A virtual/in-person reading group on garbage, hate and harassment
Key to maintaining free expression on the Internet is understanding and responding to the hate, harassment and abuse that the communications network also delivers. This challenge isn’t new, but it has become more apparent recently. Responses to descriptions of the problem or how to handle it often prove the need for this kind of work.
The replies to our last tweet are precisely why we are exploring ways to combat online harassment.
— Google Ideas (@googleideas) September 23, 2015
Online harassment is also an area where an effective response is likely to involve technical designs, changing social norms and responsive laws and policies. How can we build tools for blocking, filtering, muting or platforms that dampen harassment or encourage constructive behavior? What rules for liability or laws for notice and takedown will be effective and which will unnecessarily inhibit free expression? How can we educate and encourage civil behavior and free discourse?
The School of Information has an informal reading group where we puzzle over what be the classics of the interdisciplinary field of Information Science. This month, we’re looking at two books on the topic of online harassment:
- Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, by Danielle Keats Citron, September 2014.
- The Internet of Garbage, by Sarah Jeong, July 2015.
As a topic of great interest to CTSP, to citizen technologists and to users of the Internet, I invite you to participate. As an experiment, here are two ways to join in:
- In person: Read part or all of one or both books and come join us this Friday, October 2nd in the afternoon on the UC Berkeley campus. (RSVP via email.) We’ll have an informal discussion of the books and the topic and then the first round of drinks is on CTSP.
- On the Web: Read part or all of one or both books and write up your impressions on your blog. We’ll reflect on the in-person meeting on this Citizen Technologist blog as well, and share links to your reviews and thoughts as well.
Please post your thoughts or links in the comments here or you can email links to us; I’ve gathered some reviews in a list below and we’ll include those reviews or ideas from the Web as part of our in person discussion.
Reading these books isn’t easy; they touch on very sensitive topics and recount some disturbing and depressing stories. But the texts are also quite accessible: The Internet of Garbage is a fairly short read and the case study approach in Hate Crimes in Cyberspace means you can learn a lot from just a few chapters. While not easy, the conversation about this topic is increasingly important; we hope that a diverse community can contribute.
Reviews, and other resources
Some proposals or groups working on the problem of online harassment:
- Facing the Challenge of Online Harassment, from the EFF
- The Online Abuse Prevention Initiative is a non-profit dedicated to reducing and mitigating online abuse through study, creation and collaboration.
I’ve written some personal thoughts on technical mechanisms we could develop, based in part on experience with spam.