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"it slowly dawned on me that the landscape of science is maybe what interests people a great deal in science fiction."
- Gregory Benford

EmilyPost  
  An autonomous worm that searches the Net for lack of courtesy.  

This seems like a doable idea; it relates to the idea of a "reputation server" or similar server that keeps track of who is worth listening to (and who is not).

Dear Net-Mail User:
Your mailbox has just been rifled by EmilyPost, an autonomous courtesy-worm chain program released in October 2036 by an anonymous group of net subscribers in western Alaska ([]ref: sequestered confession 592864 -2376298.96534, deposited with Bank Leumi 10/23/36:20:34:21. Expiration-disclosure 10 years.] Under the civil disobedience sections of the Charter of Rio, we accept in advance the fines and penalties that will come due when our confession is released in 2046...

In brief, dear friend, you are not a very polite person. EmilyPost's syntax analysis routines show that a very high fraction of your net exchanges are heated, vituperative, even obscene.

Of course you enjoy free speech. But EmilyPost has been designed by people who are concerned about the recent trend toward excessive nastiness in some parts of the net. EmilyPost homes in on folks like you and begins by asking them to please consider the advantages of politeness.

For one thing, your credibility ratings would rise. (EmilyPost has checked your favorite bulletin boards, and finds your ratings aren't high at all. Nobody is listening to you, sir!) Moreover, consider that courtesy can foster calm reason, turning shrill antagonism into useful debate and even consensus.

Of course, should you insist on continuing as before, disseminating nastiness in all directions, we have equipped EmilyPost with other options you'll soon find out about...

From Earth, by David Brin.
Published by Bantam in 1990
Additional resources -

This also reminds me of the never-ending battle against flame wars that is fought on most sites that accept comments.

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  More Ideas and Technology from Earth
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