Recognizing harmful virtual behavior

Virtual spaces have been subject to misuse.

Cyberattacks are an unfortunate risk in creating healthy virtual spaces. Everyone is familiar with the term "zoombombing," which is not a playful prank or an act to be taken lightly. Intrusions into zoom meetings, google hangouts, youtube chats, and other virtual spaces can be highly disruptive, harmful and traumatizing. 

As a participant in virtual spaces, you share in the collective responsibility to prevent acts of hate or hostility from occurring. This includes speaking up if you witness acts of racism, stereotyping, gender bias, sexual harassment, threats etc.

Examples of harmful behavior that have occurred in virtual spaces include:

  • Use of offensive screen names

  • Sharing screens with offensive words or images (e.g., pornography or hate symbols)

  • Using the chat function to make offensive comments

These kind of behaviors can have very negative impacts on other participants, including impairing a participant's ability to access the course content, triggering post-traumatic stress. As the curator of your virtual space, you have a responsibility to respond appropriately.

Some of these acts can be prevented by setting up your virtual space correctly. But it is equally important to set expectations and encourage participants to be "upstanders" - to say something or do something if harmful behavior occurs. 

Some acts of hate are policy violations or reportable crimes. 

Regardless of whether or not an act of hate violates policy, it is in everyone's interest to prevent virtual spaces from being used for this purpose.