When the internet came up twenty-something years ago, people were amazed at the what they could do with chat, emails and downloads. Now, twenty-something years later, these internet 'wonders' are pretty much the norm; but the internet has also become a hub for something else - online harassment. In one of the latest episodes of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, he explains how (apart from people saying that he looks like a puffin) there are direct threats to people's safety (especially women), that can be "chillingly specific and potentially dangerous."
Women have been threatened with rape, bombs, and death threats. With threats like these, Oliver claims he probably wouldn't feel safe anywhere on earth and would hitch a ride to the international space-station right away.
Any woman who vocalizes her thoughts online (female writers, public figures), faces day-to-day harassment. An anonymous Twitter user threatened to come to writer Amanda Hess' house and rape her and cut off her head. Horrific. But the problem doesn't end with the threats, he explains.
It's only when someone reports this to the police do they realize that they're ill equipped to deal with the crime. They can't investigate something when they're not even sure if it is a crime. If a woman turns up reporting abuse on Twitter, "what's Twitter?" is a horribly inadequate response.
The internet also has an all new way to ruin someone's life with the weight of these two words - 'revenge porn.' Nude photos of the person are leaked online without their consent (like the professor whose ex-boyfriend sent nude pictures of her to her employer and the school that her kids go to). It's traumatic and lead to extreme depression and suicide attempts. Only about half of the states in the US have passed laws criminalizing this. Even taking this up (to sue the site with the pictures) with a lawyer is an uphill battle. Everyone's victim-blaming attitude; "you should find a better boyfriend next time" is completely ridiculous and unfair.
Thankfully the Intimate Privacy Protection Act 2015, is in the works and plans to address non-consensual pornography. Twitter, Reddit and even Google have taken steps to ban it.
Oliver says we need to take the internet seriously. Most people think it's not real life, but it has been and will definitely continue to be. And internet tools, like most tools, can be used as a weapon.
Watch the video:
By Rijuta Agarwal