One of the things that makes John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” great is the way that it sheds light on terrible problems that are extremely easy to ignore if you aren’t directly affected by them. This week, Oliver finally took on one of the biggest: Online harassment, particularly of women.
One of the worst aspects of the internet can be the way it can magnify the worst aspects of interacting with others. Oliver took the time recently to explore the frighteningly specific threats of violence women get online and how the legal system deals with it.
Oliver illustrates this with clips of women describing the very graphic and violent threats they have received online for what they say have no reason.
“[This] can potentially affect any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind, and then vocalizing it online,” Oliver said.
Oliver goes on to speak about how this is compounded by the fact that law enforcement is ill-equipped to handle death threats online — and often don’t even know what Twitter is. “That’s a problem,” said Oliver, “because the police cannot investigate a crime if they genuinely don’t understand the medium in which it happened.”
And there’s plenty more to unpack.
You can watch the whole segment here:
What Oliver explored on this week’s “Last Week Tonight” has been brought up by women for a very long time — this 2007 Columbia Journalism Review article about a female tech blogger receiving death threats is still timely today.
However, beginning with a Pacific Standard feature by writer Amanda Hess that ran in January of 2014 (one that Oliver cites in his piece), the discussion surrounding online harassment of women has started to gain more traction.
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