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Meanwhile, the personal toll on bloggers was mounting.
I was losing sleep and getting sicker worrying about my safety and the safety of the site, to the point where I missed two days of work.
They came only months after violent, gendered threats on technology writer Kathy Sierra made international headlines when they blossomed unchecked on popular and respected tech blogs, even going so far as to include her personal address and phone number, and ultimately causing her to withdraw from public speaking and shut down her blog.
They came less than a year after the law-school website Auto Admit was sued for supporting a culture in which female law students were systematically harassed and threatened in discussion threads that invited commenters to vote on the relative hotness of nonconsenting women, discussed some women’s daily routines in terrifying detail, and threatened to “hatefuck” them when the women dared to object.
But I was also guest-blogging at Feministe that week, so I logged on to check my e-mail and moderate comments one last time before I turned in. I’d done my fair share of blogging, but never before on a site with so much traffic or such active commenters.
I was trying not to come down with a cold and just about to go to bed.
Then I got word that a loosely organized cybermob known as Anonymous was attempting to crash feminist sites, including Feministe, flooding comments sections with misogynist rants and threatening feminist bloggers with rape and other violence.
Privately, we worried about our safety and strategized about how to defend our sites and ourselves.
Publicly, we decried these attacks in blog after blog.
“I would have loved to have established some sort of private e-mail conversation between Biting Beaver, Heart, Kathy Sierra, and other feminist and female bloggers who have faced harassment,” says Filipovic, “but that becomes difficult when the first logical reaction to harassment is to hide all of your personal and contact information, and to immediately distrust strangers who contact you.” So what’s a web-savvy woman to do?
Some see the very fear created for women online as the greatest danger, and advise women to disengage from it at all costs.So when they decided to get some lulz out of feminists, they didn’t exactly have to work hard to find the strategies that would piss us off the most. I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat.In addition to launching what’s known as “distributed denial of service” or ddos attacks, in which the goal is to use up the bandwidth of the site or otherwise interfere with it technically so it can no longer be accessed by readers (“image raeping” being only one of numerous ways to accomplish this), they flooded comments sections and bloggers’ inboxes with hateful rants and threats of violence: Heart, this is horrible. These people want nothing to do but to hurt you and your cause. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.As this piece went to press, Anonymous was making national headlines with an attack on the Church of Scientology’s site.