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The Internet Communications Network Social Networks Science

How Do Americans Define Online Harassment? (theverge.com) 148

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: According to a new Pew Research Center survey, defining online harassment is just as complicated for the average American user as it is for huge social media companies -- and the line gets even more fuzzy when gender or race come into the picture. The survey polled 4,151 respondents on various scenarios and asked them whether each one crossed the threshold for online harassment. In one hypothetical, a private disagreement between a man and his friend David is forwarded to a third party and posted online, which escalates to David receiving "unkind" messages, "vulgar" messages, and eventually being doxxed and threatened. When asked whether or not David was harassed, 89 percent of respondents agreed that he was. However, opinions on exactly when the harassment began varied widely: 5 percent considered it harassment when David offends his friend; 48 percent said it's when the friend forwards the conversation; 54 percent said it's when the conversation is shared publicly. Others agreed it crossed the line when David received the unkind messages (72 percent), the vulgar messages (82 percent), is doxxed (85 percent), and threatened (85 percent). There was little difference in responses by gender.

Questions regarding sexual harassment, perhaps unsurprisingly, are more divisive -- especially between men and women. In a second example, a woman named Julie receives "vulgar messages" about her looks and sexual behavior after posting on social media about a controversial issue. Women were about three times more likely than men (24 percent vs. 9 percent) to label it online harassment when Julie's post is shared by a popular blogger with thousands of followers. Fifty percent of women vs. 35 percent of men consider it harassment when Julie starts getting unkind messages. When it comes to vulgar messages, threats, or Julie's photo being edited to include sexual imagery, 8 out of 10 men consider it harassment, as opposed to 9 out of 10 women.

There's also a curious division between acknowledging something as harassment and believing that action should be taken by social media platforms. In the case of sexual harassment, for example, 43 percent of respondents considered the unkind messages harassment -- yet only 20 percent thought the social media platform should intervene. In a scenario where a woman's picture is edited to include sexual imagery, 84 percent called it harassment, but only 71 percent thought platforms should step in. The same can be said of an example involving racial harassment. Although 82 percent of respondents called messages with racial slurs and insults harassment, only 57 percent thought the platform should step in; the same goes for the person having their picture edited to include racially insensitive images (80 percent vs. 57 percent) and threats (82 percent vs. 67 percent). In both cases, respondents' gender is not provided.

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How Do Americans Define Online Harassment?

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  • This response if fairly typical of anything that isn't a clear black and white issue.

    1) Man opens stranger's purse and takes $50 = theft.
    2) Same, but is his 15 year old daughter's purse without permission, is it theft?
    3) Same but daughter had broken a $50 bottle of wine, is it theft?
    4) Man opens wife's purse (no permission) and takes $50 to buy food and does not tell her after the fact - is it theft?
    5) Same but does tell her after the fact, is it theft?.
    6) Same thing but he puts in a check for $50 and takes

    • by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @12:51AM (#55866959)

      This response if fairly typical of anything that isn't a clear black and white issue.

      Even then, it's a mistake to assume good faith. Sites like Twitter and Facebook, and the media who one-sidedly covers "harassment," are attempting to outright redefine terms, and it's not out of confusion.

      Disagreement is now harrassment.
      Mockery is now hate speech.
      Offense is now trauma.
      Criticism is now abuse.
      Compelling criticism is now violence.
      Anyone who talks about subjects the MSM wants to suppress is now a troll.
      Anyone at random is a racist/sexist/white supremacist/nazi/etc if they say so.

      The use of this alarmist (and usually, simply wrong) language is ubiquitous and deliberate. It's all a pretense to justify a disproportionate censorial "response," especially when they know no response is warranted at all.

      • Cool thing is, these dirty language tricks used to be really effective. But now they've been really overused by the bigmedia and other establishment apologists. So everyone is onto the trick, and it doesn't work anymore.

      • It's social media social engineering.
    • 1) Theft

      2) Wrong, but not theft (as presumably the daughter is a minor dependent and doesn't have property rights)

      3) Still wrong, but still not theft (as presumably the daughter is a minor dependent and doesn't have property rights). Possibly a well-intentioned lesson in paying for your mistakes, but I personally would handle it differently.

