I had two very interesting conversations yesterday with experts in the field of online harassment, Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign and Andrea Weckerle of CiviliNation. Allyson posted this inforgraphic about the rate of harassment between men and women online:
There is a lot more to the infographic of the results from a survey of over 1,000 net users about where and when and how they are harassed, but this is the part that really caught my eye:
(You should go here to see the entire infographic)
Of the adults who reported being harassed, 57% were women and 43% were men. And also note, that the question wasn’t, “Have you been sexually harassed?” It was, “Have you been harassed?”
This continues a long trend of women being subject to ridicule, stalking, hate and misogyny online.
I talked to Andrea about it. She founded an organization dedicated to trying to create a more civil web. Andrea wants people to step out into public online and make themselves real and even vulnerable, but to be smart about it. She pointed out, and Allyson confirmed on Facebook, that there are no laws against online harassment. Even if it gets to the point of making it impossible for someone to exist online. Unless death threats are involved, general harassment, name calling and intimidation are fair game.
Given how integral the web has become to most people’s every day lives, this seems like an extraordinary impediment to trying to keep the web civil. Platforms can block or cancel the accounts of offenders, but we all know that if someone wants to harass someone badly enough they will find other online pathways to doing so.
Rather than the feds trying to take over the web and provide a fast lane for the telecoms, perhaps focusing on new laws and a new civility online would be a worthwhile national focal point.