Jigsaw: "wildly ambitious" Google spin-out aimed at tackling "surveillance, extremist indoctrination, censorship"

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Technologists have a dismal pattern: when it comes to engineering challenges ("build a global-scale comms platform") they rub their hands together with excitement; when it comes to the social challenges implied by the engineering ones ("do something about trolls") they throw their hands up and declare the problem to be too hard to solve. Read the rest

Instagram announces anti-harassment tools, overtaking Twitter

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Twitter's openness is its strength, and also its weakness: the ease with which new accounts can be created makes it into an amazing tool for free expression, and also a perfect venue for vicious harassment (see also); but Instagram (a division of Facebook, the home of the walled garden) has announced a suite of anti-harassment tools that seem like they'd be compatible with Twitter, raising the obvious question: why hasn't Twitter already deployed them? Read the rest

Bloomberg reporter Dune Lawrence on being smeared online

Photo: Chighsmith / Wikipedia

Bloomberg reporter Dune Lawrence relates her two-year online ordeal at the hands of Benjamin Wey, a disgraced financier and harasser who posts crudely libelous "news" stories about her (and other targets) on a fake tabloid news site established for that purpose.

In September 2015 the FBI arrested the man behind TheBlot, one Benjamin Wey. Not for smearing me or the other people he imagined were his enemies. He’s primarily a financier, and he was charged with securities fraud and other financial crimes involving Chinese companies he helped to list on U.S. stock markets. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Wey pocketed tens of millions of dollars in illicit profits that he funneled through associates overseas and back into accounts in the U.S. Wey denies the charges. A trial has been set for March 2017.

Meanwhile, TheBlot’s lies about me still pop up online. The same is true for a young woman who won an $18 million judgment against Wey and his companies for sexual harassment and defamation, a journalist who wrote about her, a retired Nasdaq official, and a Georgetown University law professor. As Wey, 44, awaits trial, he regularly posts Blot articles calling all of us, and others, frauds, racists, and extortionists. He’s found a way to exact revenge with few consequences, and he’s milking it.

Wey seems to be a consummate internet creep. Here's how he reportedly responded to the official request for comment that Bloomberg insisted she send him:

“Howdy! Ni Hao! Hello! I am Benjamin Wey—your old friend.
Read the rest

Sarah Jeong's Harvard lecture: "The Internet of Garbage"

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Lawyer and journalist Sarah Jeong is one of the net's best writers, and her new ebook, The Internet Of Garbage, grapples with misogynist harassment and threats online. Read the rest

Saying "never read the comments" turns a blind eye to abuse

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Anil Dash writes that a cynical blogger in-joke—"never read the comments"—has become a "bad habit," an excuse for giving free rein to abusive conduct.

honestly, I get it — making a joke out of the situation may be the only way of dealing with that horrible feeling of dread that comes from knowing an institution values one’s words enough to profit from them, but not enough to protect the person writing those words…

Yet I think our reflexive use of these grim jokes have gotten accepted into the culture of people who build, manage, and publish on large social apps and media sites. The fact that we joke about it documents an acceptance of a culture of abuse online. It helps normalize online harassment campaigns and treat the empowerment of abusers as inevitable, rather than solvable.

And worse, we denigrate a form that used to be, and sometimes still is, a powerful way of making meaningful connections with the world. I met most of my closest friends in the comments on my blog, or by commenting on theirs.

Read the rest

How Twitter "quietly banned" harassment and hate speech

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Sarah Jeong reports on how Twitter has begun to take control of the hatred, harassment and general horseshit posted on its site.

Twitter talked some big talk, but it has buckled under both lawsuits and media outrage, tweaking and changing the Rules around speech whenever something threatened its bottom line. For a business, free speech can only be a meaningful value if it doesn’t really cost anything. … The Twitter of today strikes an uneasy balance between its old self and the unapologetic, ideologically-unburdened censoriousness of Facebook and Instagram. It remains yet to be seen whether the company has the vision and creativity to live out its new identity.

The "free speech wing of the free speech party" couldn't have done this but two years ago. They had to wait until the issues at hand were understood (at least by and large) not as abstractions to be dealt with on principle, but as practical issues of everyday human suffering. Read the rest

Survey of wealthy customers leads insurer to offer "troll insurance"

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Chubb's new troll rider on its elite personal insurance package for its wealthiest customers now offers up to £50,000 to cover the cost of counselling, lost income, and professional anti-troll services (forensics, reputation management) for people who are targeted by online harassers. Read the rest

"Freshman daughter drop off:" frat suspended over sexually harassing signs

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The Sigma Nu fraternity at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia has been suspended in connection with these asinine signs displayed at a private residence where members of the frat live. The brilliant individuals hung the banners during move-in week when parents were dropping new students at campus. Read the rest

Charting what harassment looks like on Twitter

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A non-profit group analyzes what harassment looks like on the social media platform, and how Twitter responds to it.

Twitter's got a new troll stick

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New policies at Twitter for reporting, automatic message muting, and enforcement could turn the noise way down for users subject to harassment.

Twitter announces new block tool, ban on threats

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Messages identified as abusive will not appear on notification timelines, thanks to a new filtering system designed to prevent harassment from being seen by its targets. Read the rest

HOAX: TV show tricks chronic catcallers into harassing their own mothers

Update: These are staged -- it's an ad for Everlast, and not a TV show as I had believed. Read the rest

Tech companies should do something about harassment, but not this

Online harassment is real, it's terrible, and tech companies can and should do more about it -- but when the normally sensible Jessica Valenti wrote in the Guardian that tech companies could solve online harassment in a snap by implementing a system like Youtube's Content ID, she wasn't just wrong, she was dangerously wrong. Read the rest

Serial offenders plague Twitter

Glenn Fleishman reports on how the platform could fix its harassment problem.

Woman who documented sexual harassment receives rape threats

Shoshana B Roberts spent 10 hours walking the streets of New York with a hidden camera crew, documenting over 100 catcalls (plus countless less-visible forms of harassment), as part of a campaign from Hollaback, who work to fight street harassment of women. Read the rest

TSA goes through woman's luggage, finds sex toy, leaves pervy note

"Just unpacked my suitcase and found this note from TSA," tweets writer and attorney Jill Filipovic of Feministe. "Guess they discovered a 'personal item' in my bag. Wow."

It was a standard-issue we got all up in your baggagebusiness Transportation Security Administration Notice of Inspection (NOI), but with these handwritten words in pen, overlaid: "GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL."

"Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok," Filipovic writes in a post titled Your Tax Dollars at Work, "but I also just died laughing in my hotel room."

The "personal item" in question, Ms. Filipovic tells Boing Boing, was this $15 "Silver Bullet" vibrator from Babeland. I suppose a case could be made that an airport screener would have a legitimate reason to probe more deeply see what I did there you guys if this sort-of-ammo-shaped sex toy popped up on an imaging display. But the creepy note? Yeah, that definitely didn't have to happen. And TSA agents behaving badly with female travelers' intimate stuff? Not uncommon. Nor are women the only recipients of inappropriate notes from screeners.

So was it still there when she retrieved her luggage, I asked Filipovic?

"Yes, the vibe was still there. No theft, but I'm unsure if they handled it. Given that uncertainty, it's definitely being retired."

Read the rest