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Curbing online harassment is every Internet user's responsibility


Last year November, the gaming term "your mom" got a new meaning for a bunch of boys who thought they could get away with threatening a video games journalist with rape. Alanah Pearce, a popular YouTuber, radio personality, and journalist decided not to take her abusers lying down. The young men weren't to clever, or perhaps they thought Pearce would enjoy their inappropriate advances because they harassed her via Facebook. She quickly tracked them down, contacted the mothers, and exposed them to the world via Twitter.

Pearce then tweeted: 'Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I've started telling their mothers." Her tweet was retweeted over 19 000 times and favoured by more than 32 000 people. It is not the first time Pearce took a stand against online harassment, last year she wrote a piece for Kotaku, titled, "30 Days of Sexism." In the article, she listed every sexist comment she received from March 7 – April 7.If you can stomach it, take a look, it's vile and disgusting, to say the least.

While I salute Pearce for her proactive stance against online harassment, I also know from years of experience as a female gamer and industry person, that it's not always possible or easy to deal with sexism. Most women in gaming find it overwhelming to expose harassment publicly. I regularly play online games, and it's like a sexist minefield for females. We need servers administrators to aggressively police against online harassment, be it against females or males. One of the things that make it harder on women is the ratio between male/female gamers. 95% of the time when I play online I am the only female on the server. Just that one fact makes it very hard to make a stand when, not if, someone directs a sexist comment towards me. Last year I wrote an article, "We need to talk about the harassment of women in the game industry" where I explained more about the issues female gamers face.

Yesterday, one of the developers of The Order:1886 called "the Internet the new playground for bullies." The responsibility to make this playground better rests with every Internet user. More and more developers and industry people are taking an aggressive stance against trolls and cyber bullying. Even Twitter finally woke up, apologised for their tolerance of abusers and declared that they are implementing strict rules to govern Twitter better. Last year the FBI also announced that they were working with the International Game Developers Association to curb cyber harassment. The UK government decided that jail time is the way to go to curb online harassment and trolling.

Every gamer and online user need to share responsibility. Your silence and inaction only make the playground a friendlier place for bullies.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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