Note: this is a transcript of the Q&A session following law professor Danielle Citron’s “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” keynote at WikiConference USA 2015 in Washington DC on October 11, 2015. The YouTube video follows the transcript. The recording begins at [1:25:30] . A transcript of the speech itself is available here. Listening to both, which I highly recommend, will take about 70 minutes–40 minutes for the speech and about 30-35 minutes for the Q&A session. [Image credit.]
ArbCom elections: More information about the arbitration committee elections discussed in this session can be found at WP:ACE. Nominations are open from November 8-17 and the election itself is from Nov. 28 – Dec. 6. In order to vote, you need to register an account before October 28 and have 150 edits. And don’t forget to check how the votes are counted, especially your crucial “oppose” votes.
Cross-posted to Wikisource.
[1:25:30] Danielle Citron: Questions… I like that that I see folks going to the microphone. So I’m ready. [applause] Thank you.
Question #1: Official Wiki process and banning all the women
[1:25:34] Questioner #1 (male voice): Thank you for being here. I actually didn’t know you were going to be here. I’m using the [unintelligible–off mic] …vandalizing the Wikipedia article about revenge porn a few weeks ago and rewrote it using one of your law journal articles, or re-wrote at least a substantial portion of it, but a lot of my other comments are going to be directed actually towards the audience, just in contrast to your speech.
So, I get about twenty emails a week from women Wikipedians who don’t want to deal with any of the process on Wiki, because every arbitration committee case that has involved women in the last two years, has involved all of them being banned. The entire oversight team made a blanket statement that they were unwilling to oversight two words that were gender pronouns that had never been privately disclosed, or rather publicly disclosed. And in one of our breakout sessions about gender, the word I heard more than harassment, was Manchester.
Danielle Citron: Hmm, which, I may need a little clarification on that one.
Questioner #1: The audience will understand.
Danielle Citron: [crosstalk] Manchester. I’m with you all the way, until Manchester.
Questioner #1: [crosstalk] I’d be in trouble if I talked more about that.
Danielle Citron: [crosstalk] Really?…
Male voice: He’s teasing us.
Danielle Citron: Oh, is he teasing, I had a feeling…
Voice from audience: …user…[crosstalk in audience]
Another voice from audience: ….ohhh…[more crosstalk]
Danielle Citron: Okay, can I just say what I heard, and then maybe we can create like a question or conversation, right? So, what I think I heard–and thank you so much for your comments and question–because you said, really, you were saying it more as a dialogue with the audience, right, which maybe I can kind of spark, is that I think I heard you saying that women editors, female editors were being banned, right, as a result of disputes. Am a wrong? Is that what I heard?
Questioner #1: [off mic] That was what you heard.
Male voice: [audience crosstalk] Yeah, that’s correct.
Questioner #1: [off mic] Every major arbitration case, to the best of my knowledge, in the last two years, that has involved a woman editor has had her banned, even in situations where behavior on the other side would have also–I mean some of them deserve to be banned, but behavior on the other side also warranted sanctions, that were not put in place. For reference, I moderate our Gender Gap mailing list, I seriously regularly receive twenty to thirty emails a week related to Wikipedia-related problems from women who do not want to participate in any of our official processes because of what happens to them when they do. And I’m just going to leave “Manchester” at “Manchester”.
Danielle Citron: Okay. No, that’s fine. What’s really interesting is–what I’m hearing–and I just want to look back in history, right. So it’s true that, like, if we think about these, sort of, important turning points in the way that we change our attitudes. If we think about, sort of, women in the workplace in the 60s and 70s, right, the workplace that my mom, right, a lot of our parents grew up in, you know. If a woman objected to sexual harassment in the workplace, the response was like “beat it”. You know, “you don’t like it, leave”, right? And that kind of punishment is not–that’s just the way we said to people “you don’t like this culture, get out of here”, and so, I guess–and I’m not suggesting your community is doing anything consciously, right?
Questioner #1: I am. [laughter]
Danielle Citron: And that’s okay if you are. but…and these are important discussions to have. I so value being here to hear you have these conversations, because you know, so often at least as a consumer of–I love Wikipedia. So, I’m just–I eat it up. Like, I go…you know. I just observe. I don’t edit, right, and I admire people who do. But…do you know what I’m saying? I’m one of the people that admires fans using it. And you know, the conversation about how there’s so few female editors has always depressed me. So I think having this important conversation and you were saying “I want to be part of the solution”, right, “I want to make it easier and more welcoming for women to be part of this important endeavor” is really wonderful. So thank you, right, you know. So that’s sort of my response, I think.
