The GoodReads Bullying Drama

In case you wanted to take a break from libraryland drama but wanted some other kind of related drama to occupy the space, there are things afoot in and around the literary social community, GoodReads. There’s a lot to sift through (especially as someone who is not familiar with the site, its social dynamic, or posting policies), but in doing my research into the matter over the weekend I found what I considered to be the best summary of the current state of drama:

If you aren’t familiar with this situation, here’s the short version: There’s a cluster of people who are put out by Goodreads users “bullying” authors through negative reviews, so they’ve taken it upon themselves to anonymously (and pseudonymously) harass those users by exposing their personal information.

These authors have banded together to create a site, “Stop the GR Bullying” with the purpose of stopping what they see as cyberbullying of authors on the GoodReads site… by engaging in a higher level of cyberbullying in creating profiles of “enemies” by posting whatever information they can gleam from their online presence. One of the people they named reportedly got a threatening phone call after her profile went up. With this escalation, as the old saying goes, “shit just got real” (or perhaps, possibly more apropos in this case, “When ‘Keeping It Real’ Goes Wrong”.)

In all seriousness, I don’t foresee an outcome that doesn’t have someone getting charged with harassment (for the call, at the very least) or some sort of legal action against the owners of the site (who will be publicly named, as the discovery phase of any lawsuit will reveal it) for incitement and/or libel. What started in the review and comment sections on the GoodReads site is going to have have greater repercussions than the possibility that someone skips over reading a particular book. It’s really a shame that it has escalated to this level.

In stepping back and looking at the situation as a whole, I think there is a library angle to this whole drama as the rise of the self publishing industry continues. It may not be something to act on today (or in particular to this series of events), but it is worth noting what is going on in a social community centered around reading. Whether it is looking for the best ‘sweet spot’ for the moderation and policy of reviews or comments, the management of people around a particular activity as libraries look to create and cultivate communities, or creating relationships with the independent and/or self published author scene, I believe it is well worth the look to evaluate this drama as a whole and learn from it. Also, I think there are some lessons to be learned from the wants of the readers, reviewers, and authors as some libraries take the plunge into creating viable local literary scenes.

For much, much further reading on this situation (presented in chronological order):