It’s time to speak up about online harassment

BlogHer and many other organizations are lining up behind a campaign to stop bullying. It’s called Stop Bullying: Speak Up. You can join in at Facebook and take a pledge to help. You can also get a widget like this one that allows others to participate.

There are a constant stream of blog posts by women in the tech world who have been harassed, bullied, and intimidated by online haters and trolls. I hear about it from women in private conversation again and again.

The tech world loses women because of this – women who are smart and who make valuable contributions. Kathy Sierra is a famous example of the loss of a valuable contributor to the conversation about how to make technology work better for people. (See the recent post: Kathy Sierra speaks out on the nymwars and hater comments.) Women are reluctant to speak at conferences, even when they have something valuable to contribute, because of the online harassment that often follows a woman after a public appearance. Now the tech community is losing Skud, who explains about her harassment and her struggles in this post.

The prevailing wisdom has been “don’t feed the trolls.” But that is changing to a philosophy of calling out names and exposing trolls. Skud is doing just that: giving names, IP addresses, and trying to uncover the hidden identities of offensive online bullies.

Another blogger who is urging women to speak up is s. e. smith from Tiger Beatdown. In On Blogging, Threats, and Silence, she said,

All of the bloggers at Tiger Beatdown have received threats, not just in email but in comments, on Twitter, and in other media, and the site itself has been subject to hacking attempts as well. It’s grinding and relentless and we’re told collectively, as a community, to stay silent about it, but I’m not sure that’s the right answer, to remain silent in the face of silencing campaigns designed and calculated to drive us from not just the Internet, but public spaces in general.

We’ve lived in an online culture where the advice is “ignore the trolls and they will go away.” But that advice isn’t working. Sweeping it under the rug isn’t working. Pretending that it’s okay because it’s directed at women isn’t acceptable. Laughing about it isn’t an option.

Women can’t change the culture of abuse toward women by themselves. Women need men to speak up. Men who will let other men know that online harassment and bullying of women is not acceptable to men.

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