A Safer, Saner Web: How the Digital World Became a War Zone and How It Might be Saved

Arthur Chu
Arthur Chu has given this talk at Techmanity 2014, Notre Dame University and MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival) 2015 in Washington DC. He speaks from the perspective of a lifelong Internet user who's watched the space evolve, and as someone who's recently been the target of multiple abuse mobs, both as an unpopular Jeopardy! contestant (yes, really) and as a target of Gamergate. The critical points he hits are that this is a design flaw in these systems, not in "human nature," and that the problems that we see are not inevitable -- they can be stopped, it's just that we don't hear about the places where they have been. He talks both about the literature he's read and the experiences he's had with how online harassment can grow at an exponential rate and the very real damage it can do to people's lives, and steps we can take as individual users, as communities and as owners of platforms to mitigate that damage.

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In 2014 Arthur Chu underwent a meteoric rise from humble insurance company employee to nationwide celebrity after winning $400,000 on the game show Jeopardy! and becoming a controversial public figure in the process. Using a unique strategy that caused many to accuse him of being dishonorable, unlikable and "ruining the game," Arthur was one of many recent people to "go viral," undergoing hundreds to thousands of attacks every day online for his appearance, his behavior, and -- yes -- his racial background. Rather than buckling under the critics, Arthur took to social media to hit back. He became a participant in the dialogue over what "Arthur Chu's success on Jeopardy! 'means'", rather than the passive subject of it. Along the way, he caught the attention of the media speaking on the toxicity in online culture, both as a recent target of it and as a lifelong participant in it. He came back into the public eye after Jeopardy! in a big way with his viral article "Your Princess Is In Another Castle," calling out the sexism in nerd culture for its contribution to the Isla Vista shootings, and continued to speak in defense of marginalized people in digital culture throughout the #Gamergate debacle.

Arthur has continued to speak up about the dangerous potential of online platforms for harassment and abuse, and how the promise of tech culture to fix inequality in society has mostly remained unfulfilled. He speaks at schools and conferences regularly about online toxicity, about protecting the marginalized and about standing up for feminism and anti-racism. Past venues include Case Western Reserve University, the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University, Techmanity 2014 and Notre Dame University.

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A Safer, Saner Web: How the Digital World Became a War Zone and How It Might be Saved