“Can I get a Trollinity Reading on That”?
Shawn Taxerman | Matthew Gold | Itai Ofir
On May 7th and 8th, Hack Harassment sponsored a challenge at the first student-run collegiate hackathon at UC Davis — fittingly titled HackDavis. Our prompt asked teams participating to come up with a tech solution that would help put an end to online harassment. Students used their coding and creative expertise to hack harassment with us.
Below, you will hear from one of the winning teams about their project. They discuss how they created it, as well as their reaction to learning more about the prevalence and severity of online harassment over the course of the weekend.
Online harassment matters. Period. I could go on and explain in a couple hundred words why, but instead I’ll just give you six names: Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Jessica Logan, Hope Witsell, Tyler Clementi, Amanda Todd.
Each of these people committed suicide after experiencing severe cyber-bullying.
And sadly, these are just six of many cases. More and more, individuals are experiencing the inflation of social anxiety, destruction of self-esteem, and the inception of suicidal thoughts that are all the result of online harassment.
We all know online harassment exists. Most of us have probably experienced some form of it, whether in an offensive comment on Facebook or Twitter, a personal attack on Ask.fm or Formspring (when it was still around), an unwarranted display of genitalia on Chatroulette or Omegle, or a hate-driven discussion on 4Chan or Reddit. Some of us may have even been perpetrators. And it’s understandable. The internet allows a dimension of anonymity inexistent in the real world. This anonymity is like an enchanted sword, providing its bearers a sense of invulnerability as they cut into people’s emotional well-being without fear of repercussion.
I wasn’t aware of the severity of the issue until last weekend when I participated in HackDavis, my school’s first major collegiate hackathon. Never having been to a hackathon before, I had gotten off the waitlist the day before the event and instantly corralled my friends and fellow students Matthew Gold and Itai Ofir to join me. We attended a mixer that evening to meet other hackers, hear some idea pitches, and get our creative juices flowing (and to get some free pizza, of course).
That night not only did we meet Michael Villas, a graphic design major who would go on to help us with some design work, but we also got our first introduction to the Hack Harassment initiative. The representatives presented their challenge, and we were instantly drawn in — and who wouldn’t be? They had a cool name, were affiliated with Lady Gaga, and were working on a pressing social issue that affects everyone who uses the internet. We left the mixer decided that we would take the Hack Harassment challenge at HackDavis. A few hours later, the vision for Trollinity was born.
Trollinity — which combines a play on words like “acidity” or “alkalinity” with the internet slang term for an online harasser — would be the first online metric for the risk of harassment on a given website. It was built as a Google Chrome extension, so users could turn it on or off as they please. Our vision for Trollinity included three main functions:
1) Provide users with a metric of the risk of harassment on any web page. These troll levels would be stored in a database that other technologies could harness as well.
2) Integrate IBM’s Watson’s Tone Analyzer technology to allow users to analyze the harassment level of any highlighted text they choose.
3) Provide a way for users to report instances of online harassment as soon as they experience it.
With these functions, Trollinity would help increase awareness and accountability of online harassment.
With Trollinity, you’ll know where the Trolls live.