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Information cascade on Sexual Harrasement

Article: Trump and the ‘information cascade’ created a cultural reckoning by GILLIAN TETT

Website: FINANCIAL TIMES

https://www.ft.com/content/6973e6d6-d047-11e7-9dbb-291a884dd8c6  

 

The article talks about the issue of sexual harassment, as it became increasingly of hot discussion in recent decades. However, the problem has been existing for over a century and countless women were victims of sexual harassment. However, in the old times, the scandals did not draw such scale of attention despite the situation was not better at all back then. So why now? Therefore, the author analyzes such phenomenon by providing the key factors that may potentially unleash this change.

 

The first one is technology, or more precisely, the power unleashed by so-called digital information cascades. He mentioned that if a woman wanted to complain about sexual harassment allegations two decades ago, there was a slow-moving bureaucratic and legal process. And if a reporter wanted to corroborate a story, this entailed months of painstaking research. But in cyber networks, information can spread at lightning speed, beyond the control of lawyers or traditional authority figures. Journalists can appeal for tips and be inundated within minutes. Once-powerless victims have a megaphone. Isolated victims can suddenly congregate into a crowd. Informational cascades, in other words, overturn power structures.

 

The second factor would be Donald Trump. Many observers presume his victory in presidential election was bad for women, as Hillary Clinton has long been expected by many people to be the first female president. Moreover, it becomes gradually clear that Mr Trump has unexpectedly empowered feminists. More women are getting involved in the politics according to the article. As such counter-reaction spreads, more women feel emboldened to speak out on sexual harassment.

 

This article is highly related to the topics of general information cascade and network connectivity that we have discussed in class, as it talks about how the messages on media strengthen the power of victims and arise sympathetic sensations among public. If anyone would stand against or express a slightly opposite position, they would be perceived as the “traitor” or the sexist. Therefore, they could simply follow the majority’s opinion and thus the information diffusion is significantly influenced, just like what we learned in the general information cascade model, in which a group of people would express similar interests/ideas. Another perspective of information cascade that we discussed in class is also that people are likely to spread the words if others on that platform are all talking and discussing about it. As the user of certain platform only gets information from people they follow/subscribe, they are surrounded by the like-minded people who will likely comfrom to what everyone else is doing. Thus, the user will go with the majority, or the standing of feminism in this case.

 

A potential consequence of such phenomenon might be that the backlash of feminism and advocate might turn into a witch hunt due to the information cascade, which might potentially damage mild transgressors and innocent people, too. However, nobody would dare to speak out because women has been silently suffered for years. Just like TETT mentioned in the end of the article, “Cascade have power”.

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