Writer Ben James and his wife Oona are raising their sons in a progressive and “queer-friendly” New England town. They actively encourage the boys to be themselves, never mind those traditional gender norms around “masculinity” and “femininity.” All was well. Until the elder son, Huck, went to sixth grade. Story by Ben James, with hosts Celeste Headlee and John Biewen, and psychologist Terrence Real.
Last month, I walked across the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst to get to work. It was an ordinary stroll. But to a bystander, the sight of an educated Black professional going about his day was apparently cause for alarm.That bystander called the police. My workplace was shut down. I was, and remain, humiliated.Racial profiling at predominantly white institutions is nothing new, and this wasn’t the first time that I had to grit my teeth through a degrading interaction with police at the university.
Stories like this pain me greatly. We need to have a reverse mechanism to have some sort of consequences come back to the reporting parties, particularly in cases where it is repeatedly done and patently obvious there was nothing untoward going on. It might be likened to the equivalent of people not being able to claim free speech when yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Without any repercussions at all, we only allow this type of activity to fester. Repeated offenses should certainly be more harshly punished.
Similar examples of this in our culture include falsely reporting bomb threats, falsely pulling fire alarms, and even recent incidences of “SWATting“. Swatting is typically a situation in which a party that feels wronged by another will call in a terrorist related threat resulting in the dispatching of a SWAT team to an innocent person’s location. This can occasionally lead to the accidental death of an innocent person. We’re prosecuting against these types of crimes (all examples of dangerous false claims) , so why not prosecute or require restitution in cases like Reginald Andrade’s?
I recall a related case like this in July when a white neighbor called the police multiple times on an African American boy for mowing a lawn. The national media attention called to the issue likely helped to shame the perpetrators of the situation into never allowing it to happening again, but this type of public shaming often doesn’t occur in the majority of these cases. In Andrade’s case, much of the shame only falls unfairly on Andrade and, potentially worse, on the broader University of Massachusetts Amherst community at large (and in the long run will tend to discourage diversity there in general–part of the intended effect) and not on the particular person who made the false report.
Why don’t we come up with a better name for this type of harassment to call attention to it and help put a stop to it? Giving swatting a sensationalist name has seemingly helped to curtail it. Perhaps “racial terrorism”? or, better, maybe “community terrorism” which includes not only the terrorism inflicted on the individual target but on the broader community which is heavily damaged as well. Is there a way to take anti-swatting laws and have them apply to these cases?
The longer you've been on Twitter, the more likely it is that you've seen, been part of, or been on the receiving end of what I would politely term a Twitter Clusterfuck. Someone, somewhere has said something controversial. It might be something mean. It might be something offensive. It might be something stupid or funny or smart. Whatever it is, it draws the attention of a larger proportion of the Twitter network than would normally interact with that single person’s tweet on a daily basis.
An overview of features for dealing with abuse and harassment
Along with some of the strategies practiced by micro.blog and their community, these are some intriguing methods for tamping down abuse within social spaces online. The are certainly worth studying and delving into deeper.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
So that’s already a huge advantage over other platforms due the basic design. And in my opinion it’s got advantages over the other extreme, too, a pure peer-to-peer design, where everyone would have to fend for themselves, without the pooled resources. ❧
Definitely something the IndieWeb may have to solve for.
August 13, 2018 at 07:41AM
Mastodon deliberately does not support arbitrary search. If someone wants their message to be discovered, they can use a hashtag, which can be browsed. What does arbitrary search accomplish? People and brands search for their own name to self-insert into conversations they were not invited to.
What you can do, however, is search messages you posted, received or favourited. That way you can find that one message on the tip of your tongue. ❧
August 13, 2018 at 07:41AM
Another feature that has been requested almost since the start, and which I keep rejecting is quoting messages. ❧
August 13, 2018 at 07:43AM
Each individual message can either be:
- Fully public, appearing to your followers, the public timelines, anyone looking at your profile
- Unlisted, appearing to your followers and anyone looking at your profile, but skipping the public timelines
- Private, appearing only to your followers and people mentioned in it
- And direct, appearing only to people mentioned in it
August 13, 2018 at 07:45AM
The "controversy" over hiring tech journalist Sarah Jeong, explained.
