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"We have a rape gif problem and Gawker media won't do anything about it"
August 12, 2014 11:12 PM   Subscribe

In refusing to address the problem, Gawker's leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel's staff and readers. If this were happening at another website, if another workplace was essentially requiring its female employees to manage a malevolent human pornbot, we'd report the hell out of it here and cite it as another example of employers failing to take the safety of its female employees seriously. But it's happening to us. It's been happening to us for months. And it feels hypocritical to continue to remain silent about it.
Because somebody is spamming Jezebel with violent porn gifs and Gawker has been lackadaisical in dealing with it, the problem has now spread to other Gawker sites.
posted by MartinWisse (136 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uh. Why isn't the solution text only comments except for approved commenters?

Too expensive? Too expensive because until today it was only the girls who were affected by this?
posted by notyou at 11:22 PM on August 12 [50 favorites]


notyou wrote:
Uh. Why isn't the solution text only comments except for approved commenters?

Too expensive? Too expensive because until today it was only the girls who were affected by this?
Looks like they're doing exactly that.
posted by Aleyn at 11:26 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


Amazing what a little publicity can do.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:28 PM on August 12 [11 favorites]


Looks like they've closed all the discussions.

The burner accounts were an idiotic idea.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:28 PM on August 12 [13 favorites]


Oh.

Good ol' Metafilter, leading the way since 1994 or so.
posted by notyou at 11:28 PM on August 12 [65 favorites]


The whole Kinja commenting system was apparently Nick Denton's dream of having an "open" system that was also "proprietary". A little bit from Reddit Column A, a little bit from WordPress Column B, and nothing from The Only Site With Comments That Work (this one). I like some of the primary content at the Lifehacker site and the Science/SciFi blog io9, but the ONLY time I ever got any enjoyment from their comments was when io9 would do its "Friday GIF Party", which in light of this crisis, was extraordinarily good at NOT containing images that required eye bleach. Well, that's over now. Nothing good on the internet stays good without eternal vigilance.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:27 AM on August 13 [12 favorites]


I am lost for words, both for why someone would do this, and why someone(s) else won't do anything about it.
posted by marienbad at 12:47 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I was attracted to Deadspin for two reasons.

The comments were routinely of the finest kind of comedy I had ever read on the internet. Albeit situational at times (on occasion, you'd have to know something about sports and be well educated), the most highly praised comments were hilarious and accessible to a casual follower enough to make him a fan of the blog. Deadspin's commentary culture a few years ago was developed enough to call it a true, sorry, Sportsfilter.

The editorial staff at the time also took a great interest in writing and reporting as a profession and wrote (well) of great (and horrid) writing and film making both past and present. They were also able to write, sometimes, greatly.

Kinja killed both.

I've never signed up for a Gawkermedia (or whatever) account, but when they changed the publishing system, they killed their most valuable asset: the culture they had developed. I think I see what Denton was aspiring to, but he's run into the problem that fucking Wikipedia is continually having problems.

Take a lesson man.
posted by converge at 1:10 AM on August 13 [14 favorites]


Whenever folks tell me there's no evil in the world (because people are basically good), I just point to the prevalence of these kinds of images/comments anywhere there's not some moderation.
posted by learnsome at 1:25 AM on August 13 [10 favorites]


From MartinWisse's first link:
> During the last staff meeting, when the subject was broached, [Jezebel staff] were told that there were no plans [by Gawker Media] to enable the blocking of IP addresses, no plans to record IP addresses of burner accounts.

I try to restrain myself from criticizing other companies' decisions about what features or functionality to prioritize, especially when they're designing for people other than me. But for fuck's sake, Gawker's being stupid here.
posted by ardgedee at 2:16 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]


Yeah I used to live Gawker before the comment system changed. I barely comment anymore and when I do I don't try very hard.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:25 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


> Too expensive because until today it was only the girls who were affected by this?

Might have not been considered worth doing because it would have been an all-sites update for a problem that affected only one site. That site being Jezebel might or might not have been a factor. Gawker's internal response to the problem fosters the impression that it was.

But tracking all publicly viewable comments should have been a feature baked in since Kinja was a gleam in some software architect's eye. Facilitating informant anonymity can be managed in a way that makes the system less accommodating of abuse.
posted by ardgedee at 2:37 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


>Whenever folks tell me there's no evil in the world

Honest question: do people really often tell you there's no evil in this world? I can't recall anyone ever telling me that. Maybe we just run in very different circles.
posted by item at 2:39 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


Paid accounts and attentive moderators. There is no other way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:40 AM on August 13 [34 favorites]


I'm honestly amazed anyone expected anything better from gawker. They're seriously one of the shittiest companies out there, and have never struck me as anything but the types who would sell their own mom up the river for a quick buck. They're actively shitty, not just passively shitty.
posted by emptythought at 2:45 AM on August 13 [27 favorites]


This is a strategy that seems so incredibly obvious in retrospect. I really need to up my evil.

No need for a media clickbait organization to direct people elsewhere. Simply generate controversy by allowing and encouraging it on one subsite - while fully aware that the controversy will be discussed on the other subsites that you own.
posted by vapidave at 3:35 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Simply generate controversy by allowing and encouraging it on one subsite - while fully aware that the controversy will be discussed on the other subsites that you own.

Gawker's been doing exactly that for the past couple years; each site and its RSS feed will occasionally feature a highlight from another affiliate, hoping to circulate traffic within its network of aggregators/forums. For example, io9 and Jezebel will sometimes throw up a headline form each others' sites, or refer to a thread from Jalopnik, Gizmodo or Lifehacker that's suddenly gathering a bit of attention. AOL/Huffington also uses this strategy, to draw or circulate viewers from Engadget, Popeater and Techcrunch. Vox Media will post stories on The Verge that are similar in theme to SBNation, Curbed and Polygon features, hoping to lock in sustained traffic within their offerings.

Yesterday's "web portals" have evolved into "brands" in which the parent company serves as a holding company for a cluster of (smaller) gatekeepers.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:05 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


This isn't to say the sites deliberately start outrage; they're primed from the start to lead traffic to the emerging points of increased feedback. Competition from Buzzfeed may have increased the number of "You won't believe THIS" themed teasers, and what's occurring now is no different from a carnival barker's pitch attracting the unruly and collapsing under discord.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:18 AM on August 13


Serious question: How is this not a hostile workplace lawsuit that J. Random Lawyer would jump all over?
posted by PMdixon at 4:22 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


How is this not a hostile workplace lawsuit that J. Random Lawyer would jump all over?

