Online harassment in majority contexts: Examining harms and remedies across countries.

Schoenebeck, S., Batool, A., Do, G., Darling, S., Grill, G., Wilkinson, D., Khan, M., Toyama, K., & Ashwell, L. (2023). Online harassment in majority contexts: Examining harms and remedies across countries. Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–16.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1145/3544548.3581020

Open access: No

Notes: Even though online violence is a global phenomenon, most responses from academia and platforms would suggest that this is a problem of the Global North alone. In this context, Schoenebeck and colleagues investigated perceptions of harm and preferences for remedies associated with online harassment in 14 countries. To achieve this, they conducted a total of 3993 surveys. Among their various results, two elements stand out. First, local context plays the highest factor in determining perceptions of online harm—which is especially surprising because it surpasses gender as a predictor of perceptions of online harm. As they argue, this finding illustrates an important point: “some countries’ women, on average, perceive less harm under some social media harassment cases than other countries’ men, on average” (p.11). A second important finding is that no single or straightforward explanation exists for the differences between countries.

Overall, their findings conclude that it is impossible to adequately address online harm without a better understanding of its global yet contextualized nature. As argued by the authors, “harms associated with online harassment is greater in non-U.S. countries and platform governance should be more actively coshaped by community leaders in those countries. Above all, we discourage any idea that a single set of platform standards, features, and regulations can apply across the entire world” (p. 13). This conclusion is, without a doubt, a critical insight for scholars, policy-makers, and platforms who aim to better deal with online violence.

Abstract: Online harassment is a global problem. This article examines perceptions of harm and preferences for remedies associated with online harassment with nearly 4000 participants in 14 countries around the world. The countries in this work reflect a range of identities and values, with a focus on those outside of North American and European contexts. Results show that perceptions of harm are higher among participants from all countries studied compared to the United States. Non-consensual sharing of sexual photos is consistently rated as harmful in all countries, while insults and rumors are perceived as more harmful in non-U.S. countries, especially harm to family reputation. Lower trust in other people and lower trust in sense of safety in one’s neighborhood correlate with increased perceptions of harm of online harassment. In terms of remedies, participants in most countries prefer monetary compensation, apologies, and publicly revealing offender’s identities compared to the U.S. Social media platform design and policy must consider regional values and norms, which may depart from U.S. centric-approaches.

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