By: Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Free speech, the internet, and online harassment are things three things that do a very uncomfortable dance in 2018. In the current political climate that dance is very tense. In an online environment where people who do not know each other have vicious arguments on Facebook and where journalists are routinely threatened with bodily harm or death, issues of free speech can be crazy making or even a life and death matter.
As a society, we’ve always considered free speech as an absolute element of freedom of expression. It is a sacred idea that is an anchor in democracy. Generally, online harassment has been treated as an unfortunate but unavoidable byproduct of the darker side of free speech, no matter how dark or dangerous it gets.
The free speech organization PEN America is now challenging that assumption. It’s arguing that harassment is not an expression of free speech but a deterrent to it, that online harassment is antithetical to free speech because online harassment is designed to silence.
In that spirit, PEN America has launched an Online Harassment Field Manual. Designed for writers who experience online harassment, the editors who hire them, and people who see online harassment taking place and want to help, the manual offers advice on everything from how to protect yourself against doxxing to why people turn into trolls.
“Online harassment is a clear threat to free expression,” said PEN America’s free expression research and policy director Katy Glenn Bass on April 21, at a panel discussion on the problem of online harassment. “For many years and in many quarters, it’s been dismissed as somehow less real and less harmful than ‘real world harassment,’” Beck said, but: “Online harassment affects its targets’ freedom to express themselves. It affects their livelihoods. It affects their physical and mental health.”
Writers and journalists are facing unprecedented levels of online hate and harassment.
While there are no easy answers, this digital Field Manual contains effective strategies and resources that writers, journalists, their allies, and their employers can use to defend against cyber hate and fight online abuse.
The digital field manual is geared largely towards journalists and people in media, it’s a good resource for anyone who spends any amount of time online in social environments. It’s also a good read for anyone who might be interested in helping to protect democracy by protecting journalist.
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