1998-08-26 - Re: Is hate code speech?

Header Data

From: Xcott Craver <caj@math.niu.edu>
To: “William H. Geiger III” <whgiii@openpgp.net>
Message Hash: d133e018fc544b2b26a762408c777ca2bdece0460acd435a61772f5a799c3a7e
Message ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.980825202006.3834A-100000@baker>
Reply To: <199808252227.RAA004.35@geiger.com>
UTC Datetime: 1998-08-26 01:49:19 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998 18:49:19 -0700 (PDT)

Raw message

From: Xcott Craver <caj@math.niu.edu>
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998 18:49:19 -0700 (PDT)
To: "William H. Geiger III" <whgiii@openpgp.net>
Subject: Re: Is hate code speech?
In-Reply-To: <199808252227.RAA004.35@geiger.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.980825202006.3834A-100000@baker>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

On Tue, 25 Aug 1998, William H. Geiger III wrote:

> Yes and if I want to name my variables getwatermelons and somefiredchicken
> who are you to tell me I can't?

	Nobody's saying that you can't.  This is about liability for
	the _results_ of what you type.  The same goes for libel:  
	nobody's saying you _can't_ declare that McDonalds puts dead
	rats in their hamburgers, but hoo boy can you and your boss get
	sued to pieces if you do.  Nothing new here.

	Further, this is about someone writing code for a company, 
	where others read it; not you, Bill Geiger III, writing code
	in the privacy of your own basement.  Yes, you will get your ass 
	fired clean off of its hinges if you treat company source code as 
	your own little bathroom wall.  

	As for the fact that this code was put there before the woman's
	arrival, and pretty clearly not intended for her, that may be 
	important in the suit.  I don't know how successful harassment
	suits are when the harassment is undirected --- i.e., crude
	graffiti, leaving a copy of Playboy lying around, etc.

	On the other hand, only a moron would write source code for
	a commercial product without the assumption that other people
	will be reading it, and in fact will *have* to read it to get
	paid.  Any arguments that the coders didn't intend/expect that
	the messages would one day be read by a black person is pretty

	All in all, then, I'd say she has a good chance of winning.
	The whole bit about source code not being speech is irrelevant,
	IMHO, since harassment still counts if it ain't speech.  The
	company's only real defense is to rely on the judge & jury's
	technical confusion about what this "source code" stuff is.