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I had some eye-opening moments this week as I read more about women, trolling and online harassment. How is it okay that harassment of women online has become “an established norm in our digital society”? The power of the internet is also something that has the power to seriously hurt people.
Many classmates of mine have blogged about trolling this week, and several make reference to Katia’s blog post about her experience with trolls. Another story that I was reminded of during my readings this week was the story of Justine Sacco. Though she made a bad choice when she sent out the tweet that “ruined her life” she did not deserve the harassment and rape threats she received following the incident. If she was a male would she have been treated the same way? Likely not.
Alanah Pearce is a video games journalist who was being harassed online with sexual comments and rape threats. She assumed those trolling her were middle aged men with nothing better to do, but when she found that they were actually teenage boys.
“It turns out that mostly they’re young boys and the problem is they don’t know any better, so responding to them rationally didn’t resolve the situation. And it got to the point where their comments were starting to make me feel really uncomfortable.”
Her solution to the problem? She contacted the boys’ mothers:
“It was just a way to try to reach a resolution, to productively teach young boys it’s not okay to be sexist to women, even if they’re on the internet,” she says, “that they are real people and that there should be actual consequences for that.”
Though I respect her decision to teach the boys a lesson and her understanding that “they didn’t know any better”, it is frightening to me that young people can be acting this way online and be getting away with it. It is scary that they even know how to use this type of language, and that this problem with online harassment and trolling is starting with such young online users.
John Oliver said something that stuck with me:
“You can click a button and buy a book, meet your spouse, or ruin someones life.”
It is true that the internet gives us power and opportunity we could never have imagined, but (as Uncle Ben from Spiderman taught us) “With great power comes great responsibility”. And with this power of the internet, we need to teach our students to be responsible and respectful users.