Mike at Troubled Diva weighs in on the responsibility of publishing systems like Blogger, who, as Mary discovered among others, really don't seem to take their responsibilities seriously when it comes to harassment and defamation. Mike also writes about the use of the word 'friend' when referring to everyone with whom you share links with on Myspace, Twitter, Last.fm etc.
Meanwhile, the Unreliable Witness gets very shirty about the idea of a Blogger’s Code of Conduct, as proposed by Tim Reilly. When I first saw this suggested logo, with Her Majesty the Queen endorsing (or perhaps personally enforcing) civil conduct, I envisaged a uniquely British code of conduct, which could insist on the correct spelling of all sorts of words, as well as accurate grammar; fora, instead of forums, correct use of the concepts of inference and implication, I am nauseated as opposed to I feel nauseous etc., etc.. Fortunately, I decided this would amuse me and no-one else.
I have been very lucky in so far as this blog is rather obscure and unpopular (no, sorry, it is a refined taste, a blog to which only the most sophisticated reader is drawn), my commenters are all very lovely people and my writing style tends to have a sophorific effect on trolls, imps, hobgoblins and others of the more malevolent creatures of t'interweb folklore.
Despite this, I have long thought about writing some sort of Commenting Policy, just for the record, in case anyone challenges the decisions I make. One of the best examples I have seen is Andrea's House Rules and House Rules Redux. Unfortunately, I'm sure that those folks determined to leave unpleasant comments wouldn't actually click on such a link, let alone read it. In fact, all the unwelcome comments I have ever received haved been from folks who clearly haven't read a single word of content. Often they are placed merely to draw others across to another website. My favourite of these was (from a personal blogger, not a spambot);
I don’t know whether I like this site or not. Try to be more Christian!Another commented on the length of my penis (again, a real blogger), which offended me even though the assertion was quite accurate - alas, I really am lacking in that department. However, such things are easily deleted and those sorts of people never come back.
However, none of the baddies in all this - those types I assume to be adolescent boys who find themselves with a box they can type in and just have to write something, or indeed those folks who, for whatever reason, are set on persistent harrassment and abuse - are going to pay the slightest bit of notice to guidelines, whether these are guidelines I devised myself, or guidelines we devised as a community.
The only real cure is increased consciousness and enforcement of the law. You're never going to stop people being arseholes. People can be arseholes wherever you go, they just are sometimes, and you can only feel sorry for them and shuffle away. However, in all the cases where on-line nastiness has moved from annoying to disturbing, the law is being broken.
The law and the Internet don't always mix too well because of the local nature of the former and the international nature of the latter. What's more, there are some brave bloggers who are breaking the draconian laws of their own countries in order to blog, in order to speak up about human rights abuses, political corruption and the suppression of free speech.
However, as I understand it, blogging clients such as Blogger, Wordpress and so on do have a legal responsibility that their software and crucially, their server space, is not used for criminal purposes in the country where those servers are held, which I guess would be the United States. Nobody should be able to use those machines to incite hatred, arrange criminal activity or harass individuals. They wouldn't allow us to post child pornography, would they? So why let anyone break the law with words?
Edit: Someone mentioned the other day about a glitch in Blogger causing their posts to be "Don't allow comments" by default. Typically, this hadn't happen to me until I posted this one...