Rethinking "Security" in an Era of Online Hate and Harassment

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Tuesday, February 01, 2022 - 3:00 pm3:30 pm

Kurt Thomas, Google


While most security and anti-abuse protections narrowly focus on for-profit cybercrime today, we show how hate and harassment has grown and transformed the day-to-day threats experienced by Internet users. We provide a breakdown of the different classes of threats (such as coordinated mobs posting toxic content, anonymous peers breaking into a target’s account to leak personal photos, or intimate partner violence involving tracking and surveillance) and map these to traditional security or anti-abuse principles where existing solutions might help. We also provide prevalence estimates for each class of attack based on survey results from 22 countries and 50,000 participants. We find over 48% of people have experienced hate and harassment online, with a higher incidence rate among young people (18-24), LGBTQ+ individuals, and active social media users. We also highlight current gaps in protections, such as toxic comment classification, where differing personal interpretations of what constitutes hate and harassment results in uneven protections across users, especially at-risk populations. Our goal with this talk is to raise awareness of the changing abuse landscape online and to highlight the vital role that security practitioners and engineers can play in addressing these threats.

Kurt Thomas, Google

Kurt Thomas is a research scientist working at Google on the Security and Anti-Abuse Research team. His recent work focuses on mitigating online hate and harassment, personalizing security to individual users, automatically preventing account hijacking, and leveraging black market threat intelligence. His research has been covered in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, WIRED, Bloomberg, and CNN. His work has been recognized by the IRTF Applied Networking Research Prize, Facebook Internet Defense Prize, and multiple Distinguished Paper Awards from IEEE Security & Privacy, USENIX Security, and the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Kurt completed his PhD in computer science at UC Berkeley in 2013.
@conference {277388,
author = {Kurt Thomas},
title = {Rethinking "Security" in an Era of Online Hate and Harassment},
year = {2022},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb

Presentation Video