      4) Wrong, but not theft (what is purchased is irrelevant) - martial assets are shared assets. Unless there's an agreement otherwise, that money in the purse is just as

      • To quote my lawyer, I go to court to get an executable title, not to be right.

      • 4) Man opens wife's purse (no permission) and takes $50 to buy food and does not tell her after the fact - is it theft?

        4) Wrong, but not theft (what is purchased is irrelevant) - martial assets are shared assets. Unless there's an agreement otherwise, that money in the purse is just as much his as hers. And so is the purse.

        I'm not sure you understand what you just did. You claimed that the money is a shared asset but it was wrong to take the shared asset to buy food. You need to rethink that. If the money is a shared asset then it both of theirs regardless of where it resides. As a shared asset, he has a right to take and spend it regardless of whether it is in the bank, his wallet, or her purse, just like she does.

        • >I'm not sure you understand what you just did. You claimed that the money is a shared asset but it was wrong to take the shared asset to buy food.

          I understand exactly what I wrote; I respect my spouse's right to property even if the law doesn't.

          If I need money from her purse, I'll ASK her first.

          • Said wife may have had uses for that $50, and taking it might inconvenience her considerably. There are situations in which not having a specific sum of cash on me could be very awkward.

        • I'm not sure you understand what you just did. You claimed that the money is a shared asset but it was wrong to take the shared asset to buy food. You need to rethink that. If the money is a shared asset then it both of theirs regardless of where it resides. As a shared asset, he has a right to take and spend it regardless of whether it is in the bank, his wallet, or her purse, just like she does.

          No, they are correct. Just because it's a shared asset and you have the right to use it does not mean it is the correct thing to do. You CAN take the money and you will NOT be charged with theft (assuming you are not legally separated), but it's still a pretty shitty thing to do.

          Now in contrast, unless there is a problematic pattern, the wife getting too bent out of shape over a one time event also falls into the right but wrong category too.

          As they said, "right" and "legal" are two totally different things

    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      That's the thing about social sciences: every probe into a problem seems to raise more questions than it answers. It's like meteorology minus the incontrovertible facts.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Narcocide ( 102829 )

      Modding me down is harassment.

    • But that example of yours is pretty black and white.

      no offensive to the brown, pale, yellow or blue issues. /joke

      I can go from 1) to 6) as quick as I could and the judgement would be the same, it depends on what the owner thinks ( the person who's getting $50 taken away). If the owner thinks it's theft, then it's theft. The only except is 2) where it's not theft if the purse is still indirectly owned by the father. Even though her purse is in her control, it can still be owned by the father, just like when

      • So for this topic, I'll draw the line at when online harassment becomes physical, then it's harassment

        Well since by definition online harassment isn't physical, that's just a cute way of saying there's no such thing as online harassment.

      • it depends on what the owner thinks

        The offended party's opinion makes no difference (as it should not). Theft has a legal definition and just because I feel something is theft does not make it so. Except for the first example the rest all have some explicit or implicit legal access to the money in question. That doesn't make it right to take the money without asking, but it makes it legally NOT theft.

        Our legal system is already a big enough mess as it is. Allowing people to define laws based on how they feel at any given time is NOT the dire

    • 2) Yes. Taking something from somebody else without consent or legal title is theft. That the money once was most likely his is irrelevant, unless you want to concede that you're ok with your boss withdrawing money from your bank account because he was the one who once owned that money.
      3) Yes. He may of course demand the money from her for compensation or even withhold any money she is supposed to get from him for various reasons, but simply taking money is theft. Unless, again, you're ok with me going to y

  • ..as long as the 'victim' gets to decide what it is.
    • So, let's pretend you are writing the definition for harassment for a social media site - or any context of your choosing. What is the definition?
      • by BKX ( 5066 )

        Let's just use a basic "dictionary" definition. Harassment is contacting another person after being asked to stop. One caveat is that politicians cannot ask people to stop contacting them regarding political issues. Another is that people can't ask the general public not to contact them regarding their conduct or speech made in public. To be clear, one has to ask for the particular contact to cease, and then have the contact continue for it to be harassment. Also, harassment can only exist on a person-to-pe

      • Harassment is the unwanted continuation of contact after being asked to stop. Some special cases apply for certain groups of people in certain professions (like politicians that have to deal with constituents that ask inconvenient questions or celebrities that have to deal with reporters doing the same) or certain circumstances (people having to deal with collection agencies that want their money), but that's pretty much the base line.