1. It's technically not happening in the workplace. It's happening in the comments, so it'd be like blaming your boss if the customers are being shits. Granted it is still the boss's purview to set limits on customer behavior, but it's a little tougher to go after in terms of employment law.

2. I think a lot of the writers there are freelance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]



> During the last staff meeting, when the subject was broached, [Jezebel staff] were
> told that there were no plans [by Gawker Media] to enable the blocking of IP addresses,
> no plans to record IP addresses of burner accounts.

I try to restrain myself from criticizing other companies' decisions about what features or functionality to prioritize, especially when they're designing for people other than me. But for fuck's sake, Gawker's being stupid here.


I suspect if you checked the IP addresses you'd find they all are common web anonymizer services. (e.g. Tor) If you're going to launch a campaign like this you wouldn't do it from a fixed address.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:37 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


1. It's technically not happening in the workplace. It's happening in the comments, so it'd be like blaming your boss if the customers are being shits.

When you work for a website, the website is part of your workplace.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:47 AM on August 13 [20 favorites]


Gawker sat on their hands way to long with this, and the fact that they had to be called out on one of their own properties, and then spammed with rape gifs across the network before doing anything just shows that they have become a cynical click factory.

If I were an advertiser, I would think long and hard about including them in a digital plan, or using an aggregator that includes them; and if I worked for an agency, I would no longer recommend them (oh, wait- I do work for an agency).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:49 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


" It's happening in the comments, so it'd be like blaming your boss if the customers are being shits."

The law explicitly covers harrassment by customers.
posted by oddman at 4:51 AM on August 13 [32 favorites]


>>Whenever folks tell me there's no evil in the world
>Honest question: do people really often tell you there's no evil in this world?

I believe the statement usually refers to evil as an independent operating force. People may do evil things, but that's just people being people. There's no raw source of evil out there pushing them in the wrong direction.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:56 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


and why someone(s) else won't do anything about it.

I can see how they ended up here.

They've been running for years without a major problem like this. I'm sure the behavior has popped up now and again, but whoever was doing it got bored and went away.

So they crossed their fingers and stayed the course, possibly sticking their fingers in their ears and saying "La la la la la la I can't hear you!"

And then days became weeks became months and here we are.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:10 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Jezebel staffers were having to manually monitor the comments and remove the gifs, which is where the harassment would come in.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:11 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


Blocking ips won't do much to stop committed trolling campaigns, but it does make it harder to abuse the site for more causal trolls. If they're just being jerks for fun, having to cycle through tor and proxies can ruin that fun. And if they're doing it out of anger, that time spent beating the ip block can be a cool down period.

I'm not saying it's the only or best solution, but it's a good adjunct to other good moderation policies.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:13 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The law explicitly covers harrassment by customers.

Yeah this is definitely the case; harassment can come from customer, clients, caterers are company events, building security guards, etc. I have no idea if independent contractors are covered under Title VII, some Googling suggests no. In any event, it's probably best not to be offering legal reasons for things unless you actually know the law.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:14 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Well kiss my GIFs. That took long enough to shut down. Unbelievably long.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:17 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I don't know the law but I've watched a lot of HR videos.
posted by PMdixon at 5:19 AM on August 13 [10 favorites]


heh. I read the linked pages and thought "Oh, you guys." Seriously, trolling like this is what you have to expect if you invest 0 resources in creating a solid community! It's like saying "We can't afford to install security cameras" and then being upset because shrinkage is ruining profits.
posted by rebent at 5:21 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


they have become a cynical click factory

Gawker Media sites were designed to be cynical click factories. Gawker's first innovation, Gawker Stalker, was nothing more than a cynical attempt to cash in on people's insatiable need for celebrity "news".
posted by plastic_animals at 5:27 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


The thing is, Gawker could totally follow Metafilter and win out. I'd probably pay $5 to comment across all their sites (sorry, but I'm in love with io9 and addicted to LifeHacker), and they have the reach to make that kind of fee pay off.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:33 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Gawker's been doing exactly that for the past couple years; each site and its RSS feed will occasionally feature a highlight from another affiliate, hoping to circulate traffic within its network of aggregators/forums.

They've gone past occasional in my opinion. Deadspin is supposed to be their sports site, right? Currently five of the twenty front page posts are about non-sports stories that are from their other sites, including the first post with the big image. Sometimes it is literally half the stuff that is non-sports, if their isn't much sports stuff going on. I don't know who that is supposed to appeal to. But I guess maybe people click on it.
posted by smackfu at 5:40 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


It's not just the rape gifs, either. I came to Gawker through io9, which used to be a fun place to talk about geeky things. When it was pulled under the Gawker umbrella, I actually enjoyed visiting Kotaku or Jezebel for certain content as well, and the main site would sometimes have interesting commentary.

Over the past year or so (and especially since the latest implementation of Kinja), I've seen Gawker Media devolve into a place where racists and MRA/PUA shitheels can post whatever the fuck they feel like, in the interests of "fostering debate" (i.e.: generating traffic for Denton). A community can't even self-moderate when anyone can generate a new identity in 20 seconds and start posting Stormfront talking points. Reputation becomes meaningless.


Gawker: A Place For Trolls.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:41 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]


If you run free, anonymous, unmoderated comment sections on your website, you aren't a victim of comment trolls. You are the cause of comment trolls.
posted by Legomancer at 5:55 AM on August 13 [56 favorites]


I'll occasionally follow links to Jezebel or io9, because both have good stories at times. A few years ago the comment section was also good, often with interesting stories or counterpoints. But that was then; whatever software and moderation changes were made mean that now I look at the stories but skip the comments entirely.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:01 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


The lack of action on this until it spread to other sites is pretty gross. They didn't want to do anything so they could protect potential anonymous tipsters? Is there no other way besides a burner account on Kinja for someone to anonymously give them a heads-up about a story? That's really tragic.
posted by rtha at 6:03 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Buzzfeed talked to some anonymous Gawker staffers about Kinja: Gawker Media Staffers Are Still Ambivalent About Kinja

(Of course, Buzzfeed has some shitty issues of its own, dumping thousands of past stories down the memory hole with no acknowledgement: Over 4,000 BuzzFeed Posts Have Completely Disappeared)
posted by mediareport at 6:08 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I'm disturbed about how many of the comments in the links are citing this as a moderation problem -- the issue is that the staffers are being forced to view the gifs. This is not a moderation issue, it's a site software and management issue.
posted by freshwater at 6:13 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


>>Whenever folks tell me there's no evil in the world
>Honest question: do people really often tell you there's no evil in this world?


