How to combat online shaming

The ability to use social media to shame and hurt people online is called online shaming. You may have heard of versions of online shaming going by names like cyber bullying or revenge porn. Although you may be aware of online shaming, many of us still feel helpless to stop it. Technology has the power to transform people’s lives, but in the wrong hands, it can be used to destroy lives.

One story that captured the attention of the world was that of Tyler Clementi. On Sept. 22, 2010 Tyler went to the George Washington Bridge connecting New York City and New Jersey, and updated his Facebook status: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” The day before, Tyler’s roommate had posted a video of Tyler being intimate with another man without Tyler’s knowledge. The public humiliation was too unbearable for Tyler and he made the decision to end his life.

Tyler’s family took steps to help ensure that online shaming like what happened to Tyler would be addressed. “When we started the foundation, one of the reasons was because we had media attention,” says Jane Clementi.”So many people saw what was going on and no one spoke up,” she says. “No one reached out to Tyler.”

The Tyler Clementi Foundation focuses on helping adults clearly communicate their expectations for respectful behavior. They believe in  turning bystanders into “upstanders” who won’t condone bullying, no matter where it takes place. Since 2011, the Clementi family has spoken to thousands of people about not only calling out harassment, but also comforting and helping the victim. But awareness is not enough to solve the problem. That’s why the foundation partnered with New York Law School to launch the Tyler Clementi Institute for CyberSafety last fall. The institute helps give legal advice and council to parents dealing with cyber bullying, as well as victims of nonconsensual porn, another term for revenge porn or cyber exploitation.

Removing nonconsensual porn has gotten somewhat easier in the last year thanks to Internet and social media companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook adopting streamlined request processes. (In contrast, though, content that merely bullies breaks no laws; the threshold to successfully report and remove such comments is much higher.) In the past, the online shaming was confined to certain forums and message boards. But the rise of social media over the last decade has amplified the effects. Social media “can be easily exploited for shaming,” said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at New York University who studies media and culture. “It’s a good platform.”

In 2009, Brett Ligon, the newly elected district attorney in Montgomery County, Tex., decided to post on Twitter the names of drivers arrested on charges of drunken driving. He wanted to send a message that drunken driving would not be tolerated while he was district attorney. But not everyone was pleased. A handful of people who were named on Twitter complained to The Houston Chronicle after they found out their drunken driving arrests had been widely broadcasted. “I haven’t been proven guilty,” Linda Owens told the newspaper in January. “What happened to our rights?”

So what can you do about online shame? If you are a victim of cyberbullying or revenge porn make sure to keep records of what you are receiving. Giving the police urls and content may allow them to trace the IP address of your attacker. If pictures are involved, remember that pictures carry copyrights. If the picture is a selfie then you may be able to force the pictures off of sites since it violates copyright law. Online shame is not always a crime, as our laws have not yet caught up to our online environments. This is slowly being rectified as over half of all states now have revenge porn laws and legislation meant to ban revenge porn nationally is being pushed through congress.

The most important thing that any of us can do is be an “upstander“. Speak up when you see someone being harrassed. Stop the spread of malicious materials online. Don’t forget to comfort the victim and make sure that they know they are supported.

 

Article via Mashable, 21 February 2016; The New York Times,26 December 2010; Wired, 24 July 2013; DeleteCyberbullying; EndRevengePorn.org

Photo: Cyber Bullying: Hand Reach by iris [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Family reunited in India with the help of Twitter

The power of social media is evident in India. On Sunday, January 31, Delhi police organized a unique rescue reuniting a lost Alzheimer’s patient with her family in just 2 hours with the help of Twitter.

A police van discovered 80-year-old Kamla Gupta in north Delhi. The city’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma tweeted her details. Gupta, an Alzheimer’s patient, had lost her way after visiting a temple that morning. She could not remember her home address even after being taken to the police station.

The tweet included a photo of her and a text saying “Smt Kamla Gupta, 80..found in Ashok Vihar..unable to recall her address. If u identify pls contact PS Ashok Vihar.”

