Lee Zurik, investigative reporter for Fox 8 Live, recently did a story about Levees.org’s quest to roll back the curtains on the practice of vicious online commenting.
But first a little background. In December 2008, using back end tools available to any amateur blogger, we discovered that employees with the Army Corps of Engineers were using government computers to viciously attack the leaders of Levees.org by leaving anonymous comments on nola.com articles.
We brought our discovery to WWL TV Eyewitness News who covered the story.
Our objection to vicious personal attacks online is not just about the anonymity. Our objection is to a very specific type of behavior executed by a very specific type of individual.
Our objection is to people in a position of public trust doing this: 1) disguising their identity, 2) pretending to be impartial uninvolved observers, and 3) using community features of media – like the comments on nola.com – to attack a person or group.
We object to the behavior because we believe it could frighten and silence people who might have spoken out for the public good. We believe it could intimidate people who might have taken a stand on an important issue.
We are in a good position to comment on the behavior because H.J. Bosworth Jr, lead researcher for Levees.org and I have both been the targets of such activity while Levees.org was still a fledgling group.
And while the activity did not chill our public participation, it did, many times, give us pause. Others however, might do more than pause. They might simply give up.
Click here for the story by Lee Zurik.