When: March 6-7, 2018
Where: San Francisco, CA
This past March at the Midway in San Francisco, Online SOS Founder and Executive Director Liz Lee gave a talk titled A Safe Haven from Online Harassment for the Accelerate Good Global conference. Presented by Fast Forward, a tech nonprofit incubator, and hosted by Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of Habit and Smarter Faster Better, Accelerate Good Global united a diverse crew of nonprofit entrepreneurs, technology leaders and philanthropists who are using technology to generate social change.
Other influential speakers at the event included:
- Megan Smith, CEO of Shift7 who served as the 3rd Chief Technology Officer of the United States and Assistant to the President under President Barack Obama
- Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America and former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer
- Premal Shah, Co-Founder and President of Kiva, a money-lending platform that supports low-income entrepreneurs and students across the globe
- Brandon Anderson, Co-Founder and CEO of Raheem, a police transparency and accountability platform
- Nithya Ramantha, Co-Founder and CEO of Nexleaf, which finds data-driven solutions promoting public health and sustainability
In many cases, including ours here at Online SOS, Fast Forward enables entrepreneurs to work towards solutions to problems that they have personally experienced, a mission emphasized in Fast Forward’s 2017 Diversity Report. Accordingly, many AGG speakers underscored the importance of involving people close to the problem when envisioning and founding nonprofit organizations. This message resonated with our founder Lee, who created Online SOS after being harassed online.
Lee’s talk was aptly scheduled for the second afternoon of the conference: she discussed the dangers of online harassment, particularly for U.S.-based journalists and women, directly between conversations about the threats faced by international journalists and workplace sexual harassment.
In The Platform Paradox & the Era of Citizen Journalism, Trevor Timm, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, and Abdalaziz Alhamza, Co-Founder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, spoke with Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at Human Rights Foundation. Timm and Alhamza discussed the dangers journalists face when reporting abroad and how threats to journalists’ safety can impede free speech and democracy.
Following this conversation, Lee took the stage to discuss online harassment, one of the many challenges faced by journalists here in the US. She urged fellow tech professionals to take digital abuse and cyber harassment seriously. “Online harassment isn’t sticks and stones,” she said. “It’s an epidemic impacting over 85 million American adults, creating fear and psychological trauma, threatening the safety of individuals, communities and corporations.” Lee echoed the sentiment of the preceding speakers. She claimed, “If journalists are silenced, our democracy is in danger.”
Lee’s talk was followed by a conversation between Emily Chang, host of Bloomberg Technology and author of BROTOPIA: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, Sarah Kunst, CEO of fitness app Proday, and Jess Ladd, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit Callisto, which combats sexual assault and harassment by revolutionizing the reporting process. Chang, Kunst, and Ladd discussed the gendered nature of many forms of harassment and abuse in the tech sector, dovetailing with our mission at Online SOS to empower, first and foremost, the most frequent targets of online harassment, that is, women and people of color. Chang is no stranger to gendered harassment on the internet. In her bestseller Brotopia, she writes, “Social media platforms that have become a go-to place to spew online harassment and cyber hate - which is disproportionately targeted at girls and women - may be the internet’s single biggest problem today.”
Between these two topical conversations, Lee ended her talk on a hopeful note. “For the courageous journalists and activists taking risks to tell the truth, we're here to ensure that their concerns about online harassment are taken seriously,” she said. “Now, more than ever, it is critical and powerful for us to come together at the intersection of tech, media, policy, and social change.”