In “Misogynist Movements,” Bailey Poland asserts that participants in online harassment mobs experience potent “feedback and rewards” that are similar to those obtained by playing certain video games. She writes:
Online harassment mobs generate a similar repetitive experience that provides members with self-defined patterns of feedback and rewards. Harassment and abuse may be scripted or shared language patterns will emerge; the group will reward more and more flagrant abuses and encourage more invasive types of attacks (leading to things like doxxing or hacking); feedback is given in the form of in-group encouragement and other reactions. Any response to the harassment is interpreted as “feedback,” whether it’s encouragement from other abusers, being blocked or berated by targets, or having an account reported and deleted. When the sense of timelessness comes into play with harassment, the result is hours and hours of planning “raids” and engaging in hacking, doxxing, and abusing. The nature of Gamergate’s abuse was often described as a game by its proponents, and treating it like a game enhanced the sense of timelessness and focus that characterizes autotelic experiences. (67)
Poland further states that “Deindividuation and autotelic experiences are a potent brew and, when experienced in tandem, are repeatedly connected to increased aggression, a willingness to commit illegal and abusive activities, and a reduction in the capacity for self-reflection” (67). If Poland is correct, how can online harassment mobs be combated?