Online Engagement on Equal Terms

6 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2015

See all articles by Danielle Keats Citron

Danielle Keats Citron

Boston University School of Law; Yale University - Yale Information Society Project; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: October 9, 2015


In 2007, when the media started covering the phenomenon of cyber harassment, the public’s reaction was disheartening. Although the abuse often involved threats, defamation, and privacy invasions, commentators dismissed it as “no big deal.” Harassment was viewed as part of the bargain of online engagement. Proposals for legal intervention were met with fierce opposition because law could jeopardize the Internet’s role as a forum for public discourse. Curiously absent from discussions about the Internet’s speech-facilitating role was individuals’ difficulty expressing themselves in the face of online assaults.

No longer is this case. As recent statements by civil liberties groups make clear, it is now uncontroversial to suggest that cyber harassment interferes with expression, even as it is perpetrated via expression. This brief essay, offered as part of the Boston University Law Review Annex’s online symposium on my book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, explores what happened to change public attitudes towards cyber harassment and the significance of private efforts to combat cyber harassment for our system of free expression.

Keywords: cyber harassment, revenge porn, hate speech, hate crimes, non-consensual pornography, cyber civil rights, civil liberties, twitter, EFF

Suggested Citation

Citron, Danielle Keats, Online Engagement on Equal Terms (October 9, 2015). U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-34, Available at SSRN:

Danielle Keats Citron (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States


Yale University - Yale Information Society Project

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Palo Alto, CA
United States

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