Could This Site Save You From Online Harassment?

by Emma Cueto

Unless you've been taking a year off from the entire Internet, you're probably aware that online harassment is a major problem for women. But now Hollaback is fundraising to launch a site called HeartMob to help support people who are experiencing harassment. And as awful as this problem is, it's great to see more options opening up for women (and men) who experience it.

Over the past year or so, the issue of online harassment and it's many unsavory forms have gotten a lot of widespread attention, and for good reason. It's also become apparent that most of the victims of more serious harassment are women. And there have been several high profile examples in recent months, including Anita Sarkeesian who was attacked online for her feminist analysis of video games, and Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu who received some of the most intense and vicious harassment, stalking, and death threats doled out by the GamerGate "movement."

So how can anyone fight back against this problem, especially since social media companies have so far proved unable (or unwilling) to do much and law enforcement has been reluctant to get involved? Well, Hollaback's idea is to launch a support network. HeartMob, as they're planning to call it, will allow people, both men and women, reach out for help via the site by explaining what sort harassment they're experiencing, and ask the community for help.

People can then lend there support by helping document abuse, report abusers, and send encouragement and support to the person in the midst of it.

The site also offers resources to help people experiencing harassment figure out what to do to keep themselves safe. And it provides a great way for people who want to support people experiencing harassment to help out.

There already exist some resources for people who are being harassed. For instance, Zoe Quinn, the aforementioned developer targeted by GamerGate, and Alex Lifschitz have launched a service called Crash Override Network that has on-call agents who themselves have experienced harassment and can help support victims both in the short- and long-term. They also work preventively, providing resources for how to keep private information private, making people less vulnerable to doxxing (the release of personal information such as a home address online).

Still, with a problem this widespread and pernicious, it's good to have as many resources available as possible. So far HeartMob has raised over $5,000 of its $10,000 goal on Kickstarter, which is certainly a promising start. And I think we can all agree it is a worthy goal. Because if, God forbid, I ever find myself facing down an angry Internet mob intent to silence us by any means they could, I'd like to know there are lots of places I can turn to for help.