Submissions:2019/Combating Online Harassment with Friends

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2019.


Combating Online Harassment with Friends


Harassment Civility & Safety

Type of session:



Communication platforms have struggled to provide effective tools for people facing harassment online. To devise better solutions, we examined the emergent practices of harassment recipients and systems designs that would better support their existing strategies. From a series of interviews with 18 people who have experienced online harassment, we learned about the nature of their harassment as well as how they cope. Interviewees came from a wide array of roles, from activist to journalist to scientist, and have faced harassment on a variety of platforms. Without existing effective solutions, we found that harassment recipients often turn for help to friends, who they can trust to understand their desires and maintain their privacy, using techniques such as giving friends password access to rid their inboxes of harassment or forwarding unopened messages to friends to moderate.

In light of these existing practices, we consider how to design tools that more effectively facilitate friendsourced moderation as a technique for combating harassment, a challenge that requires understanding differing individual requirements and managing potentially sensitive data. We present Squadbox, a tool that allows users to coordinate a “squad” of trusted individuals to moderate messages when they are under attack. Using our tool, the “owner” of the squad can automatically forward potentially harassing incoming content to Squadbox’s moderation pipeline. When a message arrives for moderation, a moderator makes an assessment, adding annotations and rationale as needed. The message is then handled in a manner according to the owner’s preference, such as having it delivered with a label, filed away, or discarded.

I will end my presentation with a short discussion and activity session. I will distribute scenarios to audience members taken from our interviews with harassment recipients. I will ask the audience members to individually or in groups brainstorm how friends could help harassment recipients in that scenario, and what ways they would like friends to help out with harassment if it were happening to them. Finally, we will discuss the particulars of Wikipedia harassment and how the concept of friendsourced moderation could be incorporated in how Wikipedians combat harassment.

This presentation is based on a research paper that can be found at: Squadbox: A Tool to Combat Email Harassment Using Friendsourced Moderation. Kaitlin Mahar, Amy X. Zhang, David Karger. CHI '18.

In addition, slides for the most recent talk I gave on Squadbox is here:

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Kaitlin Mahar, Amy X. Zhang, David Karger

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):


Estimated time:

22 min

Preferred room size:

30 people

Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

We conducted a workshop at MozFest 2017 on friendsourced moderation, and then Kaitlin presented the paper on Squadbox at CHI 2018

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)