Everyone is talking about Kathy Sierra’s blog death threats. I don’t feel like I can comment a lot as I have never before read her blog or heard about her before I read the news coverage, but this seems to have an interesting cyberlaw angle. If Kathy Sierra has been the subject of death threats, should this be treated in any way different to other types of death threats?
To answer my own question, I don’t think that there’s anything in principle that would compel us to view online threats differently to other types of threats. However, it may be important to consider that anonymity and distance may actually play a big role in the preponderance of abusive behaviour in cyberspace. There’s the famous equation that anonymity may breed trollish behaviour online, and that normal people will become monsters when writing behind a keyboard. The perception of anonymity may prompt some people to do something stupid, like sending death threats. There is also a disconnection with the subject. People may not be real people, they are names, avatars, bits of information in the ether.
However, should this be excuse enough to treat online threats differently? Discuss.