Today, Tara linked to the comments on Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch blog that featured a video of a female CEO demonstrating how her new product works. Tara wrote: “Check out the awful comments on this post.”
Here is the math on this admittedly small and unscientific sample: Out of 45 comments, 13 referenced the CEO’s femininity, her looks, or her sexual appeal.
11 of those are anonymous.
Let me point that out again, in reverse. 11 out of 13 comments that reference the CEO’s sexuality are anonymous.
There has been a lot of sturm und drang in the last two days about the problem of hateful, sexist, mysoginistic and downright threatening language on the internet.
I have thought of one simple action that we can all take to help mitigate this problem.
Do not allow anonymous comments on your blog.
To me, the overall culture of aggression on the internet is fed by the
anonymity afforded so many of its participants. When speech is
disconnected from identity, it is also disconnected from consequences.
People who hide behind anonymity feel free to say things
they would never say if they thought their words could be linked with
their true identity.
It is true that there will always be people who find ways to hide their
identity. But if we didn’t hand the cloak of anonymity out so freely,
fewer people would feel comfortable spewing vitriol. The chorus would
be muted and the true and terrifying sound of hate would be at once
more marginalized and more obvious.
And before anyone goes all Thomas-Paine-published-Common-Sense-anonymously on me, may I point out that you don’t need protection from the dominant culture when you are a mouthpiece for it?
I’m looking for someone who will design a small banner for my blog that indicates that anonymous comments are not allowed. I am happy to pay for such a design and would offer it for free to anyone who wanted to use it on his or her blog. If you know any designers who might be interested, please send them my way.
My initial thought was to use the phrase from the WELL: "You Own Your Own Words" but on second thought, maybe it should be "You Are Your Own Words."
Ideas, thoughts, non-anonymous comments?