Internet Rules and Laws 2.0

Current Berkman People and Projects 2013-03-26


Godwin's feminist corollary: As an online discussion about sexism continues, the probability of a woman who speaks out being called a feminazi approaches 1.

Anita's irony: Online discussion of sexism or misogyny quickly results in disproportionate displays of sexism and misogyny.

I've long been fascinated by the varied "laws" and "rules" of life online. Indeed, in 1999 I compiled an extensive list of quotations that "capture the governance of memes as social norms on the Internet." In 2010, my book about Wikipedia and good faith collaboration made use of Godwin's Law: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

In light of the maelstrom of discussion around Adria Richards this past week and the backlash against Anita Sarkeesian last year I've been struck by how gendered the laws and rules are. Many of the aphorisms I collected in 1999 are influenced by the libertarian take on "freedom" that I now question in "Free as in Sexist?". The "Rules of the Internet" emerged from 4chan culture and are written from the perspective of sexually-frustrated young men who have a penchant for (underage) porn. From any other perspective, there are other patterns to online conversation that are seemingly, unfortunately inevitable. Hence, I've coined a few laws of my own (though I'm sure their naming and specification could be improved.) Feel free to tweak or add your own!



03/25/2013, 00:00

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Joseph Reagle

Date tagged:

03/26/2013, 00:08

Date published:

03/26/2013, 00:08