Infrastructural platform violence: How women and queer journalists and activists in Lebanon experience abuse on WhatsApp (in press)

Abstract

Technology-facilitated abuse and violence disproportionately affect marginalized people. While researchers have explored this issue in the context of public-facing social media platforms, less is known about how it plays out on more private messaging apps. This study draws on in- depth interviews with women and queer journalists and activists in Lebanon to illustrate their experiences of infrastructural platform violence on WhatsApp. Specifically, we distinguish between identity- based violence propagated on platforms, and violence propagated by platforms due to infrastructural neglect of vulnerable populations. Our results document how perpetrators employ the affordances of WhatsApp in harmful ways. We highlight the individual emotional and reputational toll of doxxing and harassment campaigns. The study also showcases the societal ramifications of silencing and self-censorship, as well as infrastructural platform failures. Findings underscore the need to shift attention in platform studies toward populations and geographies whose safety has systemically been neglected by technology companies.