Online abuse, which ranges from imitation accounts to vile remarks and death threats, has been around since the first appearance of the internet, but it is widespread and rising.
According to a Pew Research Center report from 2017, more than 40% of Americans have suffered online harassment, and more than 60% have witnessed it. Women are twice as likely as males to suffer sexual harassment online.
This abuse is a direct and immediate threat to free speech, suffocating minority voices and frightening the same professionals who give us the information and assistance we require. Many need a lesson in online etiquette, but social media is easily accessed by billions worldwide, making it hard to manage.
Social media was flooded with abuse and racial slurs after the Euro 2020 final, directed explicitly at black English football players. As a result, many have called for action. Some of the requests are legitimate, while others have a few legal obstacles that lawmakers can not avoid.
What Are the Demands?
Many are demanding that social media networks do two things to prevent abuse. The latter request happens to have multiple legal obstacles in its way before policymakers can carry it out.
The first is that communications and posts containing racist or discriminatory content should be filtered and prevented before being delivered or posted.
The second is that all users become subject to an updated verification process that allows for exact identification of the person behind the account (only if requested by law enforcement).
What are the Issues with Filtering?
The problem with the first request – censoring content before it is received or posted – is that technology cannot automatically detect if a communication contains racist or discriminating content.
People can manufacture new slurs or substitute characters. Bigots can use existing racist phrases in a setting that does not encourage hate, such as victims seeking help recounting an abusive message they received.
How Do They Filter Other Material?
Although social media companies have successfully filtered and removed terrorist content and photographs of child sexual exploitation, these are technologically specific problems.
Fortunately, the number of abuse photographs in circulation is limited. Unfortunately, this number is rising. Thanks to the last upload of this hate, it has been ‘fingerprinted,’ making it easier to find and remove in the future.
Understanding the meaning of an English message and fingerprinting an image are two completely distinct technological difficulties.
Even the most advanced natural language processing software might struggle to consider the context a human will intuitively understand, despite many businesses claiming their software does.
What Do Twitter and Facebook Say About Online Abuse?
Instead, both Twitter and Facebook claim that nasty posts were removed immediately after they were posted.
Twitter claims it has already removed over 1,000 Tweets and permanently suspended many accounts for violating its rules using a combination of machine learning-based automation and human inspection.
According to a Facebook representative, Facebook promptly banned remarks and accounts aimed against England’s footballers, and they’ll continue to take action against people who break its policies.
They went on to say that, in addition to the work they were doing to delete the content, they were encouraging all players to turn on Hidden Words, a technique that ensures no one sees abuse in their comments or direct messages.
Hidden Words is Facebook’s filter for “offensive words, phrases, and emoticons” in DM requests, but we’ve already mentioned the flaws within this request.
What Can You Do To Combat Online Abuse?
Identify the Issue
Is this a sarcastic remark? Is that an insensitive remark? Or explicit threats and obscenities that are gendered or racist?
Document the abuse
It’s crucial to keep track of abuse before reporting it. Emails, voicemails, and messages should all be saved. When feasible, take screenshots on social media and copy direct URLs.
Assess your safety
Have you been concerned about your physical safety, or the safety of your family or coworkers, as a result of online abuse?
Block out the haters
You can mute accounts or even particular posts or words (so you don’t have to see them), and you can ban accounts (so they can’t connect with or follow you). To have a post removed or an account suspended, you can report abuse that breaches the terms of service.
Up your cybersecurity
Make sure all your passwords are safe and secure.
Seek help from friends, family, and coworkers, and use your larger cyber community as allies.
Speaking out against abuse can be profoundly empowering. The world of social media is beyond vast, and often there will be the odd troll that slips through the cracks.
There is no way of predicting what anyone will say, making it very difficult to prevent something from reaching its intended victim before moderators can take it down. Practicing safe online security measures will help you avoid the negativity floating around, as well as disarm those who are harassing and spreading vile remarks, images, or recordings.