We are now in what future historian will call the Age of Harrassment. This will be looked at as a time when the explosive growth of social networking and online communications, coupled with primitive moderation technology, joined forces to create a toxic online environment. This is a world of online culture wars, where people who disagree make use of the new technology to bully, badger, belittle, and threaten those they disagree with. And, most often, it is the people who benefit from the way things are trying to silence those who suffer from it.

These online skirmishes have, and will continue to, become deadly. Those who are bullied have and will continue to take their lives. Those who are targeted will continue to receive violent threats, and some of those who threaten will act on it. Some online harrassment is genuinely dangerous, such as “swatting,” which involves fraudulently sending a SWAT team after someone you have targeted. Some is life-destroying, such as the publishing of intimate photos, or private information, or financial records. And it will continue and worsen for the nest few years, unfortunately.

The only cure for it is advances in technology that make it easy to report and remove harrassing behavior, and stricter laws that make online harrassment just as criminal as other kinds. These changes will come, but they will be slow to do so, as too many people refuse to take online harrassment seriously, treating it as mere pranking. But until that time comes, the Internet will be a dangerous place for anyone with an unpopular opinion.

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