I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the issues of blog stalkers for very personal reasons. This blog deals in part with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am often critical of evangelical Christians and right-wing Israel supporters. These views deeply disturb some of my readers to the point where they write obscene, abusive, hate-filled comments. And in numerous instances some have stalked my blog publishing comments continuously for days, weeks or months on end. I currently have a stalker who taunts me saying that if I delete his comment he will publish it forever. And he has…at least 15 times over a period of months. I have also had anti-Semitic stalkers who’ve called, in creepy comments left at my blog, for genocide against the Jewish people.
Of course, some blog software provides some protection against such unwanted intruders. You can ban an IP address or an e mail address and even a string of words that might appear in the comment. You can require all comments to be moderated and delete any you don’t like. You can require all commenters to register before commenting. You can force the comments of someone who’s never published a comment before into moderation. UPDATE: Yesterday, after reviewing the details of his post I thought of a potential banning method which I won’t reveal here in order not to inform the offending party or other spammer/stalkers. So far, 24 hours later–I haven’t seen a new comment from my wormy “friend.”
At best, some of these methods leave something to be desired; and at worst they are riddled with holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through. What I would really like (and this probably would distress someone who believes in free speech as an absolute) is a technical means of positively associating a specific individual with a specific comment. I have read that in the fight against spam some ISPs are considering using certificates to authenticate the identity of e mail senders. I wonder whether some form of this could be used to prevent blog abuse as well. If everyone who sends me a comment had such a certificate, then I could decline to accept communication from such an individual via their certificate.
Many believe that such abuse is nothing more than a mere nuisance or that it’s the “price we pay for free speech.” These responses leave me cold. Abuse, hate, anti-Semitism and racism fill the web and the situation is getting worse. I’d like to see organizations like Electronic Frontier Foundation or Public Knowledge acknowledge that this is a problem and address it. I understand that they exist to promote the widest possible freedom of expression. But what about the freedom from…abuse, insult, harrassment, hate? What about the right to be left alone?
I’d like to read more on the subject so if you’ve ready any good articles or research on the subject, please leave me a comment below.