How Should Google+ Stop Sexual Harassment?S

Google+ has had a rocky start, and one of its problems has been its skewed gender ratio — the social networking platform remains overwhelmingly male. Now one user is arguing that the way to fix this is to make it easier for users to report sexual harassment on the service. Does Google+ need a special harassment button?

That's the argument Christa Laser makes in a recent Google+ post. She writes,


Women
, are you tired of reading weird harassing comments on your posts? Think that the internet is a jerk factory, where if you block one another pops up? Do you wish that the community discouraged harassment? Then you need a harassment reporting tool (not available on all networks).

Men, are you sick of losing women to Pinterest and Facebook? Wish they had a safe place to post publicly? Then you need a harassment reporting tool (not available on Google Plus).

How Should Google+ Stop Sexual Harassment?S

Currently, Google+ lets users report four types of abuse in posts: spam, nudity, hate speech or violence, and copyright violations (see left). For user profiles, Google+ has an additional two options: "impersonation" and "fake profile."

How Should Google+ Stop Sexual Harassment?S

Laser would like to add an option to report harassment, meaning that the dialog box for reporting a profile would look like the one at left.

Not everyone agrees — says Søren Dalsgaard Brath,

I agree that there definitely should be some way to report this, but like others have mentioned, the list will get rather long eventually. I would prefer rewording one of those already in existence, for example call it Hate speech, violence, or harassment. It is where it fits best in the above choices.

But in an email to us, Laser said that "others have told me that we should use the 'hate speech or violence'
option, but I think that making that the only option decreases the likelihood of [users] feeling like what happened to them was 'bad enough' to report." She has a point — someone talking about "spraying their semen all over [you]" (an example given by another user in the thread) isn't hate speech per se, but unless you're in a consensual cyber-sex conversation, it's definitely harassment. And encouraging women to use a tool that doesn't really fit the situation could result in them not using it at all. Also, user Hakan Gül points out that women aren't the only victims of harassment:

I was looking for the harassment report button the other day. Wanted to report a guy.

I got a [private message] from a guy that I had put +1 on the wrong post. I had put a +1 on a post by a woman in my circles (who also had me in her circles). [He said] I should immediately undo my +1 and remove this woman from my circles or else ...

The next day I got another PM from the same guy telling me that this woman now had removed me from her circles and blocked me. I should now remove her from my circles ...

All this because I had put a single +1 on a post of a woman he probably is stalking. I never interacted with her any other time.

Just hope that the guy isn't crazy enough to harm that woman ... I want the harassment report button

Google hasn't yet responded to my request for comment, so I don't know if they have any plans to add more reporting options. But as Lester also points out, Google's own anti-bullying resources suggest that adding a specific tool to report bullying and harassment would be good social media practice. One of the company's anti-bullying tips for teens is the following:

Use reporting tools

If the bullying took place via a social network, use that service's reporting or "abuse" tools. The social network may also have "social abuse-reporting" tools, which allow you to forward hurtful content to a trusted friend or directly ask someone to take offensive content down. If the abuse threatens physical harm, you may have to call the police, but think about involving a parent if you do.

As of now, Google+ doesn't really have the kind of sophisticated reporting tools it describes here — unless someone's lobbing slurs or outright threatening you, you're kind of out of luck. As user Søren Dalsgaard Brath pointed out, Google wouldn't have to add another button — it could simply offer a combined category called "Hate speech, violence, or harassment." Or it could offer a single button for reporting content that's against its code of conduct, with a link to the specific activities that aren't okay. As it stands, though, Laser thinks the lack of any of these might be keeping women away — she says, "having a harassment and bullying button would really help to curb the widespread abuse (and maybe might make women, who are very poorly represented on Google Plus, feel comfortable)." If such a tool gave women a way to object to unsolicited semen-spraying comments, it would probably do a lot of good.

Share, +1, and comment if you vote yes to an ability to report harassment. [Google+]

Image via sarahdesign/Shutterstock.com