    • How about 'feeling triggered'?
      • Sure.
        The difference between harassment and feeling triggered is easy.

        Did the alleged harasser know of the triggers for the victim and use that to effect said triggering? Then it's harassment.

        Did the alleged harasser not know of the triggers for the victim and purely accidently hit them? Then it's unfortunate and maybe deserves a polite social apology, but it is *not* harassment.

        I have a couple PTSD/GAD triggers, and they *suck*. One of them is being called into a 1:1 or 2:1 meeting with no agenda or indi

        • Of course karma gets them.
          Karma always (read: mostly) works.
          I've seen a few telling but undisclosable examples of that myself...
  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @11:53PM (#55866775) Homepage

    That difference in expression is clear, there is harassed and HARASSED. So a fly buzzing around your head harasses you, you would not call the police to shoot that fly off your head, especially absolutely not American Law Enforcers who would empty a whole magazine at your head to shoot that fly. Lots of stuff is harassing behaviour, but only some stuff is actually criminal. First question to be asked, is can you simply avoid that harassment, walk away, block someone on the internet, simply avoid the place where harassment occurs. If you can not avoid it and it comes to you, then that ads a capital, like Harassment. Next up is how harmful is the actual harassment, what does it actual entail, harassing someone by walking up to them and beating them versus just shouting at them, obviously add in direct physical contact and that is actual HARASSMENT.

    Then there are question of one versus many. One person acts and you ignore it but tens of thousands act and that is harassing but individually still not harassment, that tends to be the flip side of gaining the public eye. Seek to or accidentally gain the public eye and you could become exposed to group harassment, which is still only minor from their perspective, still individual and subdued but from yours, major, because yeah, that public eye thing is a nasty place, you can lose just as readily as you can win. So avoid the public eye, you you want to avoid public harassment, which upon an individual basis is not actually harassment.

    The onus is always on the individual to avoid harassment because there are places where it 'WILL' occur in real life or on the internet, whether it be flies or people. A measure of sensible response is required, especially for digital harassment where people reach for it, pull it down, get it from the internet and download it into their lives. Simply stop that and the harassment becomes non-existent. Actively seek the harassment, pursue and inflame it, makes you the perpetrator not the victim. Target a group, harassing a group so they harass you back, means you are not the victim you are the perpetrator.

    It must be in your face, inescapable and have a physical nature either in threat or action. Keep in mind criminals feel harassed by the criminal justice system, the police actually do actively harass them, the courts set out to and functionally do harass them and correctional services harass them to reform them. The most harassing entity on the planet is the various third arm of government, the judiciary. So always beware, which harassment is the greater and is the action balanced.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      People with a lot of followers online also have some responsibly to avoid harassing people, even if unintentionally. For example, often when some YouTuber makes a video about some random tweet or Facebook post, the result is that some of their hundreds of thousands of viewers will go and harass the author.

      Obviously there is a balance between legitimate criticism and discussion, and the actions of a relative few. But the reality is that most of these videos are just rage-bait, there to make some easy cash fr

      • So people should dial down or outright suppress their criticisms because a possibility exists that some of their more overzealous followers will harass the target of that criticism? Sounds good Amimojo, I'll be waiting for you to decry the next witch hunt initiated by a professional SJW with many followers. Waiting. Patiently.
  • Women probably get a greater volume of harassment, but male-on-male harassment is likely more abusive and dangerous. I've never heard of a woman being SWAT'ted.
  • by bongey ( 974911 )
    If BeauHD wrote it , it's harassment.
  • When I go to Amazon and search for a hammer and it bombards me advertisements of how I need an Echo Dot and need to watch some stupid movie about getting a sex change.
  • When I do it, it's playing around. When you do it it's OMFG PRISON 4 LIFE!
  • Specifically, the "reasonable person" standard. If someone makes threats of harm that a reasonable person would consider credible, then punishment is appropriate.

