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

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.

TOPICS: Browser

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.

Topic: Browser

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  • I'm not sure I agree.

    What O'Reilly says is that these people have bad characters in the first place. The anonymity creates an environment that these people abuse. However, anonymity protects all of us from other wierdo's and guarantees freedom of speech since the consequences will not be faced (for good or for bad). If you remove anonymity then people doing serious blogging might face jail. The world can't have it both ways. Take away blogs you take away a way of expressing oneself. Take away guns and people cannot kill other people with a gun.
    • Exactly.

      This is just one more(and it should be vary obvious)instance of a situation where there are some problematic flaws in the status quo, but the only solution to the problematic flaws present new problems far greater then the original problematic flaws.

      There are a whole pile of things like this in life where some self styled genius figures out a situation isn't perfect and decides the solution is to bring in measures that increase accountability by destroying some assortment of freedoms the public makes use of as a whole, and to live without would soon present problems that are far worse.

      To begin with, people are not so anonymous on the internet that they cannot be tracked down if the problem is important enough. Secondly, any measures used to make users more transparent would in all likelihood soon be circumvented by some clever hackers and we would be back to using original methods for identifying web-surfers in important situations the hard way.

      So long as there are jackass's in abundance on the web people have to take the internet for what it is and understand that everything you might hear or read on the web is not always truthful, factual or even make any sense at all at times. A reality check is in order and not some crude demand for removing anonymity.
  • What a load of garbage

    anonymity is what allows people who have information that needs to be heard but that would compromise them post it for others if the price for freedom is a few quacks and loud mouths so what.I would rather be free,but it seems that those in America would rather have all their freedom taken from them in the name of safety.The net like the world should stay FREE!!!!!!
  • anonymity is part of everyday life

    even without the internet. just because you can see someone's face doesn't make them any less anonymous. a few days ago I talked to a lady... i know where she works and what she looks like, but absolutely nothing else. i guess the definition of anonymous is fuzzy. I know about as much about that lady as one would find out from a so-called "Anonymous" meeting, like AA.

    In the car we're surrounded by anonymous people who might beep or curse or flip the bird.

    At a bar, most people would never karaoke or hit the dance floor without the fact that, besides who they're with, no one knows who they are and will probably never see them again.

    There's good and bad anonymity, but it's nothing that will be illegal ever.
  • Only true crimminals can post anonymously

    So only those that have false IDs will be able to speak out
    against some ills without having to put in real name.
    We can't get total ID verification for physically
    entering the country. How could it work on the Cyber world?
    People get their identity stolen all the time.
    Why punish all the honest folks that want to speak up?
    If a site is abusive, don't go.
    When the traffic gets low enough, the moderator will do something. You are not forced to go to any site.
    Network TV is seeing this trend and can't figure out that they
    need to have more family friendly programming.
    (more teen sex and profanity rah!)
    • If a site is abusive, don't go....flawed argument

      Why should I, or anyone, have to avoid a site or forum that may potentially provide information or education because of hateful idiots? People, all people, have the right to navigate the world without harassment or threats of violence. Having someone post a comment on your blog that is hateful, mysogynistic and potentially violent (all under the guise of precious anonyminity) is akin to a stranger walking up to you in the grocery store and doing the same thing because they overheard a conversation you were having.

      Blame the victim and not hold the perpetrators accountable. That's a flawed mode of thinking.

      Hey ladies, never leave the house. If you do, we can't be held responsible if you're raped.
      • Happens all the time.

        [pre]akin to a stranger walking up to you in the grocery store and doing the same thing because they overheard a conversation you were having[/pre]

        I don't know how many times this has actually happened to me. I've also had people tell me my dogs are killers (rottweilers) that my husband is evil (don't know WTF that came from).

        Sites do hold the perpetrators accountable. Most sites will ban obnoxious people (unless your going to "wehatewomen.com" in which case what the hell are you doing there).

        Nobody's blaming the victim. However I do believe that as a woman I have a responsibility to myself to do everything in my power to avoid a situation in which I may be raped.
        mad tabby
  • More Government Help?

    Haven't we all learned by now that government is hopelessly unable to solve society's ills? Let's see, public schools, the war on poverty, an almost bankrupt social security system - the list of failures is very long. Let's not add another. I don't find these miscreant bloggers a problem because I don't bother to read their junk. They need to get a life, and the people who read their stuff need to get a life as well. They can blog all the garbage they want -- let's just ignore them. When I see nut cases walking down the street talking to the air, I don't feel obligated to throw them in jail. I just let them rant - and ignore them.
    • Whose failures are these?

      Most of the "failures" you list, to the extent they are failures, are crippled because the people running them have had to cater to the right-wingers who want them to fail, and the kneejerk budget slashers, privateers, "faith-based" scammers, etc. who want to exploit them. This idea is wrong, but not for the whackjob reasons you cite. Government is a tool, and can be used for good or evil; mostly, in America, it gets used to enrich the already rich, or to protect their ill-gotten gains.
      • What a load of manure!

