Internet harassment and online threats against women and girls

19:58 Jul 13 2015 New York, NY, USA

Online harassment and threats are not a new phenomenon, but the degree to which these are directed at women and girls has begun to receive increased attention from news media, academia and law enforcement.

Forms of harassment can vary widely, from name-calling and trolling to persistent stalking and shaming to outright sexual and death threats. To some degree, the problem is structural and dates back to the Internet’s early days: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed operators of websites to avoid liability for what users post, although the limits of this continue to be tested in the courts and many aspects of the Communications Decency Act provision are not entirely settled. But it remains the case that the wide-open environment that enables creativity, innovation and vigorous debate online paradoxically also enables derogatory, anonymous speech for which there is often little legal recourse.
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