Why do articles posted online attract so many comments that are – put elegantly – “below the line”? And which writers can expect to get most of the punches?

Recent research commissioned by English newspaper the Guardian has confirmed what many may have long sensed: women, LGBT people and people from ethnic and religious minorities suffer disproportionately more online abuse. The writers who got most abuse hurled at them – regardless of the topic – were either female, black and/or gay. But the writers who got least vilified were all men.

With its research, the Guardian is opening up a very timely public debate on how we can maintain an open, yet respectful debate on internet, what we can do to prevent online abuse, and most importantly, what kind of society we want to live in. It’s a laudable step to confront what has unfortunately become too commonplace: a freedom of expression gone awry.

One of the first – and very public – victims of cyber bullying was Monica Lewinsky. In a heart-rending article in Vanity Fair and TED talk, she opened people’s eyes to how the ongoing onslaught by internet trolls has – and nearly twenty years down the line – still is affecting her life, and why cyber bullying should be stopped.

 

(cartoon: Michael Leunig)

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