Question: What is flaming?

Answer: Flaming is a "hot" reply to an online message that can range from sarcastic, constructive criticism (pointing out spelling or grammatical errors) to severe personal attacks. As the responses are often posted publicly for all Usenet members to read, the flames can sometimes provoke reply flames or third party flames and lead to what is referred to as a "flame war," involving many participants and lasting for many weeks.

In response to flaming and flame wars, some Internet service providers police their services keep flaming in check and some jurisdictions have attempted to address the issue of flaming with statutes. For example, earlier this year Connecticut amended its criminal harassment statute to prohibit sending an electronic message with "intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person."

Jim Black can be reached at jimb@jrb.com.

© James R. Black 1997
applet by New Media Marketing Lab at Sun Microsystems, Inc.