Online harassment is a significant problem. The Pew Research Center’s Online Harassment 2017 report revealed that 41% of Americans have experienced online harassment and two-thirds (66%) have witnessed online harassment (which the poll defined as a spectrum of behaviors ranging from less severe—offensive name calling, purposeful embarrassment—to more severe behaviors such as physical threats, sustained harassment, stalking, and sexual harassment). Almost one-in-five Americans (18%) say they have experienced the more severe forms of online intimidation.
Threats and insults that are rare in real life are broadly thrown around the online environment. In his recent article, social anthropologist Agustín Fuentes, places the blame for this on the ease of anonymity on current social media platforms. “Historically, we have maintained harmony by displaying compassion and geniality, and by fostering connectedness when we get together. Anonymity and the lack of face-to-face interaction on social media platforms remove a crucial part of the equation of human sociality…. Being an antagonizer, especially to those you don’t have to confront face-to-face, is easier now than it’s ever been.” Put another way, anonymity is a shield and when you take it away, you bring back consequences for bad behavior.
People (79%, according to the Pew findings) have made it clear that they think social media companies “have a responsibility to step in” to stop online harassment. Monitoring your site for respectful behavior is a good step, but what if companies went a step further and engineered respect into the basic structure of their platforms?
Central to the Go2s network is the concept of non-reciprocity. When someone makes you his “Go2,” it means he is willing to share his news with you. You, however, are shielded until you make that person your Go2. Only then will he be allowed to share content with you and have access to your content. In this way you can keep new acquaintances at arm’s length until you feel ready to share your online life. If he or she uses bullying or harassing tactics, you can take away Go2 status and block that user without him being alerted.
Go2s also has a policy of verifying new user accounts with a cell phone number, coupled with no user data collection, for many reasons. We wanted to protect our network from being corrupted by fake accounts hiding behind automatically generated email addresses. More importantly, we wanted to make it more difficult for users to assume another identity, claiming a persona that wasn’t truly theirs. At Go2s, our guiding principles revolve around privacy, yes, but also trust: trust that I am who I say I am and that behind this account is a real person that is known to you or to someone in your circle. Take away anonymity, and you take away the cloak behind which cruelty hides.
It’s one step on our long road of building an online social network that puts the focus back on meaningful interactions with people, businesses, and organizations that matter to the individual user, in an atmosphere that invites kindness and community spirit. Go2s makes the commitment to do, in Fuentes’ words, “…the difficult social work our contemporary world demands. That means standing up against bullying, abuse, and aggressive harassment, and fostering pro-social attitudes and actions.”