Whenever an issue of sexual harassment comes up people will contort themselves like Olympic gymnasts trying to explain away the fact that there are a lot of men who just hate women. Oh, they're not predators, they're just awkward. He wasn't stalking her, he just didn't understand. It wasn't a real threat, it was just a joke.

That's how I took the original comment - the instinct of people unaffected by an issue to hand wave it away as being the victim's fault for not empathizing sufficiently with their victimizer.
posted by winna at 6:13 AM on August 13 [15 favorites]


[The whole "is there/isn't there/ what is Evil" thing is pretty much a derail here; maybe we could drop that? ]
posted by taz at 6:24 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I'm not dismissing the severity of what the trolls were doing, but I read this story the other day and sort of did the dog-head-cock confused face over how the response wasn't just "disable images, yesterday."

I can't fathom how allowing commenters, especially anonymous ones, the right to post images, 90% of which are just memes with Impact font text, was ever considered in any way useful whatsoever. MetaFilter removed them like seven, eight years ago? And it seems like we've all been fine.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:34 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


freshwater: It became a moderation issue because the site technology has left the site runners no other recourse. And then they had to deal with that day in day out and they complained and the site management didn't do anything and ew ew ew excuse me I need to go take another shower now.

Anyway, what they have been trying to do as a stopgap isn't the same as the moderation that commenters here are rightfully pointing out the lack of. That kind of moderation would, for instance, drop anonymous comments or comments with embedded images and links automatically into a moderation queue, and someone explicitly tasked with (and, hopefully, paid for) that would have to go in and approve them manually to appear on site. Instead of, you know, images like that appearing when you just happened to surf to an article about the representation of female characters in video games and ew ew ew excuse me I need to go take another shower now.
posted by seyirci at 6:36 AM on August 13


I'm just flummoxed, trying to comprehend the mind of the person who does this. Not residual sexism, the sort of thing that makes one unthinkingly use gendered insults. Not even outright sexism that makes one complain about "feminazis." Not a 14-year old posting "eat this" dick pics. No, this is someone going out and curating themselves a collection of rape gifs, and then, over and over going through the process of anonymizing yourself, and posting these as fast as the moderators at Jezebel can delete them. I just really can't fathom the mind of that person. I just haven't got the first foothold towards understanding it. Do they think it's.. what, funny? It's LOLs? A political point? I mean, I can't even...

And I don't get why "disable images, duh." wasn't immediately done. This is not a unique problem in the history of the internet.

OTOH, I'm not sure I buy the notion that it's something Gawker needs to protect the Jezebel staff from. I mean, their job as moderators is to protect the users. I can well understand their frustration, but I think it's more akin to demanding that a business provide adequate safety gear to a cleaning crew, and less that a cleaning crew shouldn't be exposed to to some ugly stuff.
posted by tyllwin at 6:37 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Also, I mean, to be honest, this also treads the water of a larger issue, which is why/if self-described "journalism" sites should have comments sections to begin with. Other than actual forum sites like this one, reddit, fan boards, etc. I have never understood how comments on large media sites have ever been a benefit to the content other than getting more clicks to the site.

Again, I'm not dismissing that the trolling was a serious issue and Gawker was shitheaded for ignoring it for so long, but I never would have noticed the trolling in the comments because I never would have read them. Ever. Have you read the comments on Kotaku? It creates sadness akin to sad puppies in the snow.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:37 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


OTOH, I'm not sure I buy the notion that it's something Gawker needs to protect the Jezebel staff from.


Gawker doesn't have moderators. Jezebel writers were having to go through comments on their own articles and remove offensive material.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:43 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]


And the comments on io9 used to be (and sometimes still are) pretty great. Denton has turned many of these properties from interesting communities into newspaper comments sections.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:44 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Also, of course, just disabling images won't fix it. Have the trolls started with posting ASCII and graphic little "stories" yet? Disabling images will only work as a stopgap while you heavily moderate and set up some real verified commenting system.
posted by tyllwin at 6:46 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Gawker doesn't have moderators. Jezebel writers

They're just writers? Wow, I had thought they had a broader relationship with Gawker than that. The Gawker sites don't have real site admins?
posted by tyllwin at 6:49 AM on August 13


Do they think it's.. what, funny? It's LOLs?

Actually, yes, this is most likely exactly the motivation.

The definition of "troll" has been watered down so far that people don't recognize that this is exactly what the classic kind of Internet troll was. The person posting these is someone who just thinks it's funny to watch everyone freaking out over what he does - and the more outrageous the image, the bigger the freakout, so that's what he uses.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 AM on August 13 [12 favorites]


the more outrageous the image, the bigger the freakout, so that's what he or she uses.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 6:56 AM on August 13


This entire flap is what we used to call "feeding the trolls".
posted by Hizonner at 6:57 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Good ol' Metafilter, leading the way since 1994 or so.

July 14, 1999 .. I don't think it was moderated very much until later, maybe post 2004 or so when $5 membership opened unlimited new accounts and Jessamyn became a moderator. Moderated forums have been around since the Usenet days of the 1980s, and 1970s with mailing lists.
posted by stbalbach at 6:58 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


the more outrageous the image, the bigger the freakout, so that's what he or she uses.

Odds are quite large that it is a young man doing this, to the point that I felt confident choosing a gender-specific pronoun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on August 13 [14 favorites]


I could swear I heard something a while back on some NPR show about the psychological toll that is being taken on the people at search engines whose job it was to monitor and take down child porn, and about efforts being made to help protect their mental health. I think the psychological effect of dealing with that kind of image is pretty real.
This entire flap is what we used to call "feeding the trolls".
And that's why we've all realized that sometimes telling people not to feed trolls is a way of facilitating misogyny and oppression. They tried not feeding the trolls. It didn't stop the trolls. Now they need to do whatever it takes to make their employer correct the situation.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:01 AM on August 13 [33 favorites]


You couldn't pay me to read any unmoderated comment page, forum, message board, whatever. Even without evil bullshit like this, it's usually just people flinging poo at each other.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:08 AM on August 13


There's your new media in a nutshell. Gawker doesn't pay for the software they use to run their link bait sites, and when they do have shitty in house software, barely know how to maintain it.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:10 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


I think the mental health of Jezebel & its readership was compromised a long time ago.

I'm saying that tongue in cheek of course. No they shouldn't be inundated with gif-threats. That being said, Jezebel is a horrible site. I used to like it but several years ago it turned into a mean-girl scathing joke of feminism, bullying celebs they don't like with nasty articles about them and posting drooling commentary about good-looking guy celebrities. I left and I don't miss it.

