Do You Have Examples Of Constructive Responses To Hateful/Abusive/Trollish Speech Online?
from the please-share dept
This is a project that we're trying to help out with, put together by Susan Benesch from American University and the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard. Over the last year or so, I've been fortunate to get to spend some time talking to Susan. Coming from a human rights background, she's done some amazing work on free speech, and on how speech can lead to violence or other dangers. She's also behind the related Dangerous Speech Project, which has looked at examples of the kind of inflammatory and violent rhetoric that often precedes mass violent outbursts to find patterns. I know that, among many free speech advocates (like ourselves), hearing some of that may raise the hairs on our necks, fearing that what comes after that is a demand to shut down that kind of speech. Yet, Susan has focused not just on understanding what kind of speech precedes violence, but also on what works in counteracting that -- and she argues (and we agree!) that censorship rarely does.
But... many people who are first encountering either such trollish/abusive behavior and/or seeing the aftermath of actual violence often jump to the conclusion that banning such speech is the only or best solution. Partly this is an emotional response. And partly it's a response due to the simple fact that, in the spur of the moment it's both difficult to think of alternatives and it's difficult to envision the unintended (potentially negative) consequences of silencing such speech. Also, it should be admitted, that blocking such speech is often "easier" than alternative solutions, even if it rarely works and is open to abuse of its own.
So we're now trying to work with Susan to help explore various alternatives and to categorize what they are, what's good about them (and what's bad!) and just lay out the wider spectrum of possibilities. And, while Susan's work has gone way beyond just speech on the internet, the internet is fertile ground for this kind of research. But (and this is where you come in), it's not easy to track down these examples -- especially when the responses are organic or community driven, where they may only be known about in smaller circles. That is, at this stage, we're not necessarily looking for what, say, internet platforms do, but how users of internet platforms respond themselves.
I'll give a few examples of what we're talking about. First is one that we discussed nearly a year ago, in which an
Again, whether you approve of any of these individual methods or not, there's a wide range of ways in which individuals and groups have come up with unique ideas for responding to speech they (at the very least) find uncivil or (at the very worst) threatening or frightening. And we'd love to know more examples -- big or small -- that people have come across, so that we can look at as many examples as possible to try to sort through them, categorize and analyze them, and see if we might all learn something useful about them. So please, add any examples you might have in the comments.