Week 11 Day 1 Discussion Question 2

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?

One thought on “Week 11 Day 1 Discussion Question 2

  • April 25, 2022 at 2:20 pm
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    On one hand, the anonymity provided by online forums like 4chan and reddit enable virtual harassment to occur; the offending parties incur little to no punishment for their actions. Decreasing this level of anonymity may discourage such behaviors. However, increased transparency would require members of marginalized groups to reveal more information about their identities, thus making them even more likely to receive harassment. People should be allowed to use the internet without being forced to reveal information about themselves that places a target on their backs. Perhaps the answer is greater censorship from site administrators… freedom of speech is one thing, but blatant harassment and threats to an individual’s safety are never acceptable. I know that such censorship, however, simply pushes misogynists and white supremacists onto other, secret platforms. An app called Telegram, for example, has provided a dangerous safe-haven which allows members of these groups to enable each other. This website provides a great explanation of the activities happening on Telegram for anyone interested.

    https://www.splcenter.org/news/2021/02/16/how-encrypted-messaging-platform-changing-extremist-movements

    Ultimately, I’m unsure if or how online harassment can be combatted. While marginalized individuals deserve access to the game and forums that they enjoy, I don’t know how we might prevent misogynists and white supremacists from ruining their fun.

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