CCR Symposium: A Mildly Skeptical Take

I suspect I may have been invited to this symposium to give a mildly dissenting view, and I won’t disappoint. In particular, I want to question whether it makes sense to construe these problems as “civil rights” issues, and what is gained from that.

It seems to me that a lot of the issues Danielle discusses in her very interesting paper are byproducts of how anonymity can unleash criminal behavior in online environments, especially in the form of threats and harassment. These problems are very real, and I find them very troubling. But I’m not entirely sure where the line is between seeing these problems as questions for the traditional mechanisms of torts and criminal law versus seeing them as “civil rights” issues.

It seems correct to me that a disproportionate amount of this behavior is targeted at groups traditionally protected by the civil rights laws (especially women). But no group is immune from it; this sort of behavior is disturbingly common online even outside traditionally targeted groups. Given that, I’m not entirely sure if it works to frame this as a civil rights issue, as well as what is to be gained from doing so. Or at least, my instinct is to be skeptical about that categorization; perhaps this symposium will lead me to change my mind.

You may also like...