self-reinforcing processes which are used to attack / insult / humiliate people
That is what it means, to my mind. I'll come to the contextual problem, the apparent contradiction, in a moment.
A feedbank loop is a familiar image. It doesn't refer to feedback in the sense of responses to what people say on forums as a two-way dialogue. It's a feedback loop: a process that is repeated, becoming stronger at each iteration, like a vicious circle:
"Feedback occurs when outputs of a system are routed back as inputs as part of a chain of cause-and-effect that forms a circuit or loop."
People post aggressive comments, others react to them aggressively, and the aggression just keeps growing: each reaction reinforces the previous one.
"Use to bully people" is pretty clear and unambiguous. You know what "bully" means. But bear in mind that bullying at school is often, perhaps usually, a collective activity, in which people gang up on a weaker victim, or at least the bully is encouraged, egged on, by supporters. That's what happens on the Internet: trolls reinforce each other's aggression and bully a victim.
So what's going on? How can this be part of the process of people with homophobic tendencies learning to be more understanding of gay people?
I think the answer is that at this particular point that's simply not what she means. She's referring here to one effect, the negative effect, of the amplification that social networks notoriously produce. Many people see them as intrinsically negative; all we see in the press is reports of trolls persecuting people. She's acknowledging that this happens: verbal gay-bashing happens. But then she goes on to say that it's not all that happens. Social media also bring people into verbal contact with those they're prejudiced against: they converse, which probably wouldn't happen in the outside world. And that interaction, homophobes meeting gay people, maybe for the first time, can also show them that the reality doesn't always conform to their prejudices. If they engage in some sort of dialogue with gay people online, beyond the insults we keep hearing about, then they can begin to see them differently, realise they are basically no different from themselves.
Whether she's right about this or she's being over-idealistic is not the point; the point is that she's saying that the online world has, or could have, an upside as well as a downside, in terms of anti-gay prejudice.
So I think she's saying: the global dialogue of the Internet amplifies everything, for good as well as bad. It amplifies verbal bullying by a feedback loop process, but it also creates interaction which can lead to positive results.
The problem, really, is that she's not made it clear enough that she's talking about contrary phenomena. By saying "and it creates more points of interaction", she seems to imply that what follows is along the same lines as what she's just said. But I believe she means "and at the same time it creates...", in the sense of "and conversely it creates...": "and" really implying "but". If you read it like that there's no contradiction and it makes sense.
| Charles Davis|
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