Question #2: Silencing victims of harassment
[1:30:16] Questioner #2 (male voice): Hi. Thank you so much for your talk. On the subject of, sort of, norms and phasing people out of the community if they, sort of respond to sexual harassment, I really apologize, so hit your conference bingo cards: this is a comment not a question. So, recently one of the particular cases that Kevin was talking about was an editor who had faced pretty extreme sexual harassment and was involved in a dispute on Wikipedia. Someone had modified nude images of someone else and put them up on a site with their name, and among other things — not saying this editor was otherwise blameless — but among other things the arbitration committee banned them for seeking out the identify of the person who had placed those things up there, because, you know, they didn’t feel that they had any other alternative, And one of the, sort of, proposed decisions in this case basically said that the way editors should respond to harassment was “an editor who is harassed and attacked or who generally perceives themselves to be harassed or attacked whether on Wikipedia or off should not see that harassment as an excuse for fighting back or attacking those who are criticizing them”. Explicitly–explicitly there and implicitly on other pages–telling people that the way to respond to this is to lower your profile. And so, that’s really all I had to say, I think it’s a shame. [applause]
[1:31:39] Danielle Citron: And I think that’s the, you know, the devil in all of this, is that it’s so silencing, right, that it troubles me that if we were to say to people who have been targeted, that they shouldn’t at the very least be able to talk about the abuse that they’re facing–it strikes me as the wrong move. But I often think of, sort of, self help as inevitably troubling because the smash-back by harassers is always worse. You know, like, self help or vigilante justice, right, always comes with–it’s a gamble, right? So when victims and their supporters try to, sort of, talk back–and I’m not talking about Wikipedia–I’m just talking generally. You often see a cyber mob that then comes back so much harder at victims, right? So that it’s just perilous–it’s personally perilous–for victims and their supporters. But I hope that in thinking forward about your, kind of, policies and, sort of, norm-creation on your site, that you, you know, think hard about how hard it is for people who face, you know, their own photos have appeared on line, or doctored photos, and all that kind of abuse is so silencing. So the very fact that you’re able to in some respects defend yourself is huge, right, it’s a huge leap forward in many ways, right, and we ought to credit that, and think hard about what that means, and how we want to process that, So I’m not going to tell you how to think about it, right? But I think it’s something you should think hard about.
Question #3: Coordinated offsite harassment
[1:33:10] Questioner #3: (male voice) Hi, I’m Gameliel, and I have some things to say about Gamergate. [laughter] Wikipedia, I think, is completely unequipped to deal with harassment, especially this new paradigm of coordinated offsite harassment. Two problems–I’ll make two points and then turn this over to a question, I promise–the first one is that we have this distributed volunteer method of policy enforcement, and so what I’ve seen is an effort to ramp up the harassment so hard that no one wants to get involved in the drama. I’ve had so many administrators tell me privately, I’m looking at this and you’re doing okay, but I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want to get harassed, I don’t want to get doxxed. I don’t want this to happen like it happened to you. And so, they’re working the refs, is what I call it, keeping people from the situation, keeping people who want to enforce policy away from the situation, so they can do what they want. And the second point is we have this paradigm on Wikipedia, we come out of this paradigm: we have rights and access. We worry about the rights and the access of the harassers: we need to offer them a path to rehabilitation, what about their right to edit, and all this; we don’t think about the people they are harassing off Wikipedia — what about their right to edit?
Danielle Citron: Right.
Questioner #3: And what about their right to access the encyclopedia. So we have that paradigm, and even without that paradigm, we have this problem of enforcing the rules that we do have. So my question is: what can we do, what suggestions can you offer to us as a community, that we can address these issues in a new way, because we’re not doing it–at all–correctly–now.