    As for who should decide whether a threat rises to that level, that's what juries are for.

    -jcr

  • One man's scrutiny and accountability is another man's harassment. Someone getting publicly called out for something they did can be called harassment.
    It doesn't help that there are two unequal definitions of 'harassment': 1) Someone doing the harassing, multiple times to one person.
    2) Someone being harassed, once, by many people.
    The end result might be the same, as a person ends up being harassed multiple times. However, in the case of #2, no individual could be necessarily said to be committing harassment

    • I'm being harassed!

      • by Falos ( 2905315 )

        This is fine.

        DontBeAMoran, you are ugly and smell bad.

        I have harassed you. So. Fucking. What.

        By all means, make the definition broad. Historically, the word "harassment" has been pretty easy to qualify. This also means the word isn't worth shit.

        Problem is social justice bullies trying to drag it up, probably not stopping until it's an attention-grenade more overused than "rape" tack-ons, or worse yet is groups using it to advance their agendas, e.g. take down competitors, silence critics/detractors.

        A review

  • Just because you feel harassed, doesn't mean you're actually being harassed.

    I've seen people try to say that harassment is someone telling them they don't like to hear. That's called being a friend.

    The moment the truth becomes harassment in someones world, is the moment you know they still have serious Mommy and/or Daddy issues.

    --
    What you talkin' 'bout Willis?

    • I've seen people try to say that harassment is someone telling them they don't like to hear. That's called being a friend.

      WTF no? A implies B does not mean B implies A. I don't like to hear about how all Jews should be murdered, and yet once in a while someone has felt the pressing need to tell me.

      That person is not being a friend.

      • I've seen people try to say that harassment is someone telling them they don't like to hear. That's called being a friend.

        WTF no? A implies B does not mean B implies A. I don't like to hear about how all Jews should be murdered, and yet once in a while someone has felt the pressing need to tell me.

        That person is not being a friend.

        You know, you have a real problem with logic. Which bit of his post says "All people telling someone something they don't want to hear is a friend"?

        He said he's seen people doing that; you jump off the deep end with a "WTF?" as if his statement is not reflective of reality or is not logical. Both his experiences and your experiences can be fully consistent with reality at the same time!

        Maybe do less social "science" and more real science.

  • 1. Talking like the President.

  • Being so impossibly sensitive to even the most minor slights is a sign of extreme lack of power. A confident, happy, generally enabled individual simply does not feel harassed by minor slights. He will shrug it off without feeling threatened, because he is above that.

    All those "harassed" people you see on the news are incredibly weak, fragile, meaningless, child-like individuals who have figured out a way to amplify their almost non-existent voices to the point where they can drown out everybody else. They

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Or maybe they are actually among the powerless in the world and need our help?

    • Almost everyone for the last 4.5 billion years has had an almost non-existent voice.
    • "They have found a kind of power in showing how incredibly hurt they are"

      And seek to call in powerful entities (governments, revenge gangs) to punish those who have "hurt" them.

      "Can I have some muscle over here?"
    • You seem to consider all harassment short of physical harassment or threats of same as trivial. You assume that people can shrug off insults if they like. Learning to do that took me over fifty years.

  • how do they spell it?

  • by Reverend Green ( 4973045 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @04:51AM (#55867493)

    I feel harassed by this article. The Slashdot editors are constantly microaggressing me. Their pattern of abuse has created a toxic work environment, because I often read slashdot while working.

    Where do I sign up to join the lawsuit?

  • How do "Americans" see Online harassment?... that is controversial. We are of many minds on this so I'll just say how I see it.

    I'm entirely happy to go after people that actually cause material harm to other people... especially if unprovoked.

    If there is no evident material damage to someone, then I immediately take the situation less seriously.
    If two people get into a fight.. both absent some investigation have some presumptive fault. If people cry foul I'm going to want an explanation as to why a given pa

  • Anyone voicing any opinion they don't agree with ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When shall we crucify the god of public opinion?

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly

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