Whom Do You Speak For? And How? Identity and Anonymity in Online Abuse
Author(s)Barnes, Michael Randall
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AbstractA lot of subordinating speech has moved online, which raises several questions for philosophers. Can current accounts of oppressive speech adequately capture digital hate? How does the anonymity of online harassers contribute to the force of their speech? This paper examines online abuse and argues that standard accounts of licensing and accommodation are not up to the task of explaining the authority of online hate speech, as speaker authority often depends on the community in more ways than these accounts suggests. Instead I argue that online abusive speech is best understood as collective subordinating speech acts, as their authority is drawn from an ad hoc collective. I argue that anonymity and shared language offer online abusers a path to a type of group-authority that explains the harm their speech is capable of. I close by suggesting that similar considerations are in play for IRL subordinating speech, and that online abuse helps to reveal key features of subordinating speech across mediums that are under-emphasized in the existing literature.