Danielle Citron: So, that’s a great question and comment, and, you know, I think your comment helps answer some of it. That is, we’ve got to prioritize, and think really hard, and I hope what I’m conveying to all of us today is that the cost expression on the person who is targeted is something we have to work hard to protect, right, their expression. So I think, prioritizing the person who’s being targeted, so that they don’t slink away, and you lose their voices. It’s a real social cost; it’s not just a cost to the individual, but it’s a cost to all of us, right, who could hear their voices. So I think, if we don’t–if the balance is off, and we’re only thinking about the harasser’s access and ability to speak, and write, and you know provide “knowledge” if you call it that, if they’re posting nude photos, or whatever it is, and rape and death threats, I think we could be more circumspect, right. I guess my call is for us to think really hard about what it is they’re expressing, and contributing, right. So if they’re contributing very little, and crucially, driving people from partaking and engaging–but I think you ought to think hard about if you want them in your community. I mean, this is your community to self-police, right, so I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I think it sounds like the balance is skewed, and you’ve got to bring the speech interests of the targeted person back into the picture. Right? And it may help you re-calibrate. It’s not to say it’s easy, right, so as your folks were telling, the administrators were saying like “hey, we don’t want to get doxxed”. I mean, honestly I was doxxed, it’s not fun–on Gamergate thing–platform, I was like “shoot, right, like this is not a good time”. My whole family lost their minds. But you know, imagine Anita Sarkeesian. So no one wants to be, right, no one wants to be targeted. It’s true the blowback on anyone who intervenes, is “how dare you”, right. The, sort of, mob is “nooo”. It’s amazing, right, it spirals way out of control. So I appreciate that no one wants skin in the game, right. So maybe there’s–I don’t know if it’s possible–but to kind of insulate the decision makers, make them less transparent so you can’t — I don’t know if that’s a possibility, right, but ways in which you can help intervene, so that the outside mob–a lot of this is what you’re talking about, isn’t destruction happening from within your community, but outside of it. But maybe there are ways in which you can, sort of, change how you present to the public about who’s doing some of this blocking or fixing, you know, like when you’re monkeying with Anita Sarkeesian’s site–if we shut it down, right? So we can’t go after the people making the decisions, the mob that’s outside of Wikipedia. We’re gonna “protect your own”, so to speak. I mean, maybe you gotta rethink some of those policies and transparency. Transparency is not an unalloyed good. I mean Lawrence Lessig did a sort of terrific work on this. We know it’s, it’s– we need to temper it, right, sometimes. So, it may be self-preservation that you don’t tell the public who is doing this sort of blocking, right? So that you can police your community, and not put your own hides on the line, right? And I think we may have to rethink hard about ways in which we need to start thinking about the targets of harassment, and putting them closer into the picture. So thank you
Questioner #3: Thank you.
Danielle Citron: Thank you.
Question #4: Conduct policy for technical spaces – “precision in recall”
[1:38:31] Questioner #4: (male voice) Thank you very much. This is a topic I’ve been very close to recently because we’re been working on a code of conduct policy for our technical spaces around Wikimedia things. So, I hope you’ll forgive me, I’m a computer scientist, and so I want to like, throw some jargon at you, but I’ll define it. Because I think it’s important for the question I want to ask.
So, with any rule that we put in place, like we like to talk about things as “precision in recall”. “Recall” is “how much of the bad stuff are we getting with this”, and then “precision” is “how much of that stuff that we get is actually bad”. And so like, precision isn’t very good, if we for example made a rule that was very easy for people who are harassed to report that harassment, but it also enabled people to use reporting harassment,..
Danielle Citron: “…to harass other people. Sure.”
Questioner #4: Exactly. And so what I want to ask about is, if you have some general advice, or rules of thumb, or maybe strategies that we can follow to keep “precision” really high, so that we can shut down the arguments, that, you know, “people are going to use this to harass me”, they’re going to use the harassment policy to harass me.
Danielle Citron: So I’m going to UCS with you, so, audit trails. To get at ..we need some traceability. That sounds like–I’ve always thought Wikipedia is like beautifully working with audit trails, right, and all sort of “recall”, right, to know who’s doing what. So that when the harassed person says, “I’m being harassed”, and the harasser says, “no, no, you’re harassing me”, right, that, sort of, like, nonsense cycle, which may or many not be true. Sometimes it’s true, let’s assume it’s not. Then you have some audit..there’s some ability to have that recall, and have precision, because you have very complex rich audit trails, that tell you what’s going on, right? So how do we know the code isn’t buggy? Right? We test it, right? We test it, we have audit trails and that’s ..i think you gotta bring that to this project. Right?…is what I would say, and that’s maybe, you’re already doing it and you want more, (laughs) [crosstalk] … we’ve been there and .. why isn’t that helping you, Why don’t audit trails get you there?