I was just thinking about the Quinn Norton episode the other day, and along comes this nice follow up. It’s nice to see that big institutions are coming to understand the trolling- (and some might say bot-) culture and making more clear-headed distinctions.
Another related case can potentially be found with Kevin Williamson at The Atlantic.
I saw the internet create and destroy a bizarro version of myself.
I’ve been reading some pieces from my archive on context collapse and people losing jobs/opportunities as the result of online bullies digging up old social media posts which has become a bigger issue as of late. Many people have been wanting to leave social media platforms for their toxic cultures, and this seems to be a subset of that in that it has people going back and deleting old social posts for fear of implications in the present.
Quinn Norton has some relatively sage advice about the internet in this piece. Of course it’s no coincidence that The New York Times editorial board wanted to hire her.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
History doesn’t ask you if you want to be born in a time of upheaval, it just tells you when you are. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:00AM
I have a teenage daughter, and I have told her all her life that all the grown-ups are making it up as they go along. I have also waggled my eyebrows suggestively while saying it, to make it clear to her that I mean me, too. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:00AM
This taught me that not everyone worthy of love is worthy of emulation. It also taught me that being given terrible ideas is not a destiny, and that intervention can change lives. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:02AM
Not everyone believes loving engagement is the best way to fight evil beliefs, but it has a good track record. Not everyone is in a position to engage safely with racists, sexists, anti-Semites, and homophobes, but for those who are, it’s a powerful tool. Engagement is not the one true answer to the societal problems destabilizing America today, but there is no one true answer. The way forward is as multifarious and diverse as America is, and a method of nonviolent confrontation and accountability, arising from my pacifism, is what I can bring to helping my society. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:03AM
I am not immune from these mistakes, for mistaking a limited snapshot of something for what it is in its entirety. I have been on the other side. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:04AM
I had been a victim of something the sociologists Alice Marwick and danah boyd call context collapse, where people create online culture meant for one in-group, but exposed to any number of out-groups without its original context by social-media platforms, where it can be recontextualized easily and accidentally. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:05AM
I had even written about context collapse myself, but that hadn’t saved me from falling into it, and then hurting other people I didn’t mean to hurt. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:06AM
It helped me learn a lesson: Be damn sure when you make angry statements. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:07AM
Don’t internet angry. If you’re angry, internet later. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:07AM
Context collapse is our constant companion online. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:07AM
I used to think that showing someone how wrong they were on the internet could fix the world. I said a lot of stupid things when I believed that. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:08AM
I am not, and will never be, a simple writer. I have sought to convict, accuse, comfort, and plead with my readers. I’m leaving the majority of my flaws online: Go for it, you can find them if you want. It’s a choice I made long ago. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:09AM
If you look long enough you can find my early terrible writing. You can find blog posts in which I am an idiot. I’ve had a lot of uninformed and passionate opinions on geopolitical issues from Ireland to Israel. You can find tweets I thought were witty, but think are stupid now. You can find opinions I still hold that you disagree with. I’m going to leave most of that stuff up. In doing so, I’m telling you that you have to look for context if you are seeking to understand me. You don’t have to try, I’m not particularly important, but I am complicated. When I die, I’m going to instruct my executors to burn nothing. Leave the crap there, because it’s part of my journey, and that journey has a value. People who came from where I did, and who were given the thoughts I was given, should know that the future can be different from the past. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:13AM
The #IndieWeb community has been working on this for a while. There’s even a service called Brid.gy to help enact it. At the same time, as Ben Werdmüller indicates, we need to be careful not to put too much reliance on silos’ APIs which can, and obviously will, be pulled out from underneath us at any moment.
As any kindergartner can tell you, “It’s difficult to play ball when the local bully owns the ball and wants to make up their own rules or leave in a huff.”
