Virtual Perils of Cyber Hate and the Need for a Conception of Digital Citizenship

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3 Responses

  1. I’m unclear as to the implications. When you say “Intermediaries should recognize these particular challenges that cyber hate in networked spaces poses to individuals’ capability to participate meaningfully offline and online.”, do you mean e.g. that search engines should de-index “cyber hate”? Can I point out they’ve been asked, and said “No” – e.g. the case of “Jew Watch”

    By the way, Sunstein is telling a story akin to “moral panic”. Many people have pointed out that the reality of extremism contradicts his scare-mongering, but this does not seem to matter – precisely because it is a story appealing to the audience’s fears (and hence sort of self-refuting, in that contrary information does not make a difference).

  2. Frank Pasquale says:

    I think this is very important work, and I’m glad to see you pursuing it. Even the developing world is facing the problem:

    Moreover, folks should check out how some intermediaries are helping to increase the prominence of some of the worst businesses on the web…which seem to thrive on harassing people:

    After a woman was cheated by an online company, this is what happened to her: [all below is a quote from the article]

    “she called Citibank, which administers her MasterCard account, and after submitting some paperwork, she won a provisional victory. Her $487 would be refunded as the bank looked into the charge and discussed it with the owner of [the company]. . . . Then Mr. Russo [from the online company] sent details of what appeared to be a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn. It included a hearing date and time, the address of the court, a docket number and a demand for $1,500, which, the e-mail said, “includes my legal fees.”

    “Ms. Rodriguez did not respond. A few hours later, Mr. Russo raised the stakes sharply by sending another e-mail, this one with a photograph of the front of the apartment building where she and her fiancé lived.

    “Then her cellphone started ringing. And ringing. . . . Two days later, she received another e-mail from Mr. Russo. “Close the dispute with the credit card company if you know whats good for you,” he wrote. “Do the right thing and everyone goes away. I AM WATCHING YOU!”

    That same day an e-mail from Citi arrived. “Thank you for contacting Citi Cards,” it read. “We have closed our investigation since you have indicated that you accept responsibility for this charge.” And there was this: “we have rebilled your account for this charge along with any related fees and interest charges.”

    Someone posing as Ms. Rodriguez, she says, had called the bank and said she had changed her mind and no longer wanted a refund.

    “Hello, My name is Stanley with [the online company],” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

    It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about [the online company], even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”

    [But for other purposes] He handles those transactions like a Boy Scout because Amazon doesn’t mess around, he says — the company just kicks you off its site if you infuriate customers.”


    [Note–I edited my comment to avoid referring to the company…because the more people write its name, the more it plays into their strategy!]

  3. Danielle Citron says:

    Thanks so much to you both. Seth, I promise to follow up today in a post about which sorts of intermediaries our piece speaks to as well as a brief overview of our prescriptions, including our upholding Google’s response to Jew Watch as a sort of model for counter speech (I will soon explain). As always, thanks so much Frank for your insights and examples. Your work is an inspiration to us, and to me, in general.