Never-Ending Myths About Online Abuse

After building online communities for two decades, we’ve learned how to fight abuse. It’s a solvable problem. We just have to stop repeating the same myths as excuses not to fix things.

Source: The Immortal Myths About Online Abuse —@anildash Medium

+Commentary: This is a great read…and necessary, since constant reinforcement of this idea demands disabusing the trope that we should just “ignore it” for it to go away is utterly insane. It hasn’t worked, and frequently leads to business lost, a damaged brand, a reduction in ability to provide for yourself or family. It can at times even be physically violent & threatening. This not only affects the people who are targeted but will extend to those they love, the businesses they work at, and other tertiary lives.

With all the people helped over the years, again, we can’t stress enough how much a crisis management plan is vital, and the first thing you should start with, after your business plan. Before you do your customer research, or scope out what it is you are going to target. For it has become so prevalent in our society, the tabloid nature of the algorithms, or even just the #ExposureTrolling for clicks and traffic, that anyone can come under siege online.

Protecting yourself, reputation, business, and life is essential. These things when taken from you or encroached upon make it near impossible to get anything done. They become the sole focus, to the detriment of your normal work, business or relationships. No one has time for that, you barely have time to manage the numerous profiles, your website, and your business in real life.

Allowing abuse hurts free speech. Communities that allow abusers to dominate conversation don’t just silence marginalized people, they also drive away any reasonable or thoughtful person who’s put off by that hostile environment.

Yet what the above article focuses on is what is widely known throughout the internet community, which is that it isn’t a problem with humanity, but one of design. That if you build it, and maintain it, and enforce it, the spaces you create won’t fall into such cesspools for your users, or cause churn. That in effect that with their ‘discretionary’ enforcement of the T&Cs vary by usage, and most often are deployed to marginalize or erase voices that aren’t abusive, but merely deviate from the status quo.

This happens consistently, whether it be Breast-Feeding activists pointing out the double standard in a patriarchal world, or reporting highly offensive”jokey” rape don't wrap it tap it facebook's rape page problempages. This happens all the time, and is not new, as this 2013 article attests. Add to that a “real name policy” that doesn’t take into account many factors, but instead punishes those who are activists or already abused because trolls will target them & use these very same tools against them.

The only recourse you have, and your greatest peace of mind, will only come when you feel certain you can handle whatever is coming your way. Forcing you to take it upon yourself to insure your security, while eschewing the natural recourse to come from these platforms, which have “self-reporting” tools, but again that does very little. It is met with almost identical response, if more coldly, than reporting it to the authorities. There is very little gravitas placed behind it.

Unfortunately, since most online platforms are made by people who love technology, they tend to want to try to think of technology as the solution to this definitively human problem.

That is a complex problem, part is the over-reportage, by trolls, overly sensitive people, and those not under threat but merely annoyed. Then also the insensitivity or cultural ineptitude of people who are trying to triage tons of complaints. Anti-blackness, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, misognyoir, and many other things they are even capable of noticing, let alone don’t rise to the level of care, say a woman breastfeeding an infant would, which is apparently abhorrent to such a majority that they are frequently taken down. When contrasted with the college-level “edgy” humor that permits rape jokes, or my personal favorite “prison rape” jokes made about people convicted of rape, these other things are rather repellent but not as it were to a great deal of people who set these standards.
We talk like this & share this on social media because that is how we are in private, and we become so inured in the guile of social media that we often think no one is listening, or only judge it by vanity metrics (the likes/comments it gets) or as we all well know, there is always someone to make a joke *too soon* or take it too far. Some do this on purpose, actually trolling to piss people off. They would or could wear ‘being blocked’ by you as a badge of honor, and would take being banned or blocked from a social media site to use their other account, or to set up a new one, using another email address. That makes it too easy to continue this cycle of abuse.

The article above also highlights the cross-platform nature that happens as well, part of a coordinated hack-attack, by which on every platform available they will immediately set upon your profiles to harass you. This is a tougher problem to tackle, but others have taken it up. As our online lives flourished, it is really crucial for the livelihood of many, that these issues are addressed.

Furthering tired tropes or narratives as outlined in the article only impedes and dampens growth for Twitter, or others. If a billion supposedly use Facebook it shouldn’t mean it becomes a free-for-all, if they want people to feel safe, or be the place that everyone goes for their news, and to discuss it, then they are going to have to do better when it comes to what is “civil discourse” and identifying what are clearly homophobic and racist threats seriously.

Our communities are defined by the worst things that we permit to happen. What we allow tells the world who we are.