[1:40:37] Questioner #4: Yeah, so, I mean, I think the thing that we struggle with is [crosstalk]… I mean there’s a lot of rhetorical back and forth that we need to do in order to even put this thing in place. So even if the system will work, we need to convince people that they should sign on to it, so we can even try it in the first place. And so the thing that we’re struggling with now is, yes, we’re making, like, a place where you can safely report harassment, and somebody will turn around and well, now somebody is going to in a very hidden place, report that I’m harassing them, and you know, work against me, And it’s probably a boogy man, and definitely something that we can iterate on and improve, but getting past that threshold is the thing that we’re really struggling with. Getting it so we can try it so we can iterate on it.
Danielle Citron: Don’t we do that? With software, we experiment, we throw it out there, where it’s open source, let’s do it–or open code? So let’s experiment. So sorry, Yeah. [laughs]
Question #5: Arbcom’s gender problem
[1:41:27] Questioner #5: (male voice) Hello, this is Smallbones here. I know Wikipedians don’t like to politicize things. I’m going to continue on Kevin’s comment. Arbitration committee has been a major problem. There is an election, I believe it’s in December. I believe there are four seats up, and I would love to see four women. [applause] And I will also say, if my memory serves correctly, if everybody in this room voted for all four women, there would be I think now five women
Voice in audience: Canvassing. [laughter] [crosstalk]
Questioner #5: Yeah, ah. I think I’ll just leave it there, unless you want me to ask a question. [laughter]
Danielle Citron: No, it sounds like a great call to action. Right?
Voice from audience: Thank you.
Danielle Citron: And you have to feel like, so that, I mean i think this is going to be obvious, but we have to feel safe if we’re going to put ourselves out there. Right? So, I’ll leave it there too. Right?
Question #6: all-male arbitration committees
[1:42:40] Questioner #6: (female voice) Thank you. I would like to ask you as a legal scholar, if there are constitutional insights or legal insights that could help Wikipedia come up with better processes, so that it doesn’t have all male arbitration committees, given the fact that such a disproportionate number of the participants are men, even though of course there are many men in this audience who are supporting the anti-harassment, which I think we also need to bear in mind it’s not just women who can be supporting this–you know, the whole “he for she campaign“–but clearly. if Wikipedia is going to be “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit“, and as you mention, going to produce knowledge that reflects the experiences of more diverse people, it needs to think really hard about what are the processes that put people in place in Wikipedia’s power hierarchies, that lead to decisions like banning women who complain about harassment, and all the ways of silencing them. But I do think that Wikipedia often tries to think about these processes without looking to the insights that come from all these legal structures, and constitutions and so forth around the world. And if there’s a way to make that information more accessible to those who are trying to sort though these rules, it would be really helpful.
[1:44:12] Danielle Citron: Right, So, I love this question, of course, because it asks me to think about, sort of, due process, which I’ve done a bunch of work on. So I have an article called “Technological due process“, and it’s really about automated decision making systems, but there’s so much to draw on–the lessons of procedural due process. Like “what is a fair hearing?”, ritht? And there’s a whole literature on, like the core components of a fair hearing and what that means and it includes an impartial decision maker. Now in our, sort of, doctrine of what that means, it basically means there ‘s no conflict of interest, that is, you’re not invested in the company that you’re so adjudicating. So you, sort of, spoke about gender, right, how is it that we’re going to … how can a man adjudicate where another man is the harasser. It’s not always men who are the harassers, it could be women, of course, too, right? But I think we haven’t, at least in the law, that lesson, we’ve never said that, right, We think really narrowly about the way in which we understand a impartial decision maker, right? But the due process tradition also teaches us that we should give people a chance to bring evidence forward, and have the ability to present evidence and to have council if they so want it. That is, we provide, at least when we’re talking about having a hearing, right, if the government wants to take something away from you, a benefit of some sort, a license, then they owe you some fair hearing of some sort, some process, either before or after adjudication. And so there are some lessons I think we can take from it. And ref (?), so the impartiality thing is something that’s really narrowly understood. Like what do we mean by an impartial decision-maker, that maybe you can develop and think through in a way that’s more reflective of the Wikipedia experience.
Questioner #6: Thank you.