Gawker broke a few interesting stories but it is also has a pretty horrible culture as well. So I'm not surprised that its dude-bro response to these gifs is a code-based shrug.

While I'm on my soapbox, Salon has also turned into a librul Fox News. Now that Cary Tennis is gone, I rarely visit that place either.

Metafilter beanplating can verge into an onion satire of itself but at least its far more civil.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:12 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


I'm just flummoxed, trying to comprehend the mind of the person who does this.

I am honestly glad for you personally that you can't even imagine it but I doubt any woman in this thread is even remotely surprised that someone would do this kind of thing. I'm only surprised it took so long to happen.
posted by elizardbits at 7:16 AM on August 13 [25 favorites]


I mean, six months of that seems like a fair shake at not feeding the trolls before taking other measures.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:17 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


I notice that once the troll moved beyond trolling the feminism part of the Gawker empire that measures were taken pretty damn quickly.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:18 AM on August 13 [24 favorites]


That being said, Jezebel is a horrible site.
How is that possibly, in any way, relevant to this discussion, though?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:23 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


Whenever folks tell me there's no evil in the world (because people are basically good), I just point to the prevalence of these kinds of images/comments anywhere there's not some moderation.

Nobody that I know ever said all people are basically good. The idea (and the science backs this up) is that, in general, most people are altruistic if left to their own devices. Most people, not all people. No one has ever claimed that all people are basically good as far as I know except maybe Jesus.

I figure it's about 15--25% of the population that fall somewhere in the "not good" section of the bell curve. About 15-25% fall in the extra good range, and about 50% are average. That big lump in the middle is generally pretty decent.

That's all I mean when I say people are basically good, and there's a lot of science to back my view up. That's why we call it "the problem of evil" and not the "awesomeness of evil": most of us aren't evil by default. But some of us seem to be. How do we deal with that without becoming evil ourselves?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:29 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


And I don't get why "disable images, duh." wasn't immediately done. This is not a unique problem in the history of the internet.

And this is my immediate response to the issue, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:30 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Robin Williams' daughter leaves Twitter after abuse

This is fucking hell.
posted by argonauta at 7:31 AM on August 13 [18 favorites]


Good ol' Metafilter, leading the way since 1994 or so.

Please stop posting animal shitting images thanks
posted by Mapes at 7:31 AM on August 13 [15 favorites]


Odds are quite large that it is a young man doing this, to the point that I felt confident choosing a gender-specific pronoun.

This is sexist, yo, I believe women can troll just as hard as men, for good, evil, or pure neutral lulz, and my life experience backs this up. Justine Tunney, for an example recently linked, or Shanley Kane.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:35 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Yes, glad to see you've identified the real problem here.
posted by elizardbits at 7:36 AM on August 13 [57 favorites]


MetaFilter removed them like seven, eight years ago? And it seems like we've all been fine.

There was quite a bit of complaining when it happened. We got over it, but we did not go gracefully into that good picture less night.

Do they think it's.. what, funny? It's LOLs?

Well, to be more specific, they do it for teh Lulz.
posted by eriko at 7:37 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, over at Twitter, it's business harassment as usual.
posted by tommasz at 7:39 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


This is sexist, yo

You have got to be fucking kidding me.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:40 AM on August 13 [32 favorites]


Save alive, I promise you that if you come up with conclusive proof that the individual responsible for this round of trolling was female, I will retract my use of that pronoun. Until then, I propose that you consider that there are much bigger fish to fry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


The thing is, Gawker could totally follow Metafilter and win out. I'd probably pay $5 to comment across all their sites (sorry, but I'm in love with io9 and addicted to LifeHacker), and they have the reach to make that kind of fee pay off.

It would be a financial win for them, sure. But it wouldn't solve their commenter problem. They'd still attract assholes because of the content they publish and the headlines they use. They're a gossip site which publishes a ton of articles intended to stir up outrage. Jezebel is the same, even though their anger is a lot more justifiable.
posted by zarq at 7:42 AM on August 13


Not that it's a big deal or anything, but the only time I ever had to close a window quickly due to a NSFW image posted in comments on a website, it had been posted on Metafilter... by a moderator. I think you know what I'm talking about.

This is a crappy thing that's happening, but not on the magnitude of Twitter, which I'm starting to think should simply be shuttered and the concept restarted by somebody who cares about doing something right.
posted by selfnoise at 7:45 AM on August 13


it's more akin to demanding that a business provide adequate safety gear to a cleaning crew, and less that a cleaning crew shouldn't be exposed to to some ugly stuff

No, it isn't. As has been said earlier in the thread, it's the Jezebel writers who end up going in and deleting these comments. And even if it were a paid moderation staff, there's a difference between "safety gear" and someone having to look at graphic violence all day. It's less "safety gear" than "trauma counseling", and I doubt Gawker has the necessary support structure in place for the poor people who have to see this awful shit.
posted by spitefulcrow at 7:47 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


No goatse? Kids today don't appreciate the classics.
posted by dr_dank at 7:48 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


I am honestly glad for you personally that you can't even imagine it but I doubt any woman in this thread is even remotely surprised that someone would do this kind of thing.

I'm not surprised that it happened. I would also expect it. I'm just not able to quite grasp the mind that does it. To be precise, I can't get what drives them to work so damned hard at it.
posted by tyllwin at 7:48 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


July 14, 1999 .. I don't think it was moderated very much until later, maybe post 2004 or so when $5 membership opened unlimited new accounts and Jessamyn became a moderator.

Nah, moderation started happening in any meaningful sense some time in 2000, aka When The Site Started Actually Seeing Multiple Comments Per Thread. Metatalk was put together in March 2000 as a response to metacommentary showing up on the front page, and Matt started figuring out how to deal with moderation issues as they started actually arising, in part with a lot of community input.

but the only time I ever had to close a window quickly due to a NSFW image posted in comments on a website, it had been posted on Metafilter... by a moderator. I think you know what I'm talking about.

I think you're talking about a chicken, and I think you're also misremembering because it wasn't Jess who posted that image inline in any threads; that was someone else entirely. She referenced the image behind a link when the idea had come up in context. "A mod posted a picture of a guy sticking his dick in a chicken" is one of those too-good-to-fact-check stories, I guess, combined with a degree of grudgey animus toward the mod in question in some of the historical examples of it being brought up.
posted by cortex at 7:51 AM on August 13 [12 favorites]


2. I think a lot of the writers there are freelance.

They are.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on August 13


Cortex, I'm sure you're right. Memory is weird. That was indeed what I was thinking of. I remember it popping up as I scrolled down and thinking "What is that? Is that... OH SHI-" minimize.
posted by selfnoise at 7:57 AM on August 13


Oh man, I hope this doesn't mess with io9's Gif Party Fridays, because those were fantastic fun.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:06 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


How is that possibly, in any way, relevant to this discussion, though?

