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Survey: what harassment _is_ there on the Net?

Mike C Holderness mch at doc.ic.ac.uk
Sun Oct 10 11:51:14 EST 1993

Harassment on the Net...

Greetings --

The Times Higher Education Supplement wants me to do a piece on 
harassment on the Net. No, I am not about to go all 
sensationalist. Neither am I about to abstain from the phone 
system, let alone call for it to be monitored or shut down; in my 
lifetime I have received one nearly-obscene call, one bomb threat 
and dozens of silent harassers through that technology, but I 
find it, like the Net, rather useful. Neither am I at all 
interested right now in pictures, except for specific reports of their
being used to harass an individual. 

I want to look at this phenomenon as a form of harassment, not as 
a nasty mysterious technological thang. And I want to look at the 
_debate_ around it. I hope readers will see this attempt to 
communicte calmly with largely non-Net-connected academics as a 
useful use of bandwidth. 

I'm hoping for answers to the following. I don't expect any one 
person to answer them all. 

* How would you say that email harassment is different from other 
forms of harassment -- by mail, by phone, in person?

* Would you comment on a _guess_ I make about the phenomenon, 
which is this:
      To senders, a harassing message takes place in the 
"privacy" of their computer environment and/or may seem 
impersonal; whereas to recipients the harassing message is as 
deeply personal as a phone call, is addressed to them 
individually, and is harder to "put down" than a phone.

* Have you experienced any form of harassment on the Net? Are you 
prepared to (can you bear to?) describe the incident? 
Do you personally know anyone else who has/can? 

* Do you know of any statistics and where I can get them? 

* What do you think is the best way of dealing with harassment? 
With Net harassment specifically? Is there an appropriate 
institutional response (e.g. from a harasser's system 

* Why do you think the issue generates such excitement on the Net?

* Ironically, in dealing with the some of the preconceptions 
which I know many Net users to have about journalists dealing 
with this and similar issues, I have had to set out a pretty 
thorough pre-agenda for the piece rather than asking open 
questions. Do you have a comment on this?

Please indicate how you would prefer your comments to be used.
     [ ] With full attribution including where you work
     [ ] With name and occupation/post only
     [ ] Anonymously
     [ ] This is background. It never happened.
(Please check one in response and give any relevant info).

I look forward to hearing from you! Please reply by email. I will 
summarise. Replies before Wednesday October 13 are more likely to be used. 

The THES is _the_ weekly publication for people working in higher 
education in the UK. I also write for New Scientist and (right to 
left) the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the Guardian. 
I tried to post this on Monday Oct 5, but it never got back to 
my site. Apologies for any multiple-posting to individual groups.

Mike Holderness
  mch at doc.ic.ac.uk
  mikeh at gn.apc.org

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