For the past 18 months, I have been part of a research team that looks at the effects of online harassment for researchers and scholars who need to be on social media for the purposes of their work.
This project relates to my general research program of understanding how information that is in the public interest can be spread online, and what the barriers are to the spread of information in this context.
Working on the question of online harassment has given me the opportunity to work with a fantastic team of super smart and caring people. We’ve interviewed scholars and researchers, launched a large scale survey, and produced papers, conference presentations, op-eds and YouTube explainer videos. Now we’re very excited to launch a website intended to showcase our research on this project to date, and also serve as a resource for scholars and researchers who use online tools to promote themselves or their work.
Whether you’re engaging in open science initiatives, participating in #AcademicTwitter, posting research videos to YouTube, or writing blogs like this one, sometimes your work can open you up to online bullying, trolling or harassment. When harassment happens, it can have a chilling effect on scientific discourse, silencing scholarly voices (particularly marginalized ones) and creating tremendous psychological and personal stress for the subject of harassment.
We’ve learned that there are many different forms of harassment, and many different ways people cope with harassment. We’ve learned that support networks are key to resilience in the face of harassment, and we’ve learned that support needs to come from personal, organizational, platform, and societal sources. So far, there often isn’t enough support provided by organizations, platforms or social services like police or the legal system. But it is our hope that the more people talk about the very real consequences of online harassment, the more we can all push for positive organizational and systemic changes that can make a difference.
Check out our research and our website here.