Popular Site Aims To Set 'Blueprint' For Fighting Online Misogyny

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Last week, Drew Curtis, CEO of the popular news aggregation site Fark, announced that the site is cracking down on misogyny in comment threads.

Do you think popular websites do enough to keep misogynistic comments away from users? Share your thoughts in the comments.

As you probably know (especially if you're a woman), there are a lot of terrible people saying terrible things about women on the Internet, and much of it goes unchecked. Curtis decided that he'd had enough of this happening on his site, and expressed regret about not coming down harder on it sooner.

Curtis tells WebProNews that Fark is "working on a blueprint for others to follow."

"Every community should consider doing this," he says.

Curtis said in his announcement that Fark has been tightening up moderation style related to this stuff for a while, but last week, they updated the official rules. He noted that the move represented "enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates."

Here's an excerpt from the announcement:

There are lots of examples of highly misogynistic language in pop culture, and Fark has used those plenty over the years. From SNL's "Jane, you ignorant slut" to Blazing Saddles' multiple casual references to rape, there are a lot of instances where views are made extreme to parody them. On Fark, we have a tendency to use pop culture references as a type of referential shorthand with one another.

On SNL and in a comedy movie, though, the context is clear. On the Internet, it's impossible to know the difference between a person with hateful views and a person lampooning hateful views to make a point. The mods try to be reasonable, and context often matters. We will try and determine what you meant, but that's not always a pass. If your post can be taken one of two ways, and one of those ways can be interpreted as misogynistic, the mods may delete it -- even if that wasn't your intent.

Things that aren't acceptable:

- Rape jokes
- Calling women as a group "whores" or "sluts" or similar demeaning terminology
- Jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it

Obviously, these are just a few examples and shouldn't be taken as the full gospel, but to give you a few examples of what will always be over the line. Trying to anticipate every situation and every conversation in every thread would be ridiculous, so consider these guidelines and post accordingly. I recommend that when encountering grey areas, instead of trying to figure out where the actual line is, the best strategy would be to stay out of the grey area entirely.

Whenever a foot is put down on what can't be included in Internet comment threads, there are inevitably some that cry, "Censorship!"

Curtis tells us, however, that so far the response has been "nothing but positive," and that there has been no uptick in commenters testing Fark's new policy.

"It's been surprisingly smooth," he says.

As a story at Vice recently put it, Fark banning misogyny actually "facilitates free speech," because it means women can be more comfortable expressing their thoughts without worrying about the dregs of the Internet threatening to rape them or otherwise harass them.

Fark's move could indeed provide inspiration for other online environments to take similar action, and that's one of the reasons the site has gotten some national news coverage for it.

Gawker also recently cracked down on users posting "rape GIFs" on its Jezebel site, though only after Jezebel called out the company itself in a blog post. This story also put the spotlight on the Internet's rampant misogyny.

These moves from Fark and Gawker aren't going to solve the whole problem, but they're certainly positive moves in a better direction. Any other sites inspired to follow suit will just serve as additional steps.

Do you think online misogyny can be largely stamped out? Let us know what you think.

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Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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