Soon after the tweet, a businessman named Vishal Kumar shared the information on a Facebook group. After the family reached out to him, Kumar then connected the family to Deputy Verma. Kamla Gupta was reunited with her family in a few hours.

Madhur Verma tweeted a picture of the family together saying, “That’s the power of social media. Thanks @TwitterIndia. Family members of Mrs Kamla Gupta traced in less then 2 hrs!”

Police forces in several Indian cities are increasingly using social media as a means to communicate with their citizens. Their pages offer updates on crime and troubleshoot problems and solutions. The Delhi police created its own Twitter in December 2015. Deputy Verma however has been using Twitter since 2014. In March 2015, he received accolades on his role in rescuing 3 lost children stranded at a railway station in Delhi. A journalist tweeted photographs of the kids and Verma launched a search mission to help reunite them with their parents.

“Twitter is a great platform for reaching out to citizens, and presenting our side of the story. If you are available online and on social media, you can catch the pulse of the society and even challenge unfounded rumors,” Verma says.

Article via Mashable, February 1, 2016

Photo: Twitter Superman via Irish Typepad [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


New app helps women avoid street harassment

Street harassment affects women all over the U.S., but its prevalence varies greatly between cities, as well as street-to-street within those cities. The new Hollaback! mobile app enables women to map incidents of street harassment as a useful reference to others who seek safe and peaceful routes. The app is offered on both iPhone and Android.

Emily May, Co-founder and Executive Producer of Hollaback! comments on the rise of conversation about sexual harassment. “We know that movements start because people tell their stories,” she said. “In the last five years, we’ve seen the public conversation on street harassment change drastically as people stand up and share their experiences.”

People are also encouraged to post their experiences with sexual harassment under the hashtag #iHollaback. The organization has also partnered with retailer ModCloth to campaign against the notion that the way a woman dresses invites sexual harassment.

The app opens a map of the phone’s surrounding location, with different colored dots representing incidences of different types of street harassment. The goal of Hollaback! is that women can use this data to avoid streets that are generally felt to be unsafe. Additionally, the app has a “take action” page that lets users indicate whether they have witnessed sexual harassment in a certain location.

Article via Bustle, 11 September 2015

Photo: Done Shopping via John Fraissinet [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Twitter

Snowden enters Twitter

After keeping a relatively low profile since his exile to Moscow in 2013, Edward Snowden has made himself public on Twitter. His first post on Tuesday, “Can you hear me now?”, was a nod to his past whistleblowing as well as a subtle reference to a Verizon television commercial. Within two hours, Snowden had 300,000 followers.

Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s lawyers, has confirmed that the account is authentic. The fugitive’s first tweet was welcomed by a response tweet—“Yes! Welcome to Twitter.”—from Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey. Astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson also acknowledged Snowden, and ended a Twitter back-and-forth with: “Ed @Snowden, after discussing everything from Chemistry to the Constitute on #StarTalk, you’re a patriot to me. Stay safe.”

Snowden follows only one account, belonging to the NSA.

Article via CNET, 29 September 2015

Photo: Edward Snowden Wired via Mike Motzart [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Microsoft sued for gender discrimination

Former technician Katherine Moussouris sued Microsoft this Wednesday for gender discrimination. She alleges that Microsoft paid and promoted female employees less than male coworkers, and that women in the company were also ranked consistently below men. Moussouri proposed the class action lawsuit after working at Microsoft between 2007 and 2014.

The lawsuit states that the tech company’s practices and policies “systematically violate female technical employees’ rights and result in unchecked gender bias that pervades its corporate culture.”

This suit occurs as other tech giants, recently Twitter and Facebook, also battle gender discrimination lawsuits. Public interest in women’s role in the workplace has increased since Ellen Pao filed a high-profile lawsuit against the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for unequal treatment on the basis of gender.

Microsoft released a statement in response to Moussouri’s allegations: “We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed.”

 

Article via CNET, 16 September 2015

Photo: Microsoft via Thomas Hawk [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]