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Documentary about online civility, harassment and abuse

The project is a documentary about online civility, harassment and abuse, specifically as it pertains to women and other keepers of underrepresented voices.

Specifically, it’s an episodic documentary (that means you don’t have to wait for the whole thing to be finished, since it will be released in episodes) about harassment and civility in the online world, how it relates to (mostly) women and how some are fighting back. There will also be multimedia pieces around the project as it unfolds.

While focusing on women’s stories in the modern, digital world and online spaces, there will also be glimpses into historic examples of backlash against women’s voices (Think anti-Suffragist pamphlets and tactics, trolling letters to female literary greats and scientists, even corporate propaganda to get women out of post-war factories and back into the home). How did these previous attempts at silencing affect the way women conveyed information and organized for social change? By connecting past and present, the aim is to find out how the conflict around who gets to have a public voice has (or, perhaps has not) changed over time, regardless of medium.

Among the questions episodes will raise: what is the range of online harassment and what forms does it take? Where else in history have we seen a similar narrative around shutting public voices down? Is the idea of avoiding online conversations that might become heated actually dangerous? Who harasses people online and why? Who thinks it’s perfectly ok and defends the practice? Who is doing work to change it? And, what’s actually working? In other words, there’s a lot here, and the goal is to look deeply into this complex issue in search of causes and solutions. Because our online lives can and should be better.

Why Guth? “As a woman who works in print, online and broadcast journalism, I’ve experienced online harassment and abuse boldly, publicly and regularly, and loudly speak against it. I’ve been threatened, harassed, told to kill myself, told to change careers, told I have no right to speak, been sent violent and explicit sexual threats and harassment, had my personal information tweeted to me during a broadcast, and more. As President of the Chicago Association for Women Journalists, I’ve publicly responded and launched campaigns against misogyny in the media world, and as a Senior Facilitator at the OpEd Project’s Public Voices fellowship, I’ve seen some of the most credentialed female experts say again and again, I avoid the comments like a plague, or: I would say more if I didn’t think I would get beat up online. I’ve invested my heart, mind, time and my own dollars into the project. My goal is to explore this issue as fully as I possibly can, from as many different angles as I can, through stories, history, data, technology, and social experiments.”

The popular narrative around online civility (or, a lack thereof) is to stay away from risky online dialogues and “not feed the trolls.” Indeed, even as this project got underway, many supporters have expressed concern for the safety of those involved. Which is only more reason to go forward and more reason why the project is necessary. By avoiding these conversations we risk ignoring this widespread issue and allowing it to continue, and we risk continuing to teach women and girls to limit their public voices.

A successfully-funded Kickstarter campaign got the project off the a great start. Meeting the goal of $48,000 ensured that the film is filmed, travel happens to all the major cities needed to collect stories, and necessary research continues in an organized, efficient and quality way. It will also help pay for film insurance, as well as hard drives, server space and and footage storage and transfer. With the final amount of $54,496, those immediate needs were met, pre-production got underway almost immediately, and production started (officially) in March.

But, there is still need and opportunity to support the project. By donating to the project, other cities can be added (which means more stories can be heard), more dicussion panels and events can be put together to further constructive dialogue on this topic, and it’ll help cover licensing fees for copyrighted material to use in the film (video clips, images, etc.), more research (access to archival material, as well as said travel for interviews), production/post-production basics like web development, a sound engineer and editor, entry fees for and travel to film festivals and conferences, rental fees for specific equipment needed to specific shots, as well as allowing for more production and post-production resources (musical score, sound mixing, and color correction).

If further supporting the project feels right for you, here’s the quickest way to do that. Rest assured, there’s a regular podcast update, with frequent references to money and money-saving on the set, so you can be sure your hard-earned dollars are being put to excellent use on the film. If financial support isn’t in the cards, all social media support is super appreciated, too.

To be sure, there are millions of worthy causes in our world that deserve our support. But, with your help, this will be more than an episodic documentary, multimedia assets and some events– with your financial and social media support, this is about capturing a snapshot of this pivotal time in which we have greater access to public platforms than ever, and yet the din of fear, avoidance and self-censoring runs deeper by the day. And indeed, at a time when social media has the power the give rise to entire social movements, influence elections and so much more, there’s also the goal of creating much-needed conversation and meaningful solutions around this issue.

And the time to do this is right now: with products coming into existence asking us to rate our fellow human beings like a business, with a woman running for the highest office in the country and hard-pressed to escape conversation about her appearances, with diversity in tech simply not happening fast enough, and with important socio-political issues that impact women urgently on our minds, we must, must dive into these conversations, engage in impactful dialogue and look for historical patterns around the way we communicate.

Please consider supporting this project to help reach the stretch amount goals, and keep this project moving forward.

Indeed, support comes in many forms, and all are deeply appreciated.