Wick Communications

The rape GIF problem

In Online media on 21 Aug 2014 at 2:35 pm

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.30.04 PM

The headline was an eye-catcher:

“We have a rape GIF problem and Gawker Media won’t do anything about it.” It appeared on the online general interest website aimed at women that is known as “Jezebel.” Jezebel is a unit of Gawker Media and readers click on the site 200,000 times a day. Like most media websites, it allows comments. And that is turning out to be a problem.

The headline comes atop a very unhappy story, bylined Jezebel Staff, that explains someone was creating anonymous accounts on Gawker’s third-party platform Kinja and then posting violent pornography where the insightful commentary is supposed to go. Over, and over again. From the piece:

This practice is profoundly upsetting to our commenters who have the misfortune of starting their day with some excessively violent images, to casual readers who drop by to skim Jezebel with their morning coffee only to see hard core pornography at the bottom of a post about Michelle Obama, and especially to the staff, who are the only ones capable of removing the comments and are thus, by default, now required to view and interact with violent pornography and gore as part of our jobs.

None of us are paid enough to deal with this on a daily basis.

Hopefully, in the course of your job you haven’t seen anything quite as disgusting as Jezebel describes, but all of us charged with monitoring a website are familiar with the problem of unpleasant trolls. It bums me out every day in fact.

Well, two days after that Jezebel post, Jezebel and Gawker announced something like a fix. It scrubbed the filth from its servers and disabled media uploads on its comment boards. It also re-established the pending comment system. Approved commenters will see their comments immediately, all others go into a pending queue to be uploaded after a peek from editors. The fact that one of the new media giants went back to a previous system only proves that we’re all still working this out. There is no widely accepted standard for comments and how to handle them. …

One thing is worth noting. Gawker didn’t censor the Jezebel complaint, which called out its corporate overlords in a rather ballsy way. Instead the parent company allowed the debate and complaint to continue and worked on a solution. As Jezebel noted two days after the first screed, “This ordeal has been unpleasant, but we’re lucky to work at a company where raising hell gets you results instead of getting you canned.”

We are all in this together. Sooner or later, I hope someone will come up with a better way to assure that only civilized comments get play.



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