This New Site Wants To Help Women Document Online Abuse

Hollaback, the non-profit organization that made that questionable street harassment video in 2014, has honed their focus on another scourge: online harassment. Their new site, Heartmob, aims to provide a safe space for women who experience online abuse, by providing a space to document incidents and get support.

As reported by BuzzFeed News, Heartmob leverages the power of the public and aims to “provide real time-support to individuals experiencing online harassment and empowers bystanders to act.” Users log the incidents of harassment they experience and choose whether or not to make the report public. If the user so chooses, they can also ask for help when they make the report public, asking bystanders to intervene, support them or take action. Control over the narrative is completely in the hands of the user. It’s not entirely clear from the site itself how any action taken will manifest, but in some of these cases, just hearing that someone else has your back can be enough.

This site looks to be an indirect response to Twitter’s famously terrible management of harassment against women. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo admitted in 2015 that Twitter “sucks at dealing with abuse,” which is quite the understatement. To report abuse on Twitter is akin to screaming into the void. New tactics recently rolled out earlier this month involve un-verifying serial harassers, removing that dumb blue check next to their names — a stunning blow to trolls who derive power form harassing faceless people on the internet, I guess, but ultimately pretty ineffective. Try telling a woman whose mentions are filled with people threatening to rape her face for tweeting about feminism that the person leading the charge is now un-verified on Twitter and let me know how that goes.

Anyone with any kind of internet presence who regularly engages in conversations about race or feminism will immediately understand the need for a service like this, though it’s not entirely clear what Heartmob’s aim is. Reporting the abuse to a group of like-minded individuals who are willing to support you and to take action if necessary is good and harnessing the power of an angry mob for good online can be useful, but this isn’t necessarily a solution, per se. I’m doubtful that this service will actually change anything and it certainly won’t end harassment outright, but I guess it’s a good start. Sometimes hearing that someone has your back is enough to get you through the day and onto the next.