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Abstract

In this paper we explore the nature of offensive conduct and its treatment on Usenet. Specifically, we examine the frequency, form, and tone of reproaches for misconduct on five newsgroups: rec.arts.tv.soaps; soc.motss; soc.singles; rec.sports.hockey; and comp.sys.ibm.pc.games. Where possible, subsequent accounts offered by offenders are also examined. Results indicate that few individuals respond publicly to their reproachers and that complete “traditional” remedial episodes in Usenet are relatively rare. Discriminant analysis supports a tentative conclusion that different offense types elicit reproaches which vary in form and tone. Furthermore, the tenor and frequency of reproaches for particular offenses vary according to newsgroup, supporting the thesis that norm violations are differentially treated in Usenet “communities.” The analyses and discussion include an examination of gender differences in the newsgroups studied.