One of the things I love about IndieWeb is that we’re all trying to create a way for balls to be roughly standardized and mass manufactured so that everyone can play regardless of what the bully wants to do or what equipment people bring to the game.1
And as Nikhil Sonnad has reminded us very recently, we also need more than just connections, we need actual caring and thinking human interaction.2
Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.
What a great simple concept for a book about how to stand up to bullies. I know a lot of adults who could stand to read this book.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sooner or later, enough people I like are going to abandon the service, and the pain-to-pleasure ratio will tip unfavorably. I don't know how Twitter will survive 2017 without making some drastic changes to its service. Maybe it's already too late.
Choking down “flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings” and dealing with bathrooms that “transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store” were uncomfortable enough. But Vanity Fair reporter Tina Nguyen feared a...
There are potential solutions to the recent News Genius-gate incident, and simple notifications can go a long way toward helping prevent online bullying behavior.
There has been a recent brouhaha on the Internet (see related stories below) because of bad actors using News Genius (and potentially other web-based annotation tools like Hypothes.is) to comment on websites without their owner’s knowledge, consent, or permission. It’s essentially the internet version of talking behind someone’s back, but doing it while standing on their head and shouting with your fingers in their ears. Because of platform and network effects, such rude and potentially inappropriate commentary can have much greater reach than even the initial website could give it. Naturally in polite society, such bullying behavior should be curtailed.
This type of behavior is also not too different from more subtle concepts like subtweets or the broader issues platforms like Twitter are facing in which they don’t have proper tools to prevent abuse and bullying online.
A creator receives no notification if someone has annotated their content.–Ella Dawson
Towards a Solution: Basic Awareness
I think that a major part of improving the issue of abuse and providing consent is building in notifications so that website owners will at least be aware that their site is being marked up, highlighted, annotated, and commented on in other locations or by other platforms. Then the site owner at least has the knowledge of what’s happening and can then be potentially provided with information and tools to allow/disallow such interactions, particularly if they can block individual bad actors, but still support positive additions, thought, and communication. Ideally this blocking wouldn’t occur site-wide, which many may be tempted to do now as a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, but would be fine grained enough to filter out the worst offenders.
Toward the end of notifications to site owners, it would be great if any annotating activity would trigger trackbacks, pingbacks, or the relatively newer and better webmention protocol of the W3C which comes out of the IndieWeb movement. Then site owners would at least have notifications about what is happening on their site that might otherwise be invisible to them. (And for the record, how awesome would it be if social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Medium, Tumblr, et al would support webmentions too!?!)
Perhaps there’s a way to further implement filters or tools (a la Akismet on platforms like WordPress) that allow site users to mark materials as spam, abusive, or “other” so that they are then potentially moved from “public” facing to “private” so that the original highlighter can still see their notes, but that the platform isn’t allowing the person’s own website to act as a platform to give safe harbor (or reach) to bad actors.
Further some site owners might appreciate gradable filters (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) so that either they or their users (or even parents of younger children) can filter what they’re willing to show on their site (or that their users can choose to see).
Consider also annotations on narrative forms that might be posted as spoilers–how can these be guarded against? For what happens when a even a well-meaning actor posts an annotation on page two which foreshadows that the butler did it thereby ruining the surprise on the last page? Certainly there’s some value in having such a comment from an academic/literary perspective, but it doesn’t mean that future readers will necessarily appreciate the spoiler. (Some CSS and a spoiler tag might easily and unobtrusively remedy the situation here?)
Certainly options can be built into the annotating platform itself as well as allowing server-side options for personal websites attempting to deal with flagrant violators and truly hard-to-eradicate cases.
Do you have a solution for helping to harden the Internet against bullies? Share it in the comments below.
- Genius Wants To Let Readers Annotate Any News Article. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jessica Goldstein, ThinkProgress 2016-03-30
- Genius responds to Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s letter on preventing abuse by Noah Kulwin, Re/code 2016-03-29
- Misguided Genius by Chelsea Hassler, Slate 2016-03-28
- The Genius Problem by Chuq Von Rospach 2016-03-28
- Genius Web Annotator vs. One Young Woman With a Blog by Brady Dale, The Observer 2016-03-28