Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape

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Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy Report No. 2

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Alice E. Marwick; Ross Miller
online harassment; defamation; hate speech; misogyny; online communities; conflict
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paper description
This interdisciplinary project focused on online speech directed at women and seeks to provide a primer on (i) what legal remedies, if any, are available for victims of sexist, misogynist, or harassing online speech, and (ii) if such legal remedies and procedures exist, whether practical hurdles stand in the way of victims’ abilities to stop harassing or defamatory behavior and to obtain legal relief. The study concluded that while online harassment and hateful speech is a significant problem, there are few legal remedies for victims. This is partly due to issues of jurisdiction and anonymity, partly due to the protection of internet speech under the First Amendment, and partly due to the lack of expertise and resources on online speech at various levels of law enforcement. Given this landscape, the problem of online harassment and hateful speech is unlikely to be solved solely by victims using existing laws; law should be utilized in combination with other practical solutions. The objective of the project is to provide a resource that may be used by the general public, and in particular, researchers, legal practitioners, Internet community moderators, and victims of harassment and hateful speech online.