Users facing online abuse should be able to delegate account access to trusted allies, who can provide support, including monitoring, muting, blocking, reporting, and documenting abuse.
How does this mitigate hate?
Users often have to engage with hateful or harassing content—in order to monitor, mute, report, and document it—which can be overwhelming, exhausting, and traumatizing. However, many people targeted by online abuse suffer in isolation because of the stigma, shame, and victim-blaming surrounding all forms of harassment. This feature gives users a way to access support from trusted allies so they do not have to face online abuse alone.
Example of an interface with Delegate Access on and the SOS switch included.
When to use it?
When facing abuse, users should be able to delegate account access to trusted allies, who could help navigate hateful and harassing content, including by monitoring, blocking, muting, reporting, and documenting it.
How does it work?
Users should be able to delegate account access to a small network of trusted allies, similar to the “delegate” system available on Gmail.
Delegation can be as simple as selecting an On switch and then choosing another user or small group of users from a list. Alternatively if the user has many connections they should be able to search for their selected delegate and select one or more people as their delegates.
Potential delegates should be notified and given the opportunity to accept or decline the invitation (similar to when a person is added as a contact or connection and two-way acceptance is required).
Users could then call on their delegates to provide support during episodes of online abuse, including help with blocking, muting, reporting, documenting, and monitoring abuse.
Users should be able to control the level of access they grant delegates (to public feeds versus private DMs, for example).
Users facing online abuse can feel traumatized, exhausted and overwhelmed. This tool, users would no longer have to navigate abuse alone and could turn to trusted allies to minimize their exposure to harmful content.
Delegated access will have to be set up to ensure account security and privacy and tested to avoid weaponization, including malicious mass reporting.
On Tweetdeck, a multi-account management tool owned by Twitter, users can set up teams of people to manage an account and publish content. (screenshot taken May 2022)
On Facebook, the owner of a public page can grant other users “admin” privileges, but this feature is not available for personal Facebook profiles.
On Instagram, users can share access and designate “roles,” but only on business accounts.
Mahar, Kaitlin, Amy X Zhang, and David Karger. “Squadbox: A Tool to Combat Online Harassment Using Friendsourced Moderation,” 1–4. Montreal QC, Canada: Association for Computing Machinery, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3170427.3186498.
Vilk, V., Vialle E., & Bailey, M. No Excuse for Abuse: What Social Media Companies Can Do Now to Combat Online Harassment and Empower Users., PEN America (2021). Accessed at: https://pen.org/report/no-excuse-for-abuse/.
Written by PEN America