The side of PTSD rarely seen. A summary of “Better Online Living through Content Moderation” by Melissa King.

As technology continues to progress, human interaction, specifically online, has increased exponentially. However, unlike the social rules and conduct that exist in face to face contact, the internet is essentially a free for all. As a result, people can easily search the web and access all kinds of content. However, since the internet is so open and lacks rules or a filter, the content and the users who interact with each other can easily become negative and hateful. In her article “Better Online Living through Content Moderation“, Melissa King discusses the issue of online abuse, the effects it has on the victims, and the steps people are taking in order to shield themselves from it.

Excessive stress can easily become a cause of PTSD. Image sourced from: Medical Daily.
Excessive stress can easily become a cause of PTSD. Image sourced from: Medical Daily.

She begins by introducing the idea of using apps and programs that filter out harmful content. These filters are used by users who are aware of their personal limits, or have PTSD (King). Users who have suffered from PTSD can easily have hurtful and sometimes harmful memories triggered by offensive content found on the internet and benefit greatly from using programs that filter this content.However, as King states, “[the] users of those tools face constant cultural opposition, [and are] often maligned as “weak” and “too sensitive.” Labeling people who suffer from PTSD and other similar disorders as weak makes it seem like their disorder is fictitious. King argues that by doing this, the victims are the ones who are being blamed for merely defending themselves.


King expands on this by introducing the Exposure Theory, which states that exposure to the things that may trigger negative thoughts will eventually help people overcome them. This is what serves as the basis for those who are against the use of censorship programs. However, King shows that this reason is irrelevant since the exposure theory takes place in a controlled environment and is not composed of random insults and threats that test the mental patience of a person. King also explains that people who suffer from PTSD can experience too much of this exposure, making it damaging rather than helpful. Furthermore, the people who argue against censorship state that the abuse people face on internet poses no real threat since people who experience PTSD are only war veterans. However, PTSD does not only originate from war-like trama. PTSD can come from anything that causes a person large amounts of stress and results in activation of their flight response. For example, repetitive exposure to online bullying from social media can cause a person to develop PTSD.

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Is choosing to ignore someone suppressing someones rights or is it your right? Image sourced from: Ratehub.

In order to counter this, people use blocklists to avoid coming in contact with hate groups like Gamergate. However, as King reports, these groups have resulted to legal action because they feel like they are being oppressed. These hate groups and people claim that by filtering them out, they are being silenced for stating their opinions and it is essentially a violation of their right to speech. In addition to this, these groups and people claim that their internet experience is being limited because of other peoples needs (King). Once again, King shows that this argument is invalid since these blocklists work in a logical manner and that they are not being implemented by force, but rather by the choice of the users who choose to use them. To support this, King uses examples of women who have experienced abuse in male dominated spaces like video games and the technology industry. Women are more prone to sexism and abuse through internet spaces and should be able to use blocklists and filtering softwares to prevent harassment and PTSD originating.

While the internet allows for animosity and is usually a good thing, it also allows people to hurl insults and threats at people without the fear of damaging their personal image. People are less prone to be aggressive in face to face encounters since they have to confront the consequences of their actions at that moment. While no one should face any sort of abuse, it is impossible to be able to control people and their actions, but people can choose to remove themselves from potentially harmful situations. King concludes that people should not be ashamed for using filtering programs since it “is not a silencing tactic” (King) but a choice to not listen. She also adds that all humans have different interests and views and using filtering programs can help create a more healthy and personalized internet experience.

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“Better Online Living through Content Moderation by Melissa King | Model View Culture.” N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.