Humour as an online safety issue: Exploring solutions to help platforms better address this form of expression

Matamoros-Fernández, A., Bartolo, L., & Troynar, L. (2023). Humour as an online safety issue: Exploring solutions to help platforms better address this form of expression. Internet Policy Review, 12(1).


Open access: Yes

Notes: This article outlines two critical arguments. First, it is necessary to seriously consider the role of humour in the enactment of online harm—mainly when humour is used as a way of ‘punching down,’ expanding and amplifying cultures of violence (e.g., racism or gender). Second, the current efforts to address online harm in both platforms and government policies are insufficient—as they fail to take a critical reading of the positionality and context of violent actions and behaviours when performed as humour. This article is indeed a critical and necessary reading to better understand (and possibly imagine ways to address) violence in contemporary digital environments.

Quote: “Deepening our understanding of how those who bear the brunt of harmful content would like platforms to remedy this harm and developing a harm mitigation toolkit that is reflective of these voices is key (…). Yet developing effective remedies to problems must begin with an accurate diagnosis of those problems.” (p. 27)

Abstract: This paper makes a case for addressing humour as an online safety issue so that social media platforms can include it in their risk assessments and harm mitigation strategies. We take the ‘online safety’ regulation debate, especially as it is taking place in the UK and the European Union, as an opportunity to reconsider how and when humour targeted at historically marginalised groups can cause harm. Drawing on sociolegal literature, we argue that in their online safety efforts, platforms should address lawful humour targeted at historically marginalised groups because it can cause individual harm via its cumulative effects and contribute to broader social harms. We also demonstrate how principles and concepts from critical humour studies and Feminist Standpoint Theory can help platforms assess the differential impacts of humour.

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