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Troll Wrastling for Beginners: Data-Driven Methods to Decrease Hatred Online

Troll Wrastling for Beginners: Data-Driven Methods to Decrease Hatred Online

Susan Benesch, Berkman Center Faculty Associate

March 25th, 2014 at 12:30pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor

Hateful and even violent speech are familiar online; what’s unusual are data-driven efforts to diminish them.  Experiments so far have produced intriguing results including: some ‘trolls’ recant or apologize in response to counterspeech, and small changes in platform architecture can improve online discourse norms. Benesch will describe these findings and propose further experiments, especially in climates where online speech may be tied to offline violence.

About Susan

Susan Benesch founded the Dangerous Speech Project, to find ways of diminishing inflammatory speech – and its capacity to inspire violence - while protecting freedom of expression. Her framework to gauge the dangerousness of speech in context has been used in work to prevent violence in Kenya among other countries. Building on data from Kenya, she is now conducting new research to test the effectiveness of counterspeech on social media platforms.

Susan teaches international human rights at American University's School of International Service. She previously worked at the Center for Justice and Accountability, Amnesty International, and Human Rights First. Before becoming a lawyer, she was a journalist, serving as chief staff writer for the Miami Herald in Haiti, and Latin America correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times. She holds a JD from Yale and an LLM from Georgetown.

Her recent publications include: Song as a Crime Against Humanity, in Trials and Tribulations (2013); Words as Weapons, World Policy Journal (Spring 2012), The Ghost of Causation in International Speech Crime Cases, in Propaganda, War Crimes Trials & International Law: From Speakers’ Corner to War Crimes (2011); The ICTR’s Prosecution of a Pop Star: The Bikindi Case, African Yearbook of International Law (2009); Vile Crime or Inalienable Right: A Model to Distinguish Hate Speech from Incitement to Genocide, 48 Virginia Journal of International Law 485 (2008).


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Past Event
Mar 25, 2014
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM