Special Report

Election 2012

A Warzone of Harassing Comments

“Idiot.” “Racist.” “Baby killer.” “Misogynist.” “Homophobic.” “Hypocrite.”  “F**king moron.” “Kill yourself.” “You should be shot.

These words and phrases can be seen on the blogging site Tumblr, a website that is intended to be a positive medium for free and open debate. Instead, during this election season, some users have turned the site into a warzone of harassing comments.

Tumblr is “a place for creative folks of all stripes to connect around their interests” says Liba Rubenstein, director of outreach for causes and politics for the website. In that spirit, Tumblr allows users to send and receive messages with the option to allow for anonymous messages. It is generally through the “Ask Box” that Tumblr users receive insults and threats, sometimes from anonymous users.

“There’s no question that a perception of privacy and anonymity on the Web allows some people to express things that they couldn’t or wouldn’t express in person,” says Rubenstein. “And certainly some people will be jerks if there are no social sanctions attached to it.”

Two hundred anonymous users were surveyed about their experiences in terms of the election and of politics on the blogging website. Fifty-eight of those participants admitted that they received hate messages after they expressed support for a presidential candidate and voiced their political views – majority of those users were Republican bloggers.

“Anecdotally, the largest and most active political communities on Tumblr are among folks with liberal/progressive and libertarian views, with a growing set of conservative voices becoming more active in this election cycle,” says Rubenstein.

One Republican user was told to end his life.

“I was told, basically, that I was stupid and that I just believed what religion shoved down my throat,” he said. “I was also told that I hate gays and women and that I’m ignorant and need to educate myself. Oh, and once I was told that I should be shot.”

Democrats were not immune to the harassment though, as one Democrat said that she had been called a “transf*ck freak chick with a dick” after she had a political debate with another blogger.

Seven users who took the survey admitted that they had sent harassing messages to other users, including the same user who had been called a “transf*ck freak chick with a dick.” She once told a user that “voting republican makes you a misogynistic racist bigot.” The recipient of her message deleted her blog as a result.

These harassing messages go against Tumblr’s Community Guidelines, Rubenstein said, which state that though the website promotes freedom of speech, they “draw lines around a few narrowly-defined but deeply important categories of content and behavior that jeopardize our users, threaten our infrastructure, or damage our community.”

One such category is “malicious bigotry” which is defined as hateful speech based on users gender, age, race, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, or veteran status.

Tumblr is not the only website that contains these types of harassing messages. Eighty-eight percent of teens have seen violent behavior on social network sites at least once, according to a study done by Pew Research Center in 2011. Their study analyzed various other websites, including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. The positive flipside is that 84 percent of those teens saw other people trying to stop the cruelty.

Though Tumblr says that they do not tolerate messages like these, it is hardly possible to monitor all of the 77 million blogs on their website. Tumblr has been doing what it can to promote positive political discussion amidst the hate that is speckled throughout it.

 

 


Tags


Other Stories in Special Report: Election 2012

Minnesotans reject amendment to ban same-sex marriage

Kelsey Kudak November 7, 2012

Divided Electorate Votes to Give Obama More Time

Alex Jung November 7, 2012

How GenY Voted

Staff of The Beat Covering GenY November 6, 2012

North Carolina: Amendment One and the Black Vote

Alaia Howell November 6, 2012

Swing state students debate: absentee ballot or register at school?

Alyson Penn November 6, 2012

What’ll it Be, Mr. President?

Suzie Hodges November 6, 2012

Stand By Your Man

Cristina Alonso November 6, 2012

Third party candidates: A long shot worth taking?

Joanna Marshall November 6, 2012

Colia Clark, Green Party candidate for Senate, Strives for Change

Robert Tutton November 6, 2012

Hydrofracking Becomes Issue in State Senate Race

Will Dietrich-Egensteiner November 6, 2012

Harnessing the Youth Vote in 2012

Alena Hall November 6, 2012

From Assembly to Congress?

laura li November 6, 2012

A group of New Yorkers canvas in Philadelphia

Sarah Gray November 6, 2012

Black Voters Face Pressure from Voting Restrictions and from One Another

Melissa Bailey Diallo November 6, 2012

Chappaqua’s most famous residents: the Clintons

Laura Gurfein November 5, 2012

Chinese-American voters support Obama

Jia Guo November 5, 2012

West Africans views of the 2012 U.S. presidential election

Lauren Morton November 4, 2012

Key voter demographic: homeowners facing foreclosure

Eric Zerkel November 4, 2012

Carbon neutral cupcakes for Obama

Lori-Lee Emshey November 4, 2012

Saturdays for Obama

Laura Entis November 4, 2012

For Politico blogger Alex Burns covering the presidential campaign is science

Alissa Katz November 4, 2012

Brooklyn Tea Party President Runs for NY State Assembly

Renee Jacques November 4, 2012

Upcoming Election Provokes Anxiety for Trans Voters

Alex Jung November 4, 2012

Student’s choice: where one votes matters

Sarah Wentz November 4, 2012

A catch-22 for evangelical Latino voters

Corrie Mitchell November 4, 2012

Knitting and purling for Obama

Megan Soll November 4, 2012

Perspectives on New York’s new Congressional districts

Lila Selim November 2, 2012

American Catholics Divided over Politics of Contraception and Poverty

Peter DAmato November 2, 2012

Felons disenfranchised in New York and other states, despite the law

Emma Quail October 31, 2012

Technology challenges privacy during election campaigns

Anna Callaghan October 31, 2012

US foreign policy success in Burma overshadowed in election

Elizabeth Shim October 31, 2012

Local politicians court city’s Arab-American vote

Jackson Perry October 30, 2012

NYU students hustle to get the vote out

Sara Afzal October 29, 2012

The “Moho” Vote

Nicole Disser October 29, 2012

‘Stamp Stampede’ at Union Square

Morgan Ribera October 25, 2012

Home call centers foster camaraderie among volunteers

Ted Simmons October 18, 2012

Voices outside of the Hofstra Presidential Debate

Colleen Quigley October 16, 2012