Question #7: the abusers
[1:46:02] Questioner #7: (woman’s voice) Hi. Okay, so you had a lot about the victims, but often the problem is a lot more two-sided–or no, multi-faceted than this, because the victims can often be abusers themselves, and a lot of the abusers are often victims in their own right, and then of course there’s also just abusers as trolls or bullies or whatever. So, what I want to ask is, what about the abusers, like what are their motivations, and how can this basically affect how we deal with them.
Danielle Citron: So, I mean, some of the answer about who these folks are is really hard to answer, because unlike in Wikipedia most other sites people are either pseudo-anonymous or anonymous and people can’t trace them, right? And if law enforcement never intervenes, we’ve no idea who they are. For the most part, law enforcement hasn’t. So I can’t–does that make sense?–like, even in Anita’s case, we’ve not seen any forward movement on the law enforcement piece. So it’s very hard to make a set of assessments about a set of people we have no idea who they are, and it’s just seriously understudied, the question, at least from a social science perspective, right? Who the abusers are , you don’t know. It’s true that in my book and in my work, I am focused more on the person who is truly targeted and isn’t striking back, And that is the better part of the story for harassment and stalking, outside of Wikipedia, right? That is, when you face–either it’s in a domestic circumstance, which you then recruit and you have, sort of, cyber-stalking by proxy, you’ve got people that help you, right? You get a mob going. It’s sort of one person who knows the victim and then starts a flame. And usually it’s someone who you know, right? But it’s true that strangers can engage in it, and we just don’t know who they are, right?
Questioner #7: So perhaps that *is* something to study, perhaps not the individuals themselves, but the psychology behind it?
Danielle Citron: Absolutely. No, no,.. so a lot of my–like when I talk at universities, is like “we need you social scientists” right, like I’m not writing about state AGs and privacy and norm entrepreneurship, so I’m kinda, not that I’m leaving the space, but we need more work “I wrote a book, I’m good”, like we need more work, we need to pass this on to another generation of people to think about. So I think that’s right We do need to think about that. But I think it’s also unfair to say that–it’s true that, I actually know a bunch of cases where a) victim became a harasser and a harasser has become a victim. Does that make sense? And there is a whole psychological story that–I am a lawyer, right, that I can’t answer–I don’t want to get into stuff I don’t really know. Does that make sense? But we do know that domestic violence perpetrators are victims too, from their childhood — like, this is not a surprising cycle or story, right, of abuse, it’s just one I’m not an expert on.
Questioner #7: All right, thank you.
Danielle Citron: …but it’s a valid one to think about.
Question #8: harassment from Wikipedia criticism sites
[1:49:04] Questioner #8: (man’s voice) I want to take it from just a tad different angle. When I was fifteen years old I was raped, or nearly raped, rather, by a younger boy in my high school. And it took me eight years of traumatic work to get back to normality, but since then –in Wikipedia I have a lot of friends, a lot who are gay–I’m not–but, there has been harassment in getting people to these conferences, including Wikimania, the international conference here in 2012 , And it’s becoming a case of –unless there’s absolute work done and absolute pushing we don’t have any way of dealing with this, plus, for those who have been here on the site a long time, we have two websites–I will not advertise them for obvious reasons, that are ex-Wikipedians or Wikipedia critics who take it upon themselves to harass other Wikipedians in a stage where usually nobody looks. I mean, it was pointed out to me, I had very open on my user page, and people were harassing me on the website looking up my credit card information, and doing other things that really should be targeted. and yet I don’t exactly see any method, the Foundation won’t step in, to shutting these sites down, and getting rid, and having Google or something get rid of access to these, Because you google my user name, it’s going to show up, and who’s to say it’s fair.
Danielle Citron: Right, so let me take the–so let me just say thank you for sharing that with us, and I think it really important to note that my work, that of course it’s not just women but it’s so often sexual minorities, right, who face this kind of abuse. So I hope I was conveying that. If I didn’t, I apologize. And it’s true that, especially for women, the sort of darker their skin, or the more they are sort of the non-normal, non-traditional story of sexuality, the abuse is so grotesque, right. So I think you’re totally right, is like, Danielle, also widen your lens, it’s true that LGBT folks get like really harassed online, and it’s absolutely right. But your question is, okay, so just quick clarification, the two sites you’re talking about, is that within Wikipedia, so that it’s
Questioner #8: It’s…
Danielle Citron [crosstalk] …it’s outside…
Questioner #8 : They are not owned by us but they are sites basically dedicated about us.
