How to Make People Safe Online

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Things that are happening

  • Take Back the Tech, a multinational campaign.
  • Weaponized Social is a listserve and events and other things.


  • "Humans run scripts and they're buggy."
  • "How we build technology changes how safe the spaces created by that technology are."
  • "Avalanche of snowflakes."
  • "I want help."

Willow's concepts for the class

  1. The idea of a Social Script.
    • In sociology, we talk about a script to know what happens in what sequence, for example in a sexual relationship: reading queues.
    • This idea can apply to new contexts, such as social media.
    • Social scripts can be changed: segregation used to be norm, today it's not an idea endorsed in public.
  2. Tactics vs strategy
    • We tend to talk about strategy and tactics as the same thing. But compare doxxing women gamers (doxxing: revealing personal info) with Hoods Off, a raid to reveal KKK members. Contexts are different, tactics the same. Or is it? Is it ok to make Klan members afraid? An idea: Lead by Obeying. A Zapitista idea that we should live by the principles that we expect others to follow.
  3. Disaster planning
    • Here's how we talk about disasters:
      • prepardness (supply stashing)
      • response (immidiate short term needs)
      • recovery (how do we get back to where we were?)
      • mitigation (how can we change our infrastructure so earthquakes aren't harmful)

In social event response we focus on either preparedness or response.

harden online identity, make doxxing harder
Crash Override brings advice to vicitms of harassment

Not so much on recovery and mitigation. How do you make someone whole again? What role should institutions play?

About mitigation

Weaponized Social is working on ideas to mitigate harm.


  • Chatbots: "What do you want from this exchange?"
  • Comment testing: obviously tricky (poll tests), but you can assess whether people read the post, is being social.
  • Civil Comment is a startup builing tools to rate comment civility.
  • Similar to mitigation for fake reviews. Can be approached in (at least) two ways: analysis of the content of the statement, or analysis of reputation of that person. Second approach runs into difficult establishing identity.

Mitigation for gendered violence online and off relies on unpacking misogyny, racism, etc. Unpacking gender is kind of a big project.

We accept that we'll split efforts: we do self defense, but also try to mitigate the larger issues, like misogyny.

Willow says: In conflict resolution, we have to talk to all parties. We talk about safe spaces, which in practice means excluding some parties. But in the long history of peacemaking, we find someone has to talk to everyone. Willow gets that others disagree with this.

Belma says: Calling out bad behavior can change the script, and it's beautiful.

Some observations

  • A story of harassment in various contexts. It's hard to convince authorities that virtual is "real".
  • askFM an app which allows teenagers to chat, but attracts bullying
  • LinkedIn doesn't have a block button. WTF. There are people who are good at talking to platform about this, and going through them is helpful in situations like this.
  • Jonathan says: As a technologist, I look to increase the costs (time, etc, reputation) of harassment.
  • Reaching out to parents of online bullies, can start an adult conversation. But reaching out to harassers as if they were people has emotional costs. You can't fight every day.

Books and resources

  •, a wiki.
  • So You've Been Publicly Shamed, a book.
  • Association for Progressive Communication: Erotics (program of APC) is a useful resource of people under attack.
  • EFF program: Online Censorship. Also good at talking to platforms.
  • She's Such a Geek, a book about stories of women online.
  • Don't Shoot The Dog (chapter 3), a book on changing behaviors.