Photo by Oscar Wong. Getty Images.
One day, a friend of Anaïs, a feminist author who had just published a book, was cyberharassed for weeks. Quickly, the girl took control of her social networks, to relieve her friend of the tsunami of horrors that fell on all her accounts and also attacked her private messages. Since then, Anaïs has become a freelance community manager, and offers her moderator services to people, mostly feminist activists, who are caught up in a shitstorm or massive online harassment.
In 2021, the documentary #SalePute by journalists Florence Hainaut and Myriam Leroy highlighted, through the testimonies of a dozen personalities, the difficulty of being a public woman, affirming her ideas, skills and beliefs in social networks. , and the resulting systemic misogynistic violence. A United Nations commission report indicated in early 2015 that 73% of women have experienced online violence. Anaïs, on the other hand, poses as a bulwark against his violence to prevent their recipients from facing it at the cost of their mental health. A necessary building block in the fight against violence against women.
VICE: How did you come up with the idea to protect the mental health of those who suffer from cyberbullying?
want: I was retraining from my job as a jeweler, and it came naturally. I often hang out in chat, Discord or forums, where I see moderation in action. There is only Twitter where I arrived a little late. And then one day, a feminist author friend sparked hundreds of messages of insults and #disgust, on Twitter in particular. I was doing a kind of “friendly vigil” at first, telling him, don’t go now, don’t do it to yourself. And then he quickly asked me if I wanted to manage his social networks in a professional way, and thus count my working hours. I was a bit nervous about this paid aspect, but my friend told me that it was time, skills, that mental health came into play, so it was work. So I said yes, he gave me his codes, and that’s when I got into the hard part of online harassment.
Didn’t you expect all this violence?
I expected some form of violence, but it wouldn’t go that far. These are threats against them, against his lover, his family, his personal life, insults, threats of rape and death. I saw the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be honest, my life was a bit “in a bubble” back then, I thought to myself that we can’t be. meaning than that, in the first sense of the term. Well yes, believe me. I see hundreds of insults, all very sexual, on women’s bodies, the idea that they are “badly fucked”, their supposed invalidity or incompetence…
Why do you persist despite everything you’ve seen and read?
My feminism was built thanks to the activists, the front line workers, who dared to put themselves forward. I first had a reflex to protect my friend, then accept my shoulders a little bit of what many women go through. It is a way of giving back to people who give their time to advance society and change minds on these issues.
“In the “hottest” moments, I was able to block more than a hundred people a day. »
Even if these horrors are not aimed at you, how do you live them?
That, according to “notoriety” and people’s accounts, a watch every 3 days is enough, you just need to be on the spot when an article, book comes out or the post in question will be made that could potentially start a typhoon So I don’t experience that every day. And then, after an hour and a half on average, I’ll go back to the “real world” to catch my breath, clear my head, make some tea, go out for a walk… So far, I’ve always managed. to stay away. I was there, and the moderator was there.
Don’t you want to insult yourself sometimes?
I hate to answer sometimes, but it’s not my role or place. I never reply to a comment, ever. I block, I report the account to the platform, I delete hate messages when possible, according to social networks. In the “hottest” moments, I was able to block more than a hundred people in one day. I really read everything written, and in all languages. This is important.
“I will only moderate for women and minorities”
Who are these bullies?
Mainly men between 25 and 50 years old. Anonymous accounts, with 50 subscribers, with no one else and will verbally attack people who, themselves, expose themselves and trigger. Before blocking and reporting, I always look at accounts, profiles, selected photos or illustrations, past posts or retweets. I’m trying to get back to the “source” of cyberbullying, but that’s nearly impossible. If the account is really ugly, I block it. And I automatically report, even though we know that reports are often not very useful. But the gesture is symbolically important.
You have been doing this job professionally since June 2021 now, who do you mainly work with?
I will only moderate for women and minorities, and all these people have some form of commitment, feminists, activists who fight against racism or fatphobia. I can also do more specific things, for example, I moderate Zoom discussion spaces, or else I can be entrusted with “companion missions”. There it is a question of going to find and recover the testimonies of people who have been harassed for study or research. Otherwise, I can also compile a legal file for people who have been cyberharassed who want to take legal action: take screenshots, list the harassing accounts, so that they will not or will not be obliged to deal with these.
In what psychological state do people approach you?
I’ve seen people come into extreme anxiety, or the beginnings of depression. Sometimes you need help other than me, of course. There are also those who anticipate, telling me that “I will make such a post, on such a subject, I already know what will happen, can you moderate for a week or two? “. You can’t imagine what it’s like to open one of your social networks and have about fifty insults in your private messages. Some features are so damaging, you can’t remove a comment under a post example…
What is your pleasure?
People who tell me “thanks to you, I can surf the internet without stress”. There, I have the impression that it is useful, bringing some comfort to those on the front lines.
VICE France is on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Flipboard.
VICE Belgium is on instagram and Facebook.