Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Huffington Post Cracks Down on Commenters Spreading Toxic Memes: Will Catholic Blog Sites Exercise Similar Vigilance?

At Huffington Post, Jimmy Soni explains why that website is now ending anonymous accounts for commenters: while HuffPo will continue to allow people to comment using usernames that do not disclose their identities, it will require proof of identification before someone signs up for a commenting account:

But one glance at our comment section or the comment sections of other sites demonstrates what we're all up against. Trolls have grown more vicious, more aggressive, and more ingenious. As a result, comment sections can degenerate into some of the darkest places on the Internet. At HuffPost, we publish nearly 9 million comments a month, but we've reached the point where roughly three-quarters of our incoming comments never see the light of day, either because they are flat-out spam or because they contain unpublishable levels of vitriol. And rather than participating in threads and promoting the best comments, our moderators are stuck policing the trolls with diminishing success. 
There can be tragic consequences, too. Words in online forums and social networks have real power to wound. Caroline Criado-Perez, the campaigner who successfully petitioned to have a woman put on UK currency, received almost 50 rape threats an hour on Twitter after the announcement that Jane Austen would appear on the £10 note. Or take the case of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who ended his life after suffering years of bullying and anonymous online abuse. Here's a small sample of the unsigned postings about Jamey on Formspring: 
"I wouldn't care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier!" 
Would the disturbed people who posted these comments have done so if they couldn't hide behind anonymity?

I continue to challenge Catholic publications like National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal to exercise vigilance about the repeated tendency of some commenters at these sites to sling around the hateful term "sodomites" to refer to gay men. As I noted earlier this morning, to its credit, Commonweal has expunged the hateful recent comments made at its site recently by one Thomas Peasley, calling on Catholics to spit in the face of sodomites. 

Unfortunately, the comment by one Purgatrix Ineptiae that I tagged in my posting citing Mr. Teasley's remarks at Commonweal still stands at the National Catholic Reporter site. As I noted when I cited it, this comment slips the word "sodomy" into a discussion of gay rights in Russia in which the word "sodomy" had not appeared until this commenter slipped it into the conversation. And her comment uses that word here in a way that is--as I've pointed out in several preceding postings--typical of this commenter and easy to ascertain, if one follows her posting history at various Catholic blog sites: it does so deliberately to tag gay men as diseased sodomites who pose a threat to children.

This kind of discourse about gay people has absolutely no business being permitted any longer on Catholic blog sites. It radically cheapens the discourse of all American Catholics about gay and lesbian human beings, and it deserves no more welcome at Catholic blog sites than similar toxic discourse about any other targeted minority group.

(Thanks to Chris Morley for noting Jimmy Soni's Huffington Post article in a comment here several days ago.)

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