Wikipedia Isn’t Officially a Social Network. But the Harassment Can Get Ugly.

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Studies on Wikipedia’s contributor base from several years ago estimated that fewer than 20 percent of editors were women. This research backed up an existing awareness in the Wikipedia community that female editors were seriously underrepresented, galvanizing activists who set out to recruit more women to write and edit articles.

Wikipedians also began to discuss the “content gender gap,” which includes an imbalance in the gender distribution of biographies on the site. The latest analysis, released this month, said about 18 percent of 1.6 million biographies on the English-language Wikipedia were of women. That is up from about 15 percent in 2014, partially because of activists trying to move the needle.

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How One Tweet About Nicki Minaj Spiraled Into Internet Chaos

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In the week since publicizing the acidic messages she received directly from Ms. Minaj, whose next album, “Queen,” is scheduled for release in August, Ms. Thompson said she has received thousands of vicious, derogatory missives across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email and even her personal cellphone, calling her every variation of stupid and ugly, or worse. Some of the anonymous horde included pictures Ms. Thompson once posted on Instagram of her 4-year-old daughter, while others told her to kill herself. Ms. Thompson also lost her internship at an entertainment blog in the chaotic days that followed, and she is now considering seeing a therapist.

Such are the risks of the new media playing field, which may look level from afar, but still tilts toward the powerful. As social media has knocked down barriers between stars and their faithful (or their critics), direct communication among the uber-famous and practically anonymous has become the norm. But while mutual praise can cause both sides to feel warm and tingly, more charged interactions can leave those who have earned a star’s ire, like Ms. Thompson, reeling as eager followers take up the celebrity’s cause.

Dealing With Harassment in VR

vr-trolling

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I didn’t realize the article was about us when I first started reading. But of course it was about us; it was about the entire VR development community, after all. The link I followed read, “I was sexually assaulted in virtual reality. This is a big F*cking problem,” and was about a woman’s experience being harassed in a virtual environment. As someone deeply involved in the growth of VR, this was extremely unsettling for me.

In her article, the author commented that the feeling of the original encounter remained with her for days afterwards – I can absolutely understand this. Even for me as a passive participant reading the article, I felt that anger and vulnerability carry with me. This highlights for me the potential and dangers of VR itself. The medium should force us to really think about how the sense of “presence” changes interactions that would feel less threatening in a different digital environment.

… Perhaps “power gesture enabled” can be a concept that’s part of the VR development language – the 911 gesture of protection and safe space, be it against sexual harassment, bullying, or any other form of unwanted confrontation. So when things don’t go well, when something happens that we as developers can’t predict and shield our players from, there’s always a safe place to be found – hopefully not just in QuiVr – but in VR in general.

Is it right to ‘Facebook shame’ alleged harassers?

A partial screenshot of Jasleen Kaur's Facebook post about an alleged harassment incident.

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The Facebook post has sparked a heated debate in India about the “shaming” of alleged harassers on the internet. In her post earlier this week, Kaur said a man on a motorbike made obscene remarks to her at a traffic light in Delhi. She reported the incident to the police but also uploaded a picture of the man, which has since been shared more than 130,000 times.

Unusually, the police acted on her post: they arrested a man, Sarvjeet Singh, and charged him with sexual harassment, criminal intimidation, and insulting the modesty of a woman, according to local reports.

The public mood initially seemed to be supportive of Kaur… Then came a twist in the story. The alleged harasser, Singh, who has been released on bail, denies the allegations and went public too, to accuse Kaur of courting publicity and using the incident to further her own political causes.

Why outlawing anonymity will not halt online abuse

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Over the past few years a growing number of social networks and online communities — the likes of Facebook and YouTube among them — have introduced, or in some cases have tried to introduce, a real name policy. The notion behind outlawing anonymity is that online harassment will cease. This, it turns out, is a myth, sociologist Katherine Cross tells The Conference in Malmo.

“People believe in the idea that anonymity is central to what motivates harassment, that it is the distinctive feature of the online world that makes it such a toxic place. But anonymity does not cause harassment — it does play a role, but it is much more complicated than most people make it out to be. If we continue down this path of blaming anonymity we will never tackle the causes of online harassment.”

The websites that have attempted to introduce real name policies in order to curb noxious comments have found in reality that it doesn’t work. It has changed the noxious comments, but it has only moved them around — it hasn’t got rid of them entirely. But it is not anonymity that encourages people to harass others, but the lack of accountability — as seen on online communities where people do use real names.

Video game study finds losers more likely to harass women

Men who performed poorly in the games were more likely to bully female players

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Two researchers analysed how men treated women while playing 163 games of Halo 3.

Men who performed poorly in the games responded by being hostile to female players.

The male winners were mostly pleasant to other players, while the losing men made unsavoury comments to female players.

“Low-status males that have the most to lose due to a hierarchical reconfiguration are responding to the threat female competitors pose,” the researchers, from the University of New South Wales and the Miami University in Ohio, write. “High-status males with the least to fear were more positive.”

Male players were thrown off by hearing female voices during the game. The researchers think their results suggest that young males should be taught that losing to women is not “socially debilitating”.

The results also suggest that video games may be reinforcing gender segregation and potentially promoting sexist behaviours, especially troubling since so many “gamers” are teenagers.

What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll

Lindy West with her dad Paul

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Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.

…Some trolls are explicit about it. “If you can’t handle it, get off the internet.” That’s a persistent refrain my colleagues and I hear when we confront our harassers. But why? Why don’t YOU get off the internet? Why should I have to rearrange my life – and change careers, essentially – because you wet your pants every time a woman talks?

My friends say, “Just don’t read the comments.” But just the other day, for instance, I got a tweet that said, “May your bloodied head rest on the edge of an Isis blade.” Colleagues and friends of mine have had their phone numbers and addresses published online (a harassment tactic known as “doxing”) and had trolls show up at their public events or threaten mass shootings. So if we don’t keep an eye on what people are saying, how do we know when a line has been crossed and law enforcement should be involved? (Not that the police have any clue how to deal with online harassment anyway – or much interest in trying.)

Social media companies say, “Just report any abuse and move on. We’re handling it.” So I do that. But reporting abuse is a tedious, labour-intensive process that can eat up half my working day. In any case, most of my reports are rejected. And once any troll is blocked (or even if they’re suspended), they can just make a new account and start all over again.

…And then, there I was in a studio with a phone – and the troll on the other end.

We talked for two-and-a-half hours. He was shockingly self-aware. He told me that he didn’t hate me because of rape jokes – the timing was just a coincidence – he hated me because, to put it simply, I don’t hate myself. Hearing him explain his choices in his own words, in his own voice, was heartbreaking and fascinating. He said that, at the time, he felt fat, unloved, “passionless” and purposeless. For some reason, he found it “easy” to take that out on women online.

I asked why. What made women easy targets? Why was it so satisfying to hurt us? Why didn’t he automatically see us as human beings? For all his self-reflection, that’s the one thing he never managed to articulate – how anger at one woman translated into hatred of women in general. Why, when men hate themselves, it’s women who take the beatings.

You can also listen to Lindy West tell this story on the podcast This American Life.