We're talking about Jezebel / Gawker media so my comment is topical.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:13 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


[A couple comments removed; drop it with the "women can too be trolls!" derail, it's got zilch to do with the actual substance of the post.]
posted by cortex at 8:19 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


We're talking about Jezebel / Gawker media so my comment is topical.
I really don't think it is. I don't much care for Jezebel, either, but that's irrelevant to the question of whether the people who work there should have to spend all day looking at violent rape porn. This isn't a general discussion of Jezebel or the quality of the site, and people don't have to produce things that I admire to have a right not to deal with a hostile work environment. At best, I think that discussion is a distraction, and at worst it kind of seems to suggest that people have to earn the right not to be harassed. You can be the jerkiest jerk who ever jerked, and you still don't deserve that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:19 AM on August 13 [11 favorites]


Women are perfectly capable of trolling the internet.

But this isn't trolling. This is just plain shitting. This is just angry ineffectual little people trying to hurt someone, and it's being done in a violent and gendered way that profiles very strongly male.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:20 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]


This is sexist, yo

hashtag not all trolls

Yesterday's "web portals" have evolved into "brands" in which the parent company serves as a holding company for a cluster of (smaller) gatekeepers.

Yeah, Vox/SBNation is a good parallel case here; it's not just Gawker that has taken this all-under-one-roof approach and in doing so destroyed, or at least greatly watered down, what used to be a bunch of thriving smaller web communities. They talk a good game about it, but they see comments primarily as a means of support for chasing pageviews and "engagement"; so even when they absorb smaller, more focused websites with thriving existing communities they can never seem to figure out how to sustain them.
posted by RogerB at 8:20 AM on August 13


TLDR: Kinja was an unmitigated disaster. Going back to the Pending/Approved commenter system.

Thank FlyingSpaghettiMonster almighty!
posted by Hasteur at 8:24 AM on August 13


It is 11:26 in the am, and I've just been called a "faggot" for the first time today on a Gawker property. Great to see an atmosphere of civility returning.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:28 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


What's wrong with being a bundle of sticks?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


We're talking about Jezebel / Gawker media so my comment is topical.

>>I really don't think it is. I don't much care for Jezebel, either, but that's irrelevant to the question of whether the people who work there should have to spend all day looking at violent rape porn. This isn't a general discussion of Jezebel or the quality of the site, and people don't have to produce things that I admire to have a right not to deal with a hostile work environment. At best, I think that discussion is a distraction, and at worst it kind of seems to suggest that people have to earn the right not to be harassed. You can be the jerkiest jerk who ever jerked, and you still don't deserve that.


I know this is a touchy topic since Jez is being hate-trolled and because they're a fairly notorious femin-ish website. In no way am I saying they deserve to be harassed. As I put in my original comment no one should have to be bombarded with hate-gifs. But a post about Jezebel/Gawker will get commentary opinions about Jezebel/Gawker in general, and that's completely valid comment to add. As for being a distraction comment... well Metafilter comments go so off topic where posts about one topic devolve into debates about linguistics or politics or what have you, and that still gets tolerated and joked about, and my comment was nowhere near that off topic.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:35 AM on August 13


it's the Jezebel writers who end up going in and deleting these comments.

I clearly don't understand Gawker's relationship with these people. If they're just free-lance writers, not paid to moderate, why are they moderating? Why don't they file and forget? But if moderation, or discussion-leading, on a site allowing anonymous posting is part of what they're being paid for, what do people think that job entails if not cleaning out the toilet?
posted by tyllwin at 8:37 AM on August 13


But if moderation, or discussion-leading, on a site allowing anonymous posting is part of what they're being paid for, what do people think that job entails if not cleaning out the toilet?

There's a difference between running a Swiffer around an indoor bathroom with running water and climbing into the septic tank. Gawker didn't care that some of its writers/mods had to climb into the septic tank and didn't think putting modern plumbing in was worth the effort until it wasn't just the ladies' site that was hit.
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on August 13 [18 favorites]


Freelance writing has become a pure unmitigated shithole. It's been overrun with content mills, so not only are writers paid poverty level wages if at all, but they're being subjected to absurd scope creep like requiring them to moderate comments on their articles.

IIRC, Gawker properties are one of the worst (high profile) offenders, and Jezebel has always struck me as the Gawker ghetto anyway.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:46 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


what do people think that job entails if not cleaning out the toilet?

Because -- to stretch that analogy a bit -- it's as if you hire a janitor to clean out the toilet, the janitor tells you that, no, the real problem here is that the pipes are clogged and you need to hire a plumber (restructure the commenting system so that this shit sorry doesn't happen). And then you say, well, sorry -- that's not really a problem. Let's wait and see if the pipes unclog themselves. Until the bathroom in the executive washroom gets clogged and suddenly it's a top priority to get that plumbing fixed.

Or, if you're not going to hire a plumber and you want to keep your historically valuable plumbing as-is, maybe you shouldn't have your janitors also be your head writers and then act surprised when those are two different skill-sets, and maybe you should hire two teams of people.
posted by cjelli at 8:46 AM on August 13 [14 favorites]


Feel free to delete this comment if it's too much of a tangent, but:

How is it that, after a year of NSA revelations, it sounds reasonable to ask a hypothetical "anonymous tipster" to use the communications protocol: "post a public comment via unencrypted HTTP and we pinky-swear we'll discard your IP address"? If you really care about letting people send you messages anonymously, maybe host an anonymous remailer and a private email address that won't spam-filter remailed messages?
posted by roystgnr at 8:49 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


But a post about Jezebel/Gawker will get commentary opinions about Jezebel/Gawker in general, and that's completely valid comment to add.

Not to start arguing in examples, but this is kinda like replying to a story about someone sending harrassing texts to an actress by saying her movies suck.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:50 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]


Thank you, cjelli. That actually does help me reframe it in my mind.

If their thrust is that Gawker needs to hire/reprioritize some people who are "plumbers," whose expertise is in managing web sites and discussion boards, and who can do IP bans, and checksum bans of images, and so forth, rather than leaving it to someone whose primary skill is content creation with some minor moderation on the side, I can completely get behind that.
posted by tyllwin at 8:56 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Good that people are talking about this, but we shouldn't fool ourself that this is a problem because of Gawker or MRA hatred of Jezebel, or kinja or anything that can be solved with a technical solution.

