After all the horrible uproar last fall involving Gamergate, we’re bringing you a good-news story in the fight against sexism in the computer industry.
Gamergate, if you remember, was when some gamers argued that the real victims of horrific sexism in the gaming industry were actually men and not the women chased from their homes and public appearances by vicious death and rape threats after they criticised the portrayal of women in many video games.
The whole thing made you want to put your head in your hands and weep for the state of humanity.
Flash forward to Friday, when to cap off Computer Science Education Week, three women computer scientists from MIT did a Reddit ask-me-anything session to answer questions about programming and academia.
It was a lively discussion of hundreds of comments in which these scientists talked about the world of research, their role models (like their mums, one of whom was also a computer scientists), and how to encourage kids to learn to code (short answer: Scratch, a programming language for kids created at MIT).
Sadly, and because this is the Internet, a few trolls showed up, too, asking bizarre and rude sexist questions, some involving parts of the human body. A PR person from MIT forwarded the links to us, asking us to expose these trolls.
Here’s the good part: Before we could do that, Reddit moderators removed the comments.
At one point in its life, Reddit had an almost anything goes policy. The idea was that it didn’t want to get into the sticky situation of censorship (a noble thought) and so it allowed conversations, links, even subreddits that many would consider to be offensive, leaving it up to the crowd to downvote such stories or comments.
But Reddit aims for these AMAs to be respectful. Reddit’s policy is that it will remove comments that are “abusive or harassing” as well as “comments where there would be no possibility of a real answer, especially where it is deliberately creepy or offensive.”
So now, when you go to this particular AMA, you get a great discussion on life as a computer scientist without creepy detours. The message is that those who want to harass women in the tech industry won’t find purchase there.
In the holiday spirit we’re taking this as a sign that maybe the whole Internet is getting fed-up with this hateful nonsense. That might be wishful thinking, but it’s a worthwhile wish.