Send in the Trolls

My research on identity-based cyberharassment with Implosion Labs for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology & Society is now out!

We found that coordinated, identity-based harassment disproportionately harms transgender users and women of color in spaces like social media and online gaming, and draws on anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and other hateful rhetoric. From the full report:

Our interview subjects represent a collection of experiences that have been described as distressing but are also displays of powerful resilience against a barrage of hate. Embedded in their stories are tales of setback, courage, and resistance. But beyond compelling narratives, they also serve a more practical function—these interviews help us more fully understand the dynamics of online harassment at a depth that would be very challenging to extract from survey results. Moreover, these interviews shine a light on how harassers exploit the design of social media platforms.

Our in-depth interviews show that online harassment and hate come in a variety of forms, ranging from single, but intense episodes of hate, to months-long sustained harassment campaigns. They cross from online-only events to offline incidents. They can target one person, or seek to disrupt entire personal and professional networks.

While the breadth of strategies available to attackers can be an overwhelming topic to explore, the impetus for harassment appears to be especially myopic. More often than not, targets felt they were attacked because of an identity-related attribute. Equally troubling is the fact that targets felt they did not have any legitimate recourse for action. They felt stymied in their attempts to remove hateful content by the content reporting mechanisms across major social media platforms.