If Then

What It Takes to Study Online Harassment

The dangers of researching the cybermob—and why it’s worth it.

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About the Show

If Then is a show about technology, society, and power. Each week, the hosts take you on a lively tour of the tech news that actually matters, from fake news in your Facebook feed to the algorithms that want your job to the Uber drivers who want a job with benefits. With news-making interviews of key tech-industry figures, fascinating academics, and top tech journalists, we explore not only how the technology that’s shaping our world works, but the ideas, ideologies, incentives, and biases that underlie it.

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Host

  • Aaron Mak writes about technology for Slate.

Episode Notes

Host Aaron Mak talks with Danielle Citron, Boston University Law School professor and newly minted MacArthur genius, about her work researching online harassment in the form of cyberstalking, mobs, revenge porn, and deepfakes. They discuss the similarities between the social attitudes towards workplace harassment in the 1970s and online harassment today, the concept of “sextortion” and “de-individuation” among abusers, and how to educate law enforcement and bring meaningful change. They also talk about specific effects of deepfakes abroad, as well as Citron’s experience being “outed as a social justice warrior” online.

After the interview, Shannon Palus joins Aaron for this week’s edition of “Don’t Close My Tabs.”

Stories discussed on the show:

Shannon’s Tab: “Images From Antarctica,” by Alan Taylor in the Atlantic

Aaron’s Tab: “This Company Thinks It Can Solve Diversity With 100,000 Fake A.I. Faces,” by Samantha Cole at Vice

If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

Podcast production by Justin D. Wright.