Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words…

November 20, 2019

I’ve started working a new and, for me, very different project with a colleague from Loyola University Maryland. We want to see if we can find ways to help curb the harassment that is taking place online, especially in social media platforms. The initial motivation for the project was the cyber-bullying of a family member, but even just watching how others are treated on platforms such as Twitter made it clear there is a lot of work to be done.

In order to help me sort out what we know and don’t know about this issue, I’ve decided to start blogging as we go about exploring the issues. In this post, I’m just trying to set up a basic plan.

Even when you are not a target for trolls or harassers, harassment online can make you feel unsafe participating in social platforms. A platform that argues it allows all voices without censorship, that resists trying to quiet the harassers with claims of free speech is naïve, at best. They support the most aggressive speech and in doing so silence so many others.


Using this medium as a way to sort out thoughts and explore the theme of harassment online, here is my plan for posts. I don’t promise to post in the order defined here; it all depends on how my literature search is going and the ideas that are generated as we work on the project.

  • What is harassment?
  • Why is harassment a problem?
    • Silencing voices
    • Escalation, violence
  • Why do people harass?
    • Anonymity
    • Psychopathy literature, etc.
  • What can we do?
    • Reducing harassment
    • Bystander intervention
    • Things that people are trying
    • Affordances (platform design)


  1. No, I’m not the first person to think these things or write these things. I’m just trying to synthesize what I’m reading as I go.
  2. Remember, this is a blog, not an academic paper. It’s incomplete and definitely not peer reviewed. 
  3. I’m not an expert on this topic; I’m not claiming to be.
  4. Do you have some pointers for me? People or projects I should definitely be looking up as I proceed?
  5. Do you have something you want to see explored?

Let me know in the comments. I do moderate them (because Spam and Harassment), but if it’s a real comment I’ll make sure it gets posted.