Danielle Citron: Right, We can’t control them right. And so of course, you know, what’s interesting is, you said, if we’re going to publish peoples’ credit card information, though, this is one area which, normally we think of truthful fact. We don’t inhibit that, that is, we have this profound commitment to truths, so even a credit card number is a truthful fact, that even if betrayed in confidence, if it’s posted online, you know, we might say look are you going to punish someone, but in fact, one of the very small areas, where we say nude photos, credit card numbers, and SSNs–you can actually sue someone for public disclosure of private fact, like, so yes a commitment to the first amendment, but that can actually–a credit card number is like a key to your bank account, right, so that we don’t think it’s speech-producing or truth-producing, in that way that we think of truth, so I mean you could–google ‘s policy for search is for credit card information, social security numbers, and now nude photos, they’ll de-index those sites if your card data is there, just say.
Questioner: Its not that. the two sites in question also have done harassment of me on the website, and many other editors over the years, and yet we still somehow let Google link to them and we still condone their existence on the internet despite the very vulgar and very questionably…
Danielle Citron: Yeah, the same problem that victims face, does that make sense, like that’s where the rubber does hit the road, in our commitment to free expression.
Voice from audience: I think one of them is hosted overseas.
Danielle Citron: Right, and then we can’t even control those folks, so to the extend that they’re engaging in criminal activity that we can proscribe and regulate, we do often have jurisdictional struggles, right, we can’t get at the abuser because we don’t have the resources to extradite them and there’s no extradition treaty. So we have to have both the will, the resources, and the, sort of, legal grounds, to grab the person, and we may not have them. So thank you.
Question #9: bias in all-male consensus process
[1:53:36] Questioner #9 (male voice): There was something left dangling earlier. You were asking why the audit trail doesn’t help in establishing whether there was harassment or not. There’s several reasons for that. One of them is that Wikipedia’s archives are absolutely voluminous, they’re huge, and to retrace all the instances where a person communicated with another person, and which article they were communicating about, and what this article looked like at the time, and what the issue was at the time can be incredibly complex, and quite apart from retracing everything that’s happened, maybe over a period of years between a couple of contributors. The other problem is that people will see it from different perspectives, so if you have a woman arguing and a man arguing like in the recent arbitration case with an editor called Lightbreather who was in many ways a very valuable voice in the Wikipedia which has now been silenced, because she’s gone. I really loved the way she spoke up for women’s perspectives. She was very outspoken. She got into many arguments about that as a result. What happens is, you have a community which is 90% male and who will tend to sympathize more with the male half of that conversation than with the female half of that conversation. So while–it’s difficult to get consensus that something is harassment, or that something shouldn’t be allowed, Someone mentioned Manchester earlier, the situation here a British contributor who uses English in a British way so he uses the c-word differently than people in the states would use it. And he insists on his right to use it when he feels like it. And he doesn’t really care how that affects women who feel that word should really not be used in conversation with them. And you know he’s a valuable…
Voice from audience: …a lot of Manchester people, and not just that…
Questioner #9: Yeah, okay, so basically he has got his defenders, and there are very many women who are simply flabbergasted that something like that can fly. Which is a similar situation where you’re dealing with a community that’s skewed gender-wise in the first place, And people’s judgement about what is harassment differs.
Danielle Citron: And that’s where I want to–that wonderful comment by — I don’t know your name– [crosstalk] yes, your question about due process and what that looks like. This is the community that can make its own choices, so when you have a case in which we have a woman who’s very outspoken, and who has been very outspoken for feminist opinions and is accused of harassment, I think that’s where you get three adjudicators, two are women. I mean, that is your choice, to decide who is on your review panel, right?
Questioner #9: Well, that is what the community is struggling with. because the arbitration committee is all–nearly all male, and …
Danielle Citron: And we might change that, no? Did we have like a political moment a second ago? No? [laughter] Right? We’re going to fix that. [applause]
Voice from audience: Isn’t that next July? [Crosstalk] November. Just look. [laughter] November – December. It’s already posted.
Danielle Citron: So I think we have some stuff we need to fix here. [crosstalk] We have work to do.
Questioner #9: And I think also some of this work needs to be done in public, you know, I think there need to be press articles about this situation, and if you can help with that, then that would be very..
