Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sticks and stones

Poland is misbehaving. The police are chasing badly behaving soccer hooligans. Prime Minister Donald Tusk is chasing misbehaving soccer clubs, forcing them to shutdown stadiums due to hooligan misbehaviour. Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is chasing Gadaffi's forces in Benghazi. We also have the very same Sikorski chasing the publisher Axel Springer in courts for alleged misbehaviour and for offensive comments made on forums tied to its newspapers. The comments have actually led Axel Springer, which publishes Poland's top tabloid, and the weekly Wprost to chase naughty posters off its forums.

So, dear readers, if you have the strange feeling Poland has gone bonkers in the past few days, don't worry, so do I. If you don't believe me, let me remind you that it snowed in Poland on May 3 (yes, just a week ago), triggering transportation chaos, but has been well over 20 C for the past couple of days. Bonkers, I say.

The idea of shutting down forums is thus the latest episode of madness. Maybe it is the "stadium shutdown effect" of overblowing and overreacting to even the slightest problem. I can somewhat understand why Axel Springer would shut down its forums -- they are being sued by a well-known minister. It might be easier to shut them down, wipe the offensive comments and seek some sort of deal. But what the hell is Wprost thinking killing its comment sections due to unruly users?

I understand its forums are full of teenage idiots who think calling someone...no, I'm not gonna go into that...let's say bad names...makes them grown up and cool. I understand it is not easy to moderate these forums. But now it will be even harder.

The Sikorski vs Axel Springer case is a "classic reap what you sow" example. If you make a living off of the most popular tabloid in Poland based on the rule "the more controversy the better," you should be prepared to take responsibility for attracting people to your web pages that are not afraid to throw around sexist, racist and vulgar comments. Shutting down the comment section is just pushing the problem somewhere else.

On other hand let's not be overly dramatic ourselves. Wprost said "what is going on in forums is no different to what is happening in the stadiums." Really?! I would say there is a significant difference between the two things as the hooligans' death toll is somewhere in the teens whereas verbal violence on forums is somewhere in the territory of hurt feelings.

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