Rachel Strohm

51 days ago

“The third stopit mechanism is a carefully-structured standard note to alleged perpetrators of harassment, improper use, or other uncivil behavior. "Someone using your account," the note begins, "did [whatever the offense is]." The u.y.a. note (as this mechanism is known, for its introductory words) then explains why this behavior or action is offensive, or violates MIT harassment policy, or Rules of Use, or whatever. "Account holders are responsible for the use of their accounts. If you were unaware that your account was being used in this way," the note continues, "it may have been compromised. User Accounts can help you change your password and re-secure your account." Detailed directions to User Accounts follow. The note concludes with a short sentence: "If you were aware that your account was being used to [whatever it was], then we trust you will take steps to ensure that this does not happen again."

Two interesting outcomes ensue.

First, many recipients of u.y.a. notes go to User Accounts, say their accounts have been compromised, and change their passwords - even when it's clear, from eyewitnesses or other evidence, that they personally were the offenders.
Second, and most important, u.y.a. recipients virtually never repeat the offending behavior.
This is important: even though recipients concede no guilt, and receive no punishment, they stop.”

Mechanisms for Reducing Computer-Based Harassment, Improper Use, and Incivility at MIT


MIT has an extensive distributed-computing environment for use by students, faculty, and staff. As part of this, the Athena Computing Environment provides about 500 public workstations for students to use distributed across over twenty public and departmental clusters* and two classrooms.