When former Google and YouTube exec Karen Cahn recently launched VProud, a video sharing website for women, it was with the understanding that women needed a safe place on the Internet, away from all the trolls. Engaging in conversations online can be tricky, especially for women. According to a recent research by the Pew Research Internet Project, while men and women face the same chances of being called offensive names, purposefully embarrassed, and physically threatened, women are more likely to be stalked and sexually harassed online. Events like Gamergate and even (sadly, ironically) the comments on the Hollaback! street harassment video demonstrate the kind of harassment and violence that women deal with regularly on the Internet.
When Cahn was going through a divorce, her experience made her aware of this lack of a safe space to share her thoughts. While she felt comfortable sharing articles about parenting on Facebook, she wanted to be able to comment on more sensitive issues without putting her name on them. Websites that do allow for anonymity are even trickier because they're often a hotbed for harassment and offensive language. It goes without saying that spaces like Twitter and Facebook have improvements to make on their settings, but even women-centric websites like Jezebel have their own problems.
VProud requires users to register with their Facebook, Twitter, or Google account, but gives them the option of commenting using their public accounts or an anonymous handle, depending on the conversation. Posts are then commented on by other users using “agree,” “disagree” or “not sure” votes that they can then add comments or relevant links and images to. Comments are moderated by an artificial intelligence database that filters things like hate-speech and name calling, community moderation with “flagging” options, and a jury of human editors and community managers when necessary.
About time, I say. VProud is showing an understanding of the landscape of online comments that major websites still haven’t caught up on: hold people responsible for the comments they make online, while still allowing them the privacy to talk about delicate issues. Check out some of the site's feature videos below.