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Online abuse and harassment continues to be an issue that is often left unaddressed, until it goes way too far, or even ends in violence. HeartMob, a new Kickstarter-funded program launched by anti-street harassment organization Hollaback hopes to provide support for victims on online abuse and harrassment.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Internet Project, women of color are more likely to be victims of online harassment. Victims of online harassment receive little or no support when reporting what has happened to them to the platforms that their harassers use.
In 2014, when Twitter CEO Dick Costolo conducted a Q&A session via the hashtag #AskCostolo, several users took him to task over Twitter’s seemingly lax policies for handling users who use the platform to harass and threaten. Naturally, the majority of these users were women, people of color, or both. Since then, Twitter hasn’t made much progress in regards to its online reporting system.
Hollaback co-founder Emily May says that HeartMob was created as a result of her own experiences and frustration in seeing her friends being harassed online.
“I was seeing all of my feminist friends leaving the internet because they were being harassed,” May said. “They’re ending their work because it’s not safe for them to be online anymore.”
Here’s how HeartMob works,
Users who report harassment will have the option of keeping their report private and cataloguing it in case it escalates, or they can make the report public. If they choose to make it public, they will be able to choose from a menu of options on how they want bystanders to support them, take action, or intervene. Bystanders looking to provide support will receive public requests, along with chosen actions of support.
HeartMob also provides users with resources such as, “safety planning, materials on how to differentiate an empty threat from a real threat, online harassment laws and details on how to report their harassment to authorities (if requested), and referrals to other organizations that can provide counseling and legal services.”
Before launching the project, the Sassafrass Tech Collective did extensive security testing to ensure protection for users of HeartMob.