HeartMob to help reduce online harassment, promote free expression on the Internet with $516,000 from Knight Foundation

NEW YORK — July 8, 2015 — To ensure the Internet remains a space where free expression thrives, Hollaback!, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing harassment in public space, will expand its work this fall to launch HeartMob. Heartmob is a new online platform where people experiencing online harassment can report it and receive support from volunteers.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $516,000 to support its launch.

Related Link

Sick of online harassment? HeartMob it.” by Emily May on Knight Blog, 7/8/2015

From #gamergate to Amanda Hess’ “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” recent media attention has exposed the realities of online harassment, including intimidation, rape and death threats. According to a Pew Research Center survey from late last year, 40 percent of people have been harassed online and 73 percent of people witnessed someone else being harassed online.

HeartMob allows those targeted by online harassment to easily report the incident. Once reported, the incident can be kept private and cataloged in case it escalates (a best practice in handling trolling), or the victim can make the report public. If they make it public, they can choose how they want bystanders to support them, take action or intervene. They also receive  resources, such as safety planning tips and referrals to other organizations that provide counseling and legal services.

”Online harassment is a problem that threatens the diversity of voices, viewpoints and information on the Internet. We are seeing journalists and outspoken thought leaders silenced as a result,” said Emily May, co-founder and executive director of Hollaback! “Knight Foundation support will help us create opportunities for people to share information and take action to help reduce the trauma associated with online harassment.”

Hollaback! first began working on the HeartMob platform in 2013. It won a Knight Prototype Fund grant as one of the winners of the 2014 Knight News Challenge on Strengthening the Internet. The Heartmob team created a prototype of the project and held the first Online Harassment Summit to gather feedback on their design.  In May of this year, Hollaback! held a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising 209 percent of their goal$20,989 from 572 donors. They were also accepted into the Points of Light CivicX Accelerator.

“Online harassment creates a hostile environment as a way to silence people, limiting speech and free expression. This can be a particular challenge for journalists, professors, bloggers and others,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “People should be able to voice their opinions on the Internet without fear of harassment and violence. Through the prototyping process the Hollaback! team has worked to develop a tool that helps tackle this problem, creating the potential for tangible social impact.” 

Knight funding will support Heartmob’s initial launch and help Hollaback! further develop and iterate on the platform. Hollaback! will also collect data and produce research on online harassment, based on the Heartmob experience.

For more information on Hollaback! visit

About Hollaback!

Hollaback! is a worldwide movement dedicated to ending sexual harassment using mobile technology.  By collecting women and LGBTQ folks’ stories and pictures in a safe and shareable way with our very own mobile phone applications, Hollaback! breaks the silence that has perpetrated sexual violence internationally, asserts that any and all gender-based violence is unacceptable, and creates a world where we have an option—and, more importantly—a response.  Find out more at

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit



Emily May, Hollaback!, 347-889-5510, [email protected] 

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]