Tim O'Reilly's code of (mis)conduct

Summary:Tim O'Reilly blames messed-up people for corrupting the blogosphere. He wants a code of conduct that will clean up the anonymous Internet. But he's unwilling to sanction any sort of government intervention. He's wrong. What we need is the outlawing of anonymity. That's the only way to clean up the cyberswamp.

So Tim O'Reilly, Web 2.0's philosopher-king apologist, has an excuse for the rampant and uncontrollable misogyny of the blogosphere. In response to the Kathy Sierra outrage, O'Reilly told the BBC:

 "The fact that there's all these really messed-up people on the internet is not a statement about the internet. It is a statement about those people and what they do and we need to basically say that you guys are doing something unacceptable and not generalise it into a comment about this is what's happening to the blogosphere."

Wrong. O'Reilly sounds like a libertarian spokesman for the NRA. Guns don't kill people, the anti firearms lobby claim, people kill people. Thus, the O'Reilly line goes, blogs don't sexually humiliate and threaten women, male internet bloggers sexually humiliate & threaten women. But the problem is that the blogosphere has been colonized by a type of technophile male whose dialectic method is insult rather than polite argument. And this rotten culture of anonymity has spawned a contemporary Internet of social deviants, loonies, perverts and get-a-lifers (not to mention weird Second Lifers). The consequence is digital miasma -- what Timothy Garton-Ash called the "cyberswamp."

To be fair to O'Reilly, he does acknowledge that bloggers need what he calls "a code of conduct." But, in conformity with his right wing libertarian ideology, O'Reilly rejects all government intervention. Thus, he suggests that it's the misogynous blogosphere which should be responsible for policing itself (what he calls "self regulation"). That's like placing all law and order in the hands of gun owners or putting mentally unbalanced inmates in charge of the asylum.

I have a suggestion of my own. It's the anti O'Reilly code; a left wing answer to the ills of digital universe (authored from my castle in the People's Republic of Berkeley). We need to make anonymous posts illegal. Let's devise software that forces everyone to reveal their true identity before posting anything on the Internet. And how should we punish those miscreants who cling to their digital anonymity in spite of the draconian new law? A few weeks in an Internet free jail, perhaps. And, for repeat offenders, a date with Amanda Chapel.

Topics: Browser

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