Where Will Gawker Draw the Line in Online Debate?

Kinja becomes a platform for controversy

Update: Jezebel wrote on its website that because of its complaints, Gawker Media has disabled media uploads in comments and removed offensive post. It also is re-introducing a pending comment system until a permanent fix is found. 

Gawker Media has gone from a platform for public conversations to being the subject of one.

Yesterday, staff at female-focused news and fashion blog Jezebel, which is owned by Gawker Media, filed a group complaint on the front page of their site entitled We Have A Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won’t Do Anything About It that has garnered over 2,600 comments so far.

The technical issue is the ability to post anonymous comments to a story—including violent pornographic images—through untraceable "burner" accounts, which is allowed by Gawker Media's Kinja publishing system. The philosophical question: what kinds of conditions are necessary to foster good online conversations? At the moment, there aren't ready solutions for either problem.

Gawker's idea for using Kinja is to "make great stories by breaking down the lines between the traditional roles of content creators and consumers." By allowing them to post anonymously, the blog network hoped to get juicy tips and leaks from alert readers—not to mention the kind of discussion that sends a post's page view count soaring.

In practice, however, Kinja's anonymity seems to have mostly opened the door to Internet trolls.

In a 2012 interview with Gigaom, Gawker founder Nick Denton explained part of his interest in making Gawker a platform for "conversational marketing" by saying "I'm obsessed by Internet discussions, and how bad they are, and how much better they could be." And, in a conversation on Twitter last week, he seemed to indicate he felt that banning hate speech would amount to censorship, but that "there are frontline Gawker" editorial staffers who would disagree.

He may have something more to say about this on Thursday, when he will be one of the speakers at a Kinja developer's conference being held in Budapest, Hungary. Among the topics on the agenda: The Future of Journalists and New Horizons for Social and Political Change in the Digital Age.