unaware, or maybe this is just not possible, but something needs to be done in order for our society to feel safe – whether its spending time out in public, or spending time at home on the net.
How do all of you guys feel about this matter? I am curious…

How does "the boy followed her and suddenly kicked her really hard in the back, yelling a bunch of terrible things at her" = threat on a blog? Not at all. Actions speak a lot louder than words, and acting on a threat is much worse than making the threat. A physical act of violence carries a lot more hoop la, at least to me, then a threat on a blog. (I can't verbalize the idea that there is something distinctly different between blog posts and real life violence).

Looking at the situation objectively: Who kicks someone? CmC wtf?

Its not about the content of the attack/threat that was made...I was trying to express the idea that when these sorts of verbal attacks take place in the world outside of the net, there exists a stronger level of security as oppose to that on the Internet. I was simply trying to acknowledge the fact that the growth of the worldwide web offers us an additional world from the one in which we live, and there exists less safety...Obviously the situation of my friend, and that of the article are not exactly the same, I was just using an example of personal attacks taking place outside of blogsites.

Wow. I feel sorry for your friend -- jerks and alcohol don't mix well.

Your mention of "web police" set off a lot of flashing red lights in my brain. It just sounds WAY to Orwellian for me to be OK with. On a small scale, it happens all the time and should -- administrators or moderators often kick out users on message boards who violate terms of service or say something inappropriate, for example. This makes sense, as these people either own or represent those who own the site on which the postings are made. But "web police" implies some sort of massive overarching organization that is rooted, ultimately, in either Internet Service Provider or the government. This, I don't like. This is the very reason people are concerned about maintaining net neutrality. The minute a governmental organization or a private company has control over what is deemed "appropriate" online, this power can be easily abused to censor dissident opinions. The FCC has this power over TV and radio, but that's because they're on public airwaves. Besides, many argue that the FCC is all that's wrong with broadcasting today.

That's not to say that cases like Sierra's shouldn't be brought to the police or to court. I just mean that nobody should "monitor," as you suggest. Law enforcement should only deal with cases that victims choose to bring to them.