Lifestream, Evernote

What the Law Can (and Can’t) Do About Online Harassment

edc17, stalking February 16, 2017 at 07:09PM


As Knox (2015) notes, the participatory nature of web 2.0 is frequently talked about through a utopian lens:

the communicative potentials of the network are frequently positioned as the solution to the hierarchies, inequalities and inaccessibilities of the institution. Thus, rather than ‘virtual’ or ‘otherworldly space’, technology becomes anti-institutional and emancipatory in its capacity to facilitate and enhance those traits already present in society.

The article linked to demonstrates some of the ways in which this lens is problematic. For many women, in particular, online communicative potentials online are not emancipatory, due to the persistence of gender, and gender inequality online:

The U.S. Department of Justice statistics suggest that 850,000 American adults—mostly women—are targets of cyber-stalking each year, and 40 percent of women have experienced dating violence delivered electronically. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found 40 percent of adult Internet users have experienced harassment online, with young women enduring particularly severe forms of it.

While this, as the article highlights, is a social problem and not just a problem of technology, the persistence and scalability of technologically mediated communication can amplify its impact and consequences. Within education, I feel that the prevalence of harassment is something we (as educators) need to be (more) conscious of when asking students to participate in networked learning. Frequently, we lack the (clear) guidelines required to manage harassment and other behaviour that’s inappropriate to our setting, leaving both our students and us vulnerable within our learning ‘communities’.