This is what happens when you allow everyone to say what they want to say, and you expect to be protected from reading those things.

I'm sure I've read about this in more detail, but all I could find was this buzzfeed article about how traumatic it is to work as a youtube moderator.

My heart goes out to the minimum wage shlubs who are increasingly being asked to determine (usually outside of their own cultural and moral context) what we can, and what we can't read. They're like modern day sin-eaters we allow to be corrupted, so we don't have to be.

Yeah - it sucks that Gawker journalists have ended up doing this horrible, horrible job. One thing we need to ensure though is that we don't just farm the job out to voiceless third worlders and then forget about it.

(until one of them deletes a picture of someone breast-feeding and we get to rise as a western multitude to complain to facebook / twitter / google who then fire this poor person)
posted by zoo at 8:57 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


I clearly don't understand Gawker's relationship with these people. If they're just free-lance writers, not paid to moderate, why are they moderating? Why don't they file and forget?

Because at least on the Jezebel side of things, the writers who post there actually do genuinely care about the regular commenters. If the writers don't police the comment threads on their own articles, no one will, and regular commenters (i.e. the people who have been commenting there since well before the shitpile that is Kinja came into their lives) are leaving the site. Say what you will about the shittiness of the Gawker media empire, but some of the people that work for them are actual human beings who give a shit about what the site is like for the people that read it.
posted by palomar at 8:59 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


So maybe I watched too much wrestling when I was a kid, but this is exactly The Stone Clod Steve Austin vs Vince McMahon angle, with Denton as McMahon.

They're taking a real issue (employee unhappiness, although obviously the Jezebel issue is much, much more serious) and turning it into their entertainment product with a "strike back at your boss" twist.

So sorry, I don't buy the "this was okay on Jezebel because Gawker hates women" aspect of the story. I do agree that the posts were awful and inexcusable, but the way that this is playing out publicly (across all Gawker sites, no less) is absolutely (in wrestling terms) a work.
posted by graphnerd at 8:59 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Not sure if this update had been posted yet: What Gawker Media Is Doing About Our Rape Gif Problem
posted by Chrysostom at 9:04 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


If this was a scam to get page views, it is the weirdest way of introducing planned changes to the comment system on Gawker Media I can think of. Like Coca Cola introducing New Coke to take advantage of huge sales boost when they brought back Coke Classic.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:08 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


How is it that, after a year of NSA revelations, it sounds reasonable to ask a hypothetical "anonymous tipster" to use the communications protocol: "post a public comment via unencrypted HTTP and we pinky-swear we'll discard your IP address"?

That's a reasonable level of anonymity for the type of tip that gets sent to a Gawker site. It protects the Gawker and the user from any standard subpoena.

This isn't the Post or the Times we're talking about.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:28 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


tyllwin: "what do people think that job entails if not cleaning out the toilet"

Janitors aren't expected to scrub unflushed toilets with their bare hands, because it would be a health risk for the employee.
posted by desuetude at 9:39 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I do agree that the posts were awful and inexcusable, but the way that this is playing out publicly (across all Gawker sites, no less) is absolutely (in wrestling terms) a work.


Except that Nick Denton loves money, and Procter & Gamble (for example) absolutely does not want to be next to violence porn, no matter how much traffic it drives.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:40 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Except that Nick Denton loves money, and Procter & Gamble (for example) absolutely does not want to be next to violence porn, no matter how much traffic it drives.

Yeah, I'm not saying that the original trolling was anything other than somebody being an asshole. But the way this is playing out -- the public letter that was the top story on all Gawker sites, the discussion around it -- is very much in their interest. It creates a compelling story that keeps everyone's minds and clicks within the Gawker network.
posted by graphnerd at 10:05 AM on August 13


I don't love everything on Jezebel, but they have a few writers that are saying really meaningful things and honestly deserve a better forum. It strikes me as such a shame that women writers are marginalized so much that the "girl ghetto" of Gawker Media actually has worthwhile content mixed in with the celebrity bullshit. Whenever I look at the Gawker Media properties, I'm always so annoyed that "Women" are classed as an interest parallel to "cars" and "sports" but that's how it is.

Good that people are talking about this, but we shouldn't fool ourself that this is a problem because of Gawker or MRA hatred of Jezebel, or kinja or anything that can be solved with a technical solution.

I only partially agree with this. I think it's tempting to throw your hands up in the air and say, well, there's not a technical solution to this problem, but I really think that that's just because tech is filled with men who don't face this problem. Technology has come up with some really creative solutions to problems, and I don't believe that this is unsolvable on an engineering level. I think the will just isn't there.

For example, Gawker announced that they are bringing back the pending system. It's a technical solution that makes it so that trolls aren't automatically publishes. It has the downside of making it so that commenters who aren't vetted don't get to participate, but it allows for control of not choosing to look at all the bullshit out there if they don't want to.
posted by ohisee at 10:24 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


"Yeah, Vox/SBNation is a good parallel case here; it's not just Gawker that has taken this all-under-one-roof approach and in doing so destroyed, or at least greatly watered down, what used to be a bunch of thriving smaller web communities. They talk a good game about it, but they see comments primarily as a means of support for chasing pageviews and "engagement"; so even when they absorb smaller, more focused websites with thriving existing communities they can never seem to figure out how to sustain them."

BlessYouBoys, a Detroit Tigers site, got swallowed by SBNation but has remained really high quality. I think that's because 1) A lot of writers there have either become or would like to become newspaper baseball writers. The EiC got hired to work at either the Freep or DetNews (I forget). That means that they've always done things like have an internal style guide and attempt to keep professional. 2) There's a fairly seriously enforced civility ToS that both moderators and the community enjoy, with the ostensible purpose of making sure that Tigers fandom is something that is multigenerational. There's swearing, but it's minimal and its the nasty personal attacks and graphic images that are really discouraged. 3) It's been around for a long time — it got going in 2005, and was started by a baseball nerd (Baseball Prospectus was mentioned early and often), and so had a fairly dedicated core and has promoted from within the comment section. Pretty much all the current editors have been there eight or more years, either as staff or as regulars. 4) It encourages meet-ups all the time, with regular game attendance at not just Tigers games, but also Mudhens, and even does well enough that I've run into more than a few fans at Tigers away games here in LA. 5) It knows what it's not: Mlive is the local newspaper conglomerate's site, and the comments there are notoriously terrible. Just the worst stereotype of idiot fans that you can think of. So having a mantra of "This isn't Mlive" has helped. 5) Tigers fans are morally superior people, as demonstrated by their loyalty to a perpetually heartbreaking franchise and general good cheer. 6) There's a deeper underbrush of "fanpost" stuff that's not as moderated, but it stays there until a trusted member promotes it to the front page.

