Conduct Control on Usenet

Authors

  • Christine B. Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Christine Biship Smith is a PhD Candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, and is a research associate with the Department of Systems Management at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA. She is currently on leave of absence and residing in Virginia while she completes her dissertation on the growth and scope of the web presence provider industry.
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  • Margaret L. McLaughlin,

    Corresponding author
    1. Margaret L. McLaughlin is Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and a faculty member of the Integrated Media Systems Center. She is Co-Editor of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and Co-Editor of the forthcoming Network and Netplay: Virtual Groups on the Internet (AAAI/MIT Press). She is Principal Investigator for the USC Interactive Art Museum project
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  • Kerry K. Osborne

    Corresponding author
    1. Margaret L. McLaughlin is Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and a faculty member of the Integrated Media Systems Center. She is Co-Editor of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and Co-Editor of the forthcoming Network and Netplay: Virtual Groups on the Internet (AAAI/MIT Press). She is Principal Investigator for the USC Interactive Art Museum project
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Address: Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.

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.

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