So this happened.
So, I’m accustomed to people giving their unsolicited advice about how to deal with cyber harassment. They often insist that taking a break from the internet solves the problem in all instances. This statement was a bit more extreme though, in that he denied the existence of cyberbullying completely.
There are a lot of assumptions embedded in his message.
- Nobody needs to be on the internet for their work.
- Everyone has a support structure outside of the internet.
- The internet and “real life” are completely separate.
- Everyone saying nasty things to you on the internet will go away if you ignore them.
- It is acceptable for people who receive harassment to need to leave internet spaces.
- It is unacceptable for people who engage in harassment to be denied access to internet spaces.
- If material you are subjected to on the internet is upsetting to you, it is a personal failing of yours.
- The internet is an inherently dangerous place and that fact is completely unchangeable.
- People who engage in harassment are not real human beings with agency or power.
- If this happened to me, it would not affect me negatively.
I suspect very strongly that people who say things like this have limited experience with being harassed. Perhaps once or twice they received a threat? Perhaps they are insulted and ridiculed by a group of people every few months? Simply taking a quick break from the internet is a reasonable solution in some of those situations. Setting your twitter to private for a day or two due to a pile-on might be useful if the people piling on aren’t particularly invested, for example.
Those situations are not like all situations, however.
The concept of literally thousands of people using the internet to harass and stalk someone doesn’t compute. The idea that harassment can be extreme and near constant doesn’t compute. The reality that interacting with others on the internet has become a very large part of many people’s lives simply isn’t acknowledged.
So, how did this person react to even the *implication* that those extreme situations could happen to him?
Obviously, saying something like this is tricky. You have to make damn sure that the person you are talking to doesn’t take it as a threat. Which is ironic, now isn’t it? For some reason, I’m walking on eggshells while he is dismissing the trauma that my friends have gone through as being non-existent.
At this point in the larger conversation, he has been insisting over-and-over that if the internet is a hostile place for you that you should just log off. If someone is throwing around your personal information to a mob of angry people openly making plans to try to get you to commit suicide, you have no right to complain. If you don’t like people sending you unsolicited violent sexual material that you should just get off the internet.
So, that was his reaction to the simple statement that he wasn’t magically immune.
Obviously, the correct action he should take if this were to happen would be to get off the internet, right?
No! He would “easily” file a lawsuit based on a statement that wasn’t even remotely a threat. Yes, random guy on the internet insisting that cyberbullying isn’t real and that people who experience it should just get off the internet, claims he would go directly to authorities to punish those responsible if it happened to him.
Because my friends, HE HAS A RIGHT TO USE THE INTERNET WITHOUT EXPERIENCING HARASSMENT and all those women targeted by gamergate and other harassment campaigns should just go for a fucking nature walk and stop whining about it.
And the real kicker is this.
What often happens when people go to authorities to deal with harassment, stalking, and threats?
They say exactly what he said.