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Trigger Warning DB

May 31st, 2014
ideas, tech  [html]

The basic idea behind trigger warnings is you want a way to warn readers about discussion of topics they might find very upsetting. For example, if someone were to write a post discussing sexual violence they might put a notice at the top like:
Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual violence.
This would give a warning to survivors of sexual violence to brace themselves, and give an opportunity to read something else if this is not what they're up for getting into at the moment.

I'm basically on board with the idea, and like Scott's post on how they're helpful. But there are still big problems with the way people currently do them:

  • Warnings need to be added by the post author, but (a) they have a lot of other stuff to think about and (b) might not be willing to put up appropriate warnings (would a conservative blogger put up trigger warning: dismissal of transgender identity?)
  • You can't see relevant warnings until you click through on a link and start seeing the content, which could be too late.
  • Different people want different warnings: how do we decide which warnings to label for?
  • They get in the way for people who don't need them. And the more triggers we label the worse this gets.

It seems like we could solve these with public database holding a mapping from urls to a list of applicable trigger warnings. Anyone could add a trigger warning to the list, vaguely like wikipedia, and authors who currently put the literal "trigger warning: ..." text on their pages could instead put warnings in the database. A browser extension could let people indicate which triggers they wanted notice for and then put little banners across pages that had them:

You could also have it put little hover annotations on links so you could see triggers before clicking through:

With this setup someone who's triggered by ableism doesn't have to read past warnings intended for people triggered by sexism, they just won't see these warnings at all.

Is this worth making? Would people use it? Does it solve the right problems?

(You'd need a good privacy policy for the site: the site gets a query every time someone views a page or hovers over a url, so you don't want to abuse that.)

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