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Unwilling Avatars: Harassment, Idealism, and Liberty in Cyberspace
Unformatted Document Text:  DRAFT: PLEASE DO NOT CITE OR CIRCULATE WITHOUT PERMISSION Franks 51 of more closely tying the sanction to the offending behavior than is possible in real life. For these reasons, it is to be hoped that cyberspace sexual harassment policies and procedures would be even more effective at resolving sexual harassment non-litigiously than real-space procedures. Revising Title VII and Title IX to include liability for website operators thus imposes very low burdens on both website operators and good faith website users, while preventing harassers from using websites as launching pads for sexual harassment with effects on victims‟ work or school experiences. V. O BJECTIONS There are three objections I wish to address in this section. The first is a fairly straightforward concern about the effects of sexual harassment law on free speech generally, and in cyberspace particularly. The second objection is a concern about efficacy; namely, is a legal response the best way to deal with the problem of cyberspace sexual harassment? Given that litigation is expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, will relying on legal remedies to address cyberspace sexual harassment truly benefit the majority of victims, or just create another revenue stream for lawyers? Is law likely to change harassers‟ behavior, or would concentrating on changing social norms be a better use of resources? The third objection is somewhat related to the second, but considers that the prevalence and intensity of cyberspace sexual harassment might itself actually be driven in part by sexual harassment law and policy in the workplace and in schools. That is, perhaps the viciousness and frequency of cyberspace harassment is fueled by harassers‟ frustration at finding increasingly fewer outlets for their sexist, misogynist, or gender-stereotyping views. Perhaps sexual harassment law and policy in the workplace and in schools is driving harassers online, seeing in cyberspace a refuge for the expression of increasingly unfashionable – if not explicitly restricted – ideas. Without necessarily being sympathetic to this plight, we might nonetheless be concerned about the potential effects of expanding sexual harassment law into this very refuge. The first objection – concern about the effects of hostile environment sexual harassment law on free speech – is important, but it is also an objection that has been raised and answered in a variety of contexts already. As such, I will not presume to re-argue the debate here, but simply note a few key points and then point the reader to the vast literature on sexual harassment law and the First Amendment. The other two objections I will address in some detail.

Authors: Franks, Mary Anne.
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DRAFT: PLEASE DO NOT CITE OR CIRCULATE WITHOUT PERMISSION 
 
Franks 51 
 
of more closely tying the sanction to the offending behavior than is possible 
in real life.   
For  these  reasons,  it  is  to  be  hoped  that  cyberspace  sexual 
harassment  policies  and  procedures  would  be  even  more  effective  at 
resolving  sexual  harassment  non-litigiously  than  real-space  procedures. 
Revising  Title  VII  and  Title  IX  to  include  liability  for  website  operators 
thus  imposes  very  low  burdens  on  both  website  operators  and  good  faith 
website users, while preventing harassers from using websites as launching 
pads  for  sexual  harassment  with  effects  on  victims‟  work  or  school 
experiences.   
 
V.  O
BJECTIONS
 
 
There are three objections I wish to address in this section. The first is a 
fairly straightforward concern about the effects of sexual harassment law on 
free speech generally, and in cyberspace particularly.  The second objection 
is a concern about efficacy; namely, is a legal response the best way to deal 
with the problem of cyberspace sexual harassment?  Given that litigation is 
expensive, time-consuming, and stressful, will relying on legal remedies to 
address cyberspace sexual harassment truly benefit the majority of victims, 
or just create another revenue stream  for lawyers?  Is law likely to  change 
harassers‟ behavior, or would concentrating on changing social norms be a 
better  use  of  resources?  The  third  objection  is  somewhat  related  to  the 
second, but considers that the prevalence and intensity of cyberspace sexual 
harassment might itself actually be driven in part by sexual harassment law 
and policy in the workplace and in schools.  That is, perhaps the viciousness 
and frequency of cyberspace harassment is fueled by harassers‟ frustration 
at finding increasingly fewer outlets for their sexist, misogynist, or gender-
stereotyping  views.    Perhaps  sexual  harassment  law  and  policy  in  the 
workplace and in schools is driving harassers online, seeing in cyberspace a 
refuge  for  the  expression  of  increasingly  unfashionable  –  if  not  explicitly 
restricted – ideas.  Without necessarily being sympathetic to this plight, we 
might  nonetheless  be  concerned  about  the  potential  effects  of  expanding 
sexual harassment law into this very refuge.   
The  first  objection  –  concern  about  the  effects  of  hostile  environment 
sexual  harassment  law  on  free  speech  –  is  important,  but  it  is  also  an 
objection that has been raised and answered in a variety of contexts already. 
As such, I will not presume to re-argue the debate here, but simply note a 
few  key  points  and  then  point  the  reader  to  the  vast  literature  on  sexual 
harassment law and the First Amendment.  The other two objections I will 
address in some detail. 


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