December 11, 2007
Gender and Reputation in Cyberspace
Posted by Lisa Fairfax

Frank Pasquale at Concurring Opinions has a post about my colleague Danielle Citron’s presentation at the Yale Symposium on Reputation in Cyberspace, in which she focused on how group dynamics in cyberspace may prevent women from effectively participating online.  Citron of course notes that the Internet has a powerful and positive impact on reputation building in cyberspace.  Unfortunately, however, because the Internet not only facilitates the formation of groups without regard to geographic boundaries, but also allows such groups anonymity, the Internet fosters an environment that facilitates destructive mob-like group behavior.  The social psychology research that Citron has reviewed to date reveals that while both men and women are victims of online attacks, women receive significantly more attacks than men.  The result is that women have found themselves either refraining from participating in cyberspace or participating under gender-neutral pseudonyms, which, as she notes “throws us back to the nineteenth century, when women wrote under gender-neutral pseudonyms to avoid discrimination.”  Citron’s work reveals that while the Internet enables us all to connect in very important and productive ways, it also has drawbacks—and some of those drawbacks can be quite destructive.  In this regard, Citron reminds us that being a member of an online community has both benefits and responsibilities.

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