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Hate Crimes in Cyberspace

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace

Danielle Keats Citron

ISBN 9780674659902

Publication date: 05/09/2016

Most Internet users are familiar with trolling—aggressive, foul-mouthed posts designed to elicit angry responses in a site’s comments. Less familiar but far more serious is the way some use networked technologies to target real people, subjecting them, by name and address, to vicious, often terrifying, online abuse. In an in-depth investigation of a problem that is too often trivialized by lawmakers and the media, Danielle Keats Citron exposes the startling extent of personal cyber-attacks and proposes practical, lawful ways to prevent and punish online harassment. A refutation of those who claim that these attacks are legal, or at least impossible to stop, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace reveals the serious emotional, professional, and financial harms incurred by victims.

Persistent online attacks disproportionately target women and frequently include detailed fantasies of rape as well as reputation-ruining lies and sexually explicit photographs. And if dealing with a single attacker’s “revenge porn” were not enough, harassing posts that make their way onto social media sites often feed on one another, turning lone instigators into cyber-mobs.

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace rejects the view of the Internet as an anarchic Wild West, where those who venture online must be thick-skinned enough to endure all manner of verbal assault in the name of free speech protection, no matter how distasteful or abusive. Cyber-harassment is a matter of civil rights law, Citron contends, and legal precedents as well as social norms of decency and civility must be leveraged to stop it.


  • Vividly written and carefully argued, the book is a fine account of law in this area… We should, as Citron argues, reject the facile romanticization of the Internet as the last frontier of true freedom. We should acknowledge that the Internet both facilitates expression and silences, both allows speech and muzzles it… The major contribution of Citron’s book is its lucid summary of the vast network of laws, both state and federal, that are pertinent to cyberabuse. As she shows, we can do quite a lot for victims of cyberabuse without chilling expression… Citron confronts the perpetual free-speech/First Amendment problems attendant to her family of proposals head-on, and the case she makes is persuasive… Citron makes a number of useful proposals for legal reform while convincing readers of the seriousness of the problem.

    —Martha C. Nussbaum, The Nation


  • Danielle Keats Citron is Lois K. Macht Research Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press