Violence in the Real and Online World

// Posted by on 03/24/2014 (1:48 PM)

After our classroom discussion, I was really struck by the concept of “online life” and “real life”. In the beginning of the semester we talked a little about the disconnect between the two and at the time I truly believed that certain aspects of online behavior only mattered in the online world and could remain there. After reading an article series by Quinn Norton about women on the Internet and the responses they often receive, I started to think differently about the idea of separate lives online and in real life. The main portion of the Hess article that struck me was when she was describing a situation in which she called the police to report death threats that people had been commenting on her twitter account. The police officer that responded to the call was hesitant to take action against the threats due to the potential infidelity of the situation. He raised the point that these threats could be coming from anywhere in the world and therefore could actually not be an imminent threat.

While it is true that this threat could be coming from thousands of miles away, should that matter? Is tangle nature of the threat the most important issue? I believe that this situation blurs the ability to separate the real world from the online world. While the threat could be impossible to physically happen, the real issue is the treatment of women in ALL arenas of life, both online and in person. This situation brings light to greater issue of why people, men particularly act aggressive and violent towards women. Violence towards women is a large issue supported by many different organizations throughout the world. Online is the next frontier for tackling this issue. I believe that the divide between online life and real life is what is causing online violence towards women to be devalued. It is imperative for our society to view violence towards women as one homogenous issue, not one that can be split into two different worlds. Online threats are just as damaging to the physical and emotional bodies of women as threats in person.

These issues open up questions of where our legal system will. As new technologies develop, our legal system must try it’s hardest to keep up in order to protect our citizens. The Internet and its global capabilities pose new threats to our legal system. The idea of humans as “netizens” raises the question how to regulate people in a realm without borders and clear lines of the authority. Despite the ambiguity of authority online, there is a obvious problem that needs a solution. Violent language and threats made to women, regardless of in person or online, are a dark side of communication and need to be prevented. As we move forward into a world that blends both in person and online interactions, how we will enforce law and order?

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Kevin said...

I agree with your blog in the sense to be a problem that some individuals will say terrible things on blogs. However, what I find interesting to respond to is your question, “should it matter,” in regards to coming from thousands of miles away.

My first response is to say, no, it should not matter at all that it is coming from so far away. A nasty comment is a nasty comment, and there really should be no excuse regardless. However, as you open up the idea of a legal system, I think that is where the thousands of miles away starts to really make an impact. I find it difficult to imagine police forces having the time or motivation to investigate every individual who leaves a nasty comment. Especially if that person is in LA and commented on the post of someone who is in NYC. It seems to me that we would either need to develop some completely digitalized way of punishing people for these acts, or we would need to make the outrageous request of our law enforcement officers to investigate every threatening comment made online. At least today, neither of those seem possible.

So, I raise this conversation not for the purpose of saying this is not an important issue. Quite the contrary, I do believe that this is an issue that is becoming increasingly more important to address. Especially considering we now have a generation that is completely growing up with the use of all social media, it appears that we must adapt are law system to deal with it. However, it does seem that we are a long way away from having it properly incorporated as part of our legal system.

In a more general note, I think you may enjoy the article I’m attaching to the bottom of this post. It discusses how women in Science (through the example of one particular women) are placed through hardships that men do not face in the digital age of scientific research. This prominent female science blogger is often forced to scan through dozens of sexist comments when posting her research because she happens to be attractive. As a result, the influence of her research is somewhat diminished because this online hassling makes her work look far less professional. This is a problem that men do not have to deal with, yet makes it much more difficult for an attractive women to remain respected in the field of science. Just another example of how something needs to be done to regulate online comments, especially in regards to individuals who leave sexist comments with no actual accountability.

// 03/24/2014 at 6:51 pm

Deirdre said...

I agree that the treatment of women online is concerning, and that it’s hard to distinguish what is a real threat and what is not in the online world. This goes back to what we were talking about in class. Some people have segmented themselves into their online self and our real-life self, and they wouldn’t actually make these threats that you talk about in real life. It’s hard to tell, however, if all people act this way. Some threats made online are real, while others are not.
Woman are clearly targeted in the online world, as we have seen in recent articles and studies we have read. Internet access has, for some reason, amplified this issue of violence and harassment of women. Perhaps, this is because men feel more powerful sitting behind a computer screen. If this is true, it’s possible that the threats are not real. However, there is evidence that some threats toward women online have been real (women have been stalked/raped/harmed).
I still don’t know where I stand on this issue in relation to what action law enforcement should take. This is primarily because situations vary so greatly, and because it is so hard to distinguish real online threats from false ones.

// 03/24/2014 at 9:48 pm