EFF : Facing the challenge of online harassment

” In the nearly 25 years that EFF has been defending digital rights, our belief in the promise of the Internet has only grown stronger. The digital world frees users from many limits on communication and creativity that exist in the offline world. But it is also an environment that reflects the problems in wider society and grants them new dimensions. Harassment is one of those problems.

Online harassment is a digital rights issue. At its worst, it causes real and lasting harms to its targets, a fact that must be central to any discussion of harassment. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to craft laws or policies that will address those harms without inviting government or corporate censorship and invasions of privacy—including the privacy and free speech of targets of harassment. But, as we discuss below, there are ways to craft effective responses, rooted in the core ideals upon which the Internet was built, to protect the targets of harassment and their rights.

This post explains our thinking about combating online harassment, and what we hope EFF’s role can be in that effort given the scope of our work. It isn’t our last word, nor should it be; this is not a simple issue. Instead, we want to outline some of the things that we consider when looking at the problem and sketch out some elements for effective responses to it.

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