state the parameters of acceptable conversational topics. Users have also been observed exhibiting behavioural conventions that are not written and posted ( Jeffrey and Mark 1999). In general, netiquettes outline guidelines for the actual status of debate within the community with respect to the code of conduct that administrators would like applied. They give recommendation for fair and polite communication. Most rules seem to be reactionary, based on experiences that have occurred previously within virtual environments.
On the Internet, two kinds of environments could be differentiated with respect to the action provided by affordances ( Pankoke-Babatz 1999). Asynchronous media support time dispersed communication through the distribution of text- messages (i.e. Email, newsgroups, mailing lists) and synchronous media which provide virtual locations for real-time social interaction (i.e. Chatrooms, MUDS, virtual worlds).
Netiquettes refer generally to a code of conduct (i.e. 'don't SHOUT', 'be polite', 'avoid disruptive behaviour'). We found that the degree to which these rules of politeness are applied and enforced can be environmentally specific. For example, multi-user newsgroups may have recommendations that must be applicable to the newsgroup population, and may differ between newsgroups. The bilateral relationship of Email may only require the following of conventions acceptable between sender and receiver ( Rospach 1996; YOYO 1997).
A major difference between real world and Internet communication is that the Internet provides the possibility of non-physical and anonymous contacts. This anonymity may provide people with the opportunity to lower their inhibitions and create the potential for unregulated, abusive behaviour ( Reid 1991). From studying the rule sets, we will comment on three areas of disruptive behaviour: spamming, flaming and gender swapping.
Spamming is the process where individuals post identical messages to different newsgroups sometimes with the intent of purposely disrupting ongoing discussions. It also may mean sending mass copies of unsolicited Email to multiple addresses. This action makes it more difficult for receivers to separate personal Email from 'junk mail' and maintain on-topic, relevant newsgroup discussions. It may also result in local technical problems such as storage overflow and slow response. Flaming is a public personal attack against another user (i.e. calling another user names). The absence of a social mechanism to correct the behaviour and the anonymity of the abusers, may lead to flaming that is initially amusing to bystanders but can quite rapidly get out of control.