So, the "chasing pageviews" hasn't been as much of a thing, though the authors do acknowledge putting up some clickbait stuff, but there's more a sense that they're doing it because some of the hot button stuff is fun to talk about, and usually they spend most of the article eviscerating the assumptions undergirding the clickbaity headline.

I think there are ways to maintain a strong, functional community in the face of trolls and malcontents, and I also think that the current norm of ad hoc standards means that very few sites are really successful at it. They don't have to be, but it's rare that moderation is given the resources and philosophy that it needs to be successful. Hell, even on MeFi, a combination of communication failures and revenue issues led to moderators being let go, and I do think that the site is already and will likely continue to feel that pinch, with a best case scenario of staying fairly stable.
posted by klangklangston at 10:39 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


I'm just not able to quite grasp the mind that does it.

Right, but that's exactly my point. It's not an incomprehensible mind. It's not some twisted tortured sociopath, or a maniacally cackling supervillain. It's just some random idiot. It could be the person you sit next to on public transportation going home tonight. In the experience of many women who have been targets of this kind of behavior, it could be literally anyone at any time, regardless of how they have previously behaved.

As for the creepy and singular dedication, it's not really that different from leveling up in a video game. It's like the cookie clicker except for tedious shitstains.
posted by elizardbits at 10:51 AM on August 13 [15 favorites]


I think people are giving a little too much credit to shitposters. I've seen people post really graphically violent misogynistic crap straight from their Facebook accounts more than a few times.

These guys aren't criminal masterminds. They're mostly inchoate little rage potatoes whose fear of women manifests as aggression.

I'd bet actual money they were only using burner accounts to get around account bans, not for anonymity. Most of them probably aren't quite bright enough to figure out how to do anything more complicated than using a guest account anyway. But they don't worry about being outed, because people don't actually get held accountable in real life for things like that.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:17 AM on August 13 [10 favorites]


Slight tangent about baseball sites ensmallened, broader discussion pertaining to this thread below:

So, the "chasing pageviews" hasn't been as much of a thing, though the authors do acknowledge putting up some clickbait stuff

I agree with almost everything you said but wanted to expand on what I see as the bigger picture that makes SBN an interesting parallel case here. First, it's a weird and interesting semi-disconnected bunch of fan communities (fantustans?) in much the way you describe, each with its own population and norms. And each individual team site is (in its own way, and with very different degrees of success) negotiating the tension between the pressure to run clickbait above the fold and the pressure to maintain a community in the comments below the fold. But my perception is that the former is very much imposed by SBN and tied directly to the sites' moneymaking, while the latter is driven only by a residual sense of responsibility to the formerly-separate communities absorbed into the SBN empire, and maybe secondarily some idea that community engagement helps with "stickiness" or whatever. I used to spend basically all my online baseball time at their Mets site — and like you say of BYB, it's still an entirely successful site, at least by the standard of not being all the other Mets blogs out there, thank god — but there's really been a very perceptible drift over the last few years from its pre-SBN and early-SBN existence as a community-driven site, to more recently a writer-driven, pseudo-journalistic site that has a clear mandate to weigh in on every clickbait controversy du jour, on both sides if possible. Even if (as you say) sometimes they run articles with a sense of ironic distance or "this doesn't really matter," they still run articles, enthusiastically contributing to the froth of the 24-hour news cycle — in this they're functionally identical to the Gawker approach. And more recently there are effectively two classes of users rather than one community; criticism/disagreement directed at the "articles" and the "staff" writers gets treated very differently from disagreement with the commenters, while the formerly-active fan post area gets smaller and more buried every time they redesign.


This is a tension that's being managed differently by each individual "property" in each blog empire, but I do think it's being imposed, though perhaps only implicitly, by the blog empires themselves, the "holding companies" as Smart Dalek called them — which are always going to be more interested in clicks than community. Just like Gawker with Jezebel, they want to aggregate the click-chasing "publishing" side of the equation larger and larger — and their basic attitude to the comments below the fold is that they're a probably necessary, but still secondary and slightly confusing, appendage to that. These umbrella Web-publishers, Vox and Gawker and their ilk, are fundamentally ambivalent about being community sites. They may think that having a commenting community makes them more Web-savvy than their old-media competition, but they still basically want to "publish" articles for clicks more than they want to do (or understand how to do) the hard work of building online community. The masterstroke by the Jezebel writers here is exactly how they pulled the shittiness from the community below the fold into the above-the-fold articles' controversy-mongering, which is the point where it suddenly matters to the Gawker overlords.
posted by RogerB at 11:23 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I'd bet actual money they were only using burner accounts to get around account bans, not for anonymity.

I'll take that bet, since Joel Johnson has said a few times now that it's not burner accounts posting the shit posts. Whoever it is is using throwaway Twitter accounts to sign up, so apparently they aren't worried about IP bans.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:27 AM on August 13


Of all the infinite variety of things in the wide world that there are to do...

With all the endless range of possible activities that are fun, thought-provoking, educational, self-actualizing, or some combination of these...

Out of all the things one might do to benefit one's self, one's fellow humans and/or the world as a whole...

... someone (or several someones) think the best option is to post shock images where they aren't needed, wanted or appreciated?

What.

(And vandalizing Gawker Media sites? Isn't that like leaving a flaming bag of poop at a sewage treatment plant that's just been napalmed?)
posted by sourcequench at 11:48 AM on August 13


what do people think that job entails if not cleaning out the toilet

If I got hired to clean toilets, but then there was constantly rape porn in the toilets, I think I'd have a legitimate employment complaint.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 11:49 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]


Whoever it is is using throwaway Twitter accounts to sign up, so apparently they aren't worried about IP bans.

ah, Twitter. Is there any problem on the Internet you can't make worse?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:50 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


If I got hired to clean toilets, but then there was constantly rape porn in the toilets, I think I'd have a legitimate employment complaint.

And with that, the analogy imploded in a self-referential dimensional twist.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:21 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


... someone (or several someones) think the best option is to post shock images where they aren't needed, wanted or appreciated?

Come now, celebrate the incredible diversity and traditions of that glorious mass of people we call mankind.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:23 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


If they're just free-lance writers, not paid to moderate, why are they moderating? Why don't they file and forget?

Just to elaborate on this for a moment: you do realize that the writer's name is right up at the top of the article, right?