        The problem social welfare as practised by the government is that it punishes via taxes those things it should encourage (investment, esp. in the U.S., savings, thrift, new business creation) and encourages things it should not (sloth, generational welfare, pre-teens having babies).

        I say yank the financial rug out from under the whole rotten system!!
        Too Old For IT
    • miscreants versus mental illness

      "nut cases walking down the street talking to the air" are mentally ill. Anyone who posts on a forum or who responds to a blog with violent, mysogynistic and hateful speech is an ass. There is a huge difference. The fact you think they're the same is disconcerting, to say the least.
  • Perhaps you had not noticed but....

    "That's like placing all law and order in the hands of gun owners or putting mentally unbalanced inmates in charge of the aslyum."

    The nuts have been running the asylum for 8 years and I will gladly give up my anonymity if they stick to the truth... As it is neither is going to happen. O'Reilly wouldn't know the truth if it bit him on the arse...
    • Nothing wrong with gun owners as law enforcement

      Professional police officers were non-existant back in 1776.

      "The general public had broad law enforcement powers and only the executive functions of the law (e.g., the execution of writs, warrants and orders) were performed by constables or sheriffs (who might call upon members of the community for assistance). Initiation and investigation of criminal cases was the nearly exclusive province of private persons." - Roger Roots, Seton Hall Constitutional L.J. 2001, 685.


      "Law enforcement in the Founders' time was a duty of every citizen" - Roger Roots.

      Wasn't until the mid-1800s that police as we know them began to evolve. Today, the police are an enforcement arm of the government, and not actually under control of the citizens.
      • Addendum to above

        For those who had not noticed or just ignored the facts, the crime rate DROPPED in all states that passed "Must Issue" laws that required a permit to carry a concealed weapon to all citizens who passed a firearms training course and were not convicted felons or adjudged mentaly unstable.
        Update victim
        • food for thought...

          Canada has more guns than the U.S. but they don't go around shooting each other with them. Their news doesn't support itself reporting nothing but violence and negativity either. hmmm....
  • good idea, BUT....

    Can't sacrifice the opportunity where people who may provide information and want to be protected from the perpetrator or self-incrimination. This is paramount in our society. Example: Police anonymous tip lines.
  • What is the internet coming to...

    Since subscribing to ZDNet.com I have never seen a more inflamatory response to free speech or a danger to civil rights as requiring bloggers to identify themselves.
    1. We are not talking about an exclusive practice in the United States only where free speech is a cardinal doctrine and unalienable right of humankind, but rather a system that allows access to the world-at-large! In many countries, bloggers could be jailed, tortured or otherwise discriminated against for speaking out. The internet is perhaps the last bastion of freedom of speech and the fact that the writer or writers remain unknown (at least to the public) is one of the many strengths of the internet and not a weakness.
    2. Criminal activity is criminal! Sponsoring terrorism, advocating murder, child pornography, white slavery, drug trafficking, fraud and the endless list of other crimes is still criminal. Law enforcement agencies, although sometimes poorly trained in the pursuit of cyber-criminals are getting better everyday at tracking down and prosecuting those persons that violate the law. It is a dangereous thing when the right to offend someone is taken away. Law Enforcement should be left to the professionals.
    3. Suitability for public consumption is another issue entirely. Morality cannot be legislated and one person's moral views will differ quite differently from another. Adult content should be available only to adults and if someone chooses one of the many "alternate" lifestyles that are common today, who cares provided that the behavior does not regress into criminal activity.
    The removal of anonymity from the internet removes the ability of people to communicate the mundane and sometimes bizarre views, happenings, desires, fantasies of an ordinary life. Why should we silence this because a few extremists feel uncomfortable?
  • First and Forth Admenment anyone?

    A Constitutional Lawyer will eat this one alive.
    • Amendments....shemendmants! ;-)

      Ummmmm.....the first to upteenth amendments are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike when it comes to 'teh intrawebs' sunshine!

      Last time I looked this is a truly planet-wide media, in which US law and constitutional intent, whilst admirable and influential, is comepletely meaningless. Most of the world and internet community couldn't give two flying-figs for US constitutional sensibilities or motherhood statements!

      Let the loonies voice thier whacko opinions, the more they state them, the more idiotic and odourous they present themselves to 'world' scrutiny. Which will have the effect of diluting the stupid and leading to a communial meeting of opion at the middle-ground.

      Please stop identifying the US constituition as a global 'given', it's part of the problem of the US being seen as being a global red-neck bully, there are other cultures and opinions out there, believe it or not!

      Oh, and another thing, I really do wish that US companies, hell, the entire nation, would stop announcing things in terms of 'summer 07, fall 07' or similar terms.....to half of the world that's a complete reversal of their seasonal circumstances. What's wrong with 'month 07' eh? ;-)

      Cheers - Mick
    • Heck, the ACLU

      Heck, the ACLU only thinks there are 8 amendments in the bill or rights.
      Too Old For IT