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The age of zero tolerance

Gillian Tett details the revolution against sexual assault and harassment taking place in Trump’s America. 2017 is a time of uprising, speaking out, and being courageous. Tett begins the peice highlighting prominent politicians and media figures who have been placed in the spotlight for allegedly committing sexual assault/harassment. Tett suggests that the trend of exposing those who have committed the crime may be growing. The important question of why is this happening now is then asked. The number of sexual assaults is estimated to have not drastically changed from five years ago however the platform women have to speak up for themselves and bring attention to these crimes has in fact changed. In addition to this the installment President Trump in the white house has emboldened women and driven them to speak out against their attackers.

In the past women were off penalized for trying to address sexual misconduct, they were in danger of losing respect from those around them, credibility, and even their jobs. News about such sexual misconduct was produced very slowly and cases against such atrocities moved slower. Tett notes how journalist often had to take months of piecing together concrete information in order to report on such an occurrence. Women in 2017 have gained a source of power they did not possess before which is referred to as the “digital information cascade.” Tett explains how Social media serves as an incredibly powerful tool for sexual assault victims and bypasses many of the problems of  the old slow moving system of addressing these crimes. Social Media allows women the opportunity to immediately place there case in the publics eye and gain support. The atmosphere and overall sentiment regarding all forms of sexually aggressive crimes as also taken a shift in 2017. their is a heightened sensitivity and awareness towards the issue. Alleged assaulters are being condemned and women praised. Women like never before are able to rely on the strength and support of one another and congregate through social media to tackle the problem. Information cascades are said to “overturn power structures”

Tett goes on to discuss how Trump is another catalyst for the revolution. This is because historical events tend to occur nonlinearly and can often be described as an event taking place followed by a reaction to that event. By this logic Donald Trump’s installment in office was the relevant event and Women speaking up against sexual misconduct was the reaction. Trump is often regarded by certain media outlets as somebody who does not respect women and has even had sexual assault allegations posed against him. Women are refusing to be silenced and are standing in the face of opposition. Having somebody in office who they do not feel represents them has caused them to stand and represent themselves.

Returning to the first point of digital information cascades, their mechanism can be further explored using knowledge obtained from Professors Easley and Kleinberg at Cornell University and instructors of cs 2850. The power behind the revolution lies in the cascade. The cascade works as follows; if a women is to proclaim sexual assault on social media she will be the source. Regardless of whether or not the assault happened because of the strong congregation of victims and supporters on social media that claim will gain support and be believed by others. These people who believe the source of the allegation will the share her social media post and support it as the truth. If the social media post is shared by these supporters to others and they choose to believe it as the truth the cascade will start. Those who see the shared news after multiple shares and showings of support even if skeptical about the assaults occurrence will be more likely to believe it seeing that it was already supported and taken as the truth by those who viewed it before then. This cascade can grow exponentially and in the end is the source of power empowering women via social media in 2017.




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November 2017