Danielle Citron: Okay, yeah, I blog for Forbes, we can figure that out, right. [crosstalk] No but thank you.
Question #10: defining harassment, stalking, and threats
[1:57:23] Questioner #10 (female voice): Hi, I’d like to speak up on behalf of women who live in the United States who have professional jobs, who are covered by the EEOC guidelines, on non-discrimination and harassment, who cannot bring their families, their agencies, their employers, etc. into disrepute. Here we are on this wild tumblin’ website, and it’s supposed to be open to everyone, and if you implement non-harassment for everyone, well, that includes people just coming out of prison or still in prison, it includes people in war zones, it includes people in fire stations and emergency response who have a legitimate reason to defuse a little tension now and then, and a morbid sense of humor. It includes places like a place where I used to live overseas where it was considered perfectly normal to require women to sleep with their boss, that was just part of life in that society. It includes regional differences, where somebody says something to you and it means you better clean their clock or feet don’t fail me now, and for them it’s just hey, you know, we’re hanging out with our friends doing our thing.
But, you know, here, you are, you don’t know if this person is local. You don’t know if this is some rap musician cuttin’ loose, or you don’t know if it’s a threat, and at the same time, you can’t say anything because you have the constraints of maintaining a professional job, the reputation of your family, your employer, and your agency. If there’s a certain level of social norms and a level of politeness in public, there’s a level of politeness in an international setting that’s pretty well determined here in Washington DC. In the meantime you’ve set up this, kind of, social group for people who are cuttin’ loose. And I have no idea–how do you work in the different cultures, the different nationalities, the different social norms, and the different requirements?
I mean, I am really tired of tiptoeing around a lot of total psycho-maniacs on this website. I’m tired of it frankly. I’m tired of it. [applause] What do we do.
Danielle Citron: I think like, you mentioned, let me just, because I think you have a couple of questions in there, so let me take at least two of them.
One question is how do we figure out what is harassment, stalking, and threats, when we have all sorts of… a) we don’t know what it means b) we have all sorts of different norms, depending on the countries we’re in, right. And we do have some instruction from the law, which is that how do we determine the facts? We look at all the facts and circumstances, we look at what’s said, we look at how it was said, we look at who said it, who is it directed at, right? We do have some cues, right, on Wikipedia, so it’s not like we’re helpless. I don’t think we are. I think we do have some measure of assessment.
As a community you can figure out how you want to take those cues and understand them, right, and work on helpfully providing examples to your community of what constitutes a threat, what constitutes harassment and stalking, like not just define it, but give examples. And give examples from within your own community, right, that is, editors vis–à–vis each other, what is not okay, right. And we have done it in the law, you can do it here. Right? You can make contextual assessments, so long as you know the question–the right questions to ask, right?
Now, I can’t solve the problem of like, different norms, international, the U.S., I guess I can only work with ours, right. And if that’s going to guide you, that is, our kind of U.S.-centric norms, I mean, with, …I mean what’s interesting is internationally you can’t say whatever you want. They have hate speech laws, I’m actually really shocked that you say that, right. They don’t have a first amendment, right, so in Canada, in France, you can’t…. Holocaust denial– to utter it is a crime, which in the United States, it’s not.
So it’s interesting to me that you say anything goes across the Atlantic, which I find shockingly not true, as a matter of the law. So let’s all ground ourselves in the reality of that, right, and I think we should take a U.S. approach, if that’s what you want to do, right, and we have lots of norms we can incorporate from stateside, from here, and I think we have the tools, right.
Your second question was about the workplace and what do we do when editors have like, full time jobs and like they’re being targeted and there’s a problem. And we know that Wikimedia isn’t–I mean, Wikipedia isn’t for most people their work place, so that–it isn’t in the way that we traditionally understand Title 7, right. There isn’t that kind of accountability. Title 7 applies only to employers and employees, in spaces that employers can control, So while we can learn from that civil rights, sort of, laws–Title 7 and the Civil rights Act of 1964– we can’t directly import them, right. But it doesn’t mean we can’t–and I guess that’s the point of my book–is for us to understand the economic consequences of online abuse, to realize that when we target someone, and it’s searchable, and it’s in the first page of a search of their name, that it truly interferes with their tangible life opportunities. And it’s something you as Wikipedians can take into consideration. So thank you. [extended applause] Thank you very much. Thank you.
I really appreciate that was a lot of fun. [laughter]