Let's put aside the fact that many freelance writers do care about the communities for which they're writing, and about fostering healthy discussions on the topics at hand. Even in cases where neither of those things are true, freelance writers still have a vested interest in not having their name tied to a page full of rape .gifs. Doubly so when that page is hosted on a site that ranks well in search results.

It's not a newspaper. "Filing and forgetting" doesn't consign your article to waste bins. What you wrote, and what people appended to it, will still be out there weeks and months and years to come.

So maybe you take the time to moderate the page, even though doing so is shitty and distressing, and you were only paid $20 to write the piece to begin with, and you have dozens of other shitty articles to write, each of which is going to create the same stupid problem.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:24 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


To try my hand at that metaphor, it's not like being hired as a janitor when a plumber is needed. It's like being hired as a fry cook at a fast food place that won't hire a janitor or a plumber, even though it has a bathroom.

I guess you could just let shit overflow from the bathroom into the restaurant in which you spend your days working. Or you could try to stem the flow of shit, both for your own sake and the sake of the restaurant and its customers.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:35 PM on August 13 [5 favorites]


My understanding is that Jezebel/Gawker writers are required to monitor and moderate the comments on their own articles.
posted by argonauta at 12:45 PM on August 13


I'll take that bet, since Joel Johnson has said a few times now that it's not burner accounts posting the shit posts. Whoever it is is using throwaway Twitter accounts to sign up, so apparently they aren't worried about IP bans.

I know they don't care about IP bans. My point is that they're only maintaining anonymity as it affects their ability to continue posting. Twitter is notorious for not giving a shit about harassing women, and it's as easy to sign up for Twitter as it is a burner, so same difference, really.

These types of people usually don't seem to worry much at all about being doxxed or harassed or suffering any real life consequences the way so many of their targets do.

There are plenty of band aid solutions to resolve Gawker's problem or whatever the most recent manifestation is, but the fact is that there are people out there who do this sort of thing all the time with no real repercussions. It doesn't require any special intelligence or talent or technical skills beyond what an average grade schooler has.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:47 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


"Inchoate little rage potatoes" - that's beautiful, ernielundquist!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:17 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Trolling And The Confessional Essay - "As publications have struggled to figure out what will reliably draw in both readers and advertisers on the Internet, feminist posts have emerged as a clear success story... The point here isn't to blame the victim, but rather to question how we've even arrived at this hyperpersonal form of women-oriented journalism. It's been sold to female writers as a sort of liberation."
posted by kliuless at 4:16 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The piece extensively quoted in kliuless' first link is interesting:

One of the attractions of feminist writing is that it can be inexpensive to produce.

That's a good thing in that it makes accessible a lot of important and good writing, but when the articles are almost free and the trolls are endless, you can see how irresistible the model is for a site that wants page views.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:34 PM on August 13


The Stone Clod Steve Austin

I remember his epic bouts with Rocco "Huge Schmuck" Pirelli.
posted by spitbull at 7:20 PM on August 13 [6 favorites]


An Argument Against "Free Speech"
To many of us who write online for a living, the Jezebel staff post felt like a watershed moment: the constant harassment of female writers finally being treated as the workplace safety issue it is. For too long, employers have held fast to the myth that unmoderated or lightly moderated comment sections encourage free and open dialogue that creates a sense of community. Maybe that works on low-traffic sites with no controversial content—I doubt it—but it has exactly the opposite effect on popular websites featuring work by opinionated women. Trolls and haters drive away people who care about the site and sincerely want to respond to the work there, or to other reasonable commenters.
posted by jaguar at 9:12 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


inchoate little rage potatoes

Thank you for that, amazing description.

A friend of mine worked as a comment moderator for Ha'aretz, the famous left-of-center Israeli newspaper. I asked her why it seemed like 90% of their comments were either borderline Anti-Semitic or complete right-wing Hate fantasies and she said those were the good comments, 90% were not approved for violating the guidelines.

The fact is that very few sites have commenting figured out. I actually think a nominal fee to become a commenter model combined by real moderation, with a forum dedicated to discussing moderation and general comment guidelines is an amazing model. If Metafilter is still having trouble making ends meet as a standalone, perhaps the company should "pivot" to helping other major sites deal with shitty commenters. I know most of the major news sites could greatly benefit from MeFi style comments! :)
posted by cell divide at 9:16 AM on August 14


If people are interested in real numbers (inflated by bots/spiders but as real as public numbers are going to get) for the Gawker sites, here you go:

https://www.quantcast.com/p-d4P3FpSypJrlA/traffic/sites

Jezebel is the 5th most popular in the US (which is what matters for ads), but its demographics are quite good so I'm sure it makes a lot of money for the company. Those that think this controversy is for pageviews are wrong, this is the sort of thing that hurts the bottom line and they're doing just fine with their regular stories, good enough for 8mm US visitors per month. By comparison, the Metafilter sites get around 6mm.
posted by cell divide at 9:20 AM on August 14


If Metafilter is still having trouble making ends meet as a standalone, perhaps the company should "pivot" to helping other major sites deal with shitty commenters. I know most of the major news sites could greatly benefit from MeFi style comments! :)

First you have to attract a better class of commenter.
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on August 14


First you have to attract a better class of commenter.

I suspect they're reading, they just won't bother to comment in the muck. Clean things up such that intelligent conversation is possible and I think they'll fill the gap.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:12 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I actually think a nominal fee to become a commenter model combined by real moderation, with a forum dedicated to discussing moderation and general comment guidelines is an amazing model.

For an example of a site where there is a de facto fee to comment (3 page views per week when logged in on a free account), but no moderation, The Economist has idiots like this commenting on every page. It can't be that difficult for them to work out that the return on investment in some moderators would be strongly positive.
posted by ambrosen at 3:24 PM on August 14


Just Kill All of the Comments Already
An argument for the end of comments isn’t actually an argument against the value of comments. They just don’t belong at the end of or alongside posts, as if they’re always some extension of or relevant to the original. They belong on personal blogs, or on Twitter or Tumblr or Reddit, where individuals build a full, searchable body of work and can be judged accordingly. Hell, put them all on Medium, and let Evan Williams try to sell the douche bags to BMW.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:03 PM on August 14


The problem is that the value of comments is pageviews, not conversation, and content providers don't want to give those pageviews up to Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Reddit any more than they do already.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:52 AM on August 15 [3 favorites]


That is almost verbatim what a music journalist friend of mine was told when she raised the point that the reviews she spent hours working on get the same page space as someone who farts out a dismissive, trollish comment under them. "Killing comments means killing page views, wish there was something we could do."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:20 PM on August 15


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