New Criticals

Let Slip the Dogs

Freedom of speech is arguably one of the more important foundations of democracy, academia, and social justice.  When we fail to take a critical eye to free speech in a networked world we ignore the violence, pain, and suffering that is inflicted on real bodies. Doxing is, in all of the above cases, a tool of ‘real world’ violence. As such, the act of doxing is not limited to online communities; rather, those who fall victim to doxing are usually in already vulnerable positions. In the case of this young woman (and of Sarkeesian and Quinn), the motivation behind harassment was gender-based and reflects what the harassers saw as transgressions in these environments of toxic masculinity.  The many-on-one harassment that many-to-one hate speech so often invokes transforms the underlying speech into performance, into incitement, into a real and present threat and danger.  Platforms, such as Twitter, need to do more to prevent this, and to protect those subjected to it, by better defining harassment, by providing easy to use abuse reporting mechanisms, by enforcing real consequences for harassment, and by diversifying leadership and inviting diverse voices into the design conversation. We live in a world where many cannot hide from the actions of online abusers.  We live in a world where many-to-one speech translates readily to one-on-many harassment and violence. Scholars and policy makers must better critically engage with the implications of this speech and the real, lived, experiences of those subjected to it.