Danielle Citron, Hate 3.0
Comment by: Rebecca Green
Workshop draft abstract:
Cyber harassment is an endemic and devastating form of invidious discrimination. As my book Hate 3.0 (forthcoming Harvard University Press 2013) explores, the identity of the victims and the nature of the attacks explain why. Statistically speaking, women and/or sexual minorities bear the brunt of the abuse, and the harassment tends to exploit victims’ gender and sexuality to threaten, demean, and economically disadvantage them.
To set the stage for the rest of the book, chapter one presents detailed case studies of four individuals with different life experiences whose harassment experiences are strikingly similar. It situates the experiences of straight white men in this phenomenon: cyber harassers often accuse them of being secretly gay or women. Chapter two takes up the harassers and the harm that they do. Chapter three considers why explicit hate appears in networked spaces when it seems less prevalent in real space. Any one of the Internet’s key features—anonymity, group dynamics, information spreading, and virtual environments—can be a force multiplier for bigotry and incivility.
Nonetheless, as chapter four considers, cyber harassment remains in the shadows where it is often ignored or legitimated, leaving victims to fend for themselves. This requires a sustained campaign to re-conceptualize abuse online, in much the way that the women’s movement struggled to change the social meaning of workplace sexual harassment and domestic violence. Chapter five provides a conceptual apparatus to help us do so.
Part II points the way forward. Chapter six asks what can be done now, looking to intermediaries, schools, and parents as crucial private avenues for social action. Internet intermediaries, notably entities that host online communities and mediate expressive conduct, have great freedom and power to influence online discourse. As chapter seven explores, achieving equality online will require legal solutions. Although current law addresses some online abuse, its shortcomings require fresh thinking and legislative action. Yet, in doing so, we need to tread carefully given our commitment to free speech.
Chapter eight argues that civil rights protections can, however, be reconciled with civil liberty guarantees, both doctrinally and theoretically.