Online abuse: addressing new forms of control

Glitch recently had the opportunity to work with our friends at Safe. We wrote about online abuse and how it pervades our offline lives from the lens of domestic abuse. You can read our article below and we encourage you to subscribe to their newsletter, where you can read more content like this.

 

Glitch Featured on The Rundown by HuffPost

Why should we care about cyberflashing?

If you exposed yourself to someone on the street, you’d be arrested for flashing. So why are people so comfortable with doing it online? HuffPost UK reporter Sophie Gallagher explains why we should care about cyberflashing in this episode of The Rundown, joined by our very own Seyi Akiwowo, Glitch Executive Director and Founder. Watch the video below to find out more:

Digital Self Care + Self Defence Workshop on July 23rd

For women and girls, the odds of facing harassment while using social media are significant, statistics show that women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online than men. Women and girls of colour face an even bigger threat: they are 34% more likely to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets than white women. This makes it crucial for women to be educated and empowered about defending themselves against abuse and reporting the perpetrators effectively.

Glitch provides training tailored for women and girls who are either in, or considering taking on leadership roles, public appointments or activism, and wish to have a flourishing online presence whilst maintaining their privacy and protecting themselves against online abuse. Our next free Digital Self Care + Self Defence Workshop is taking place on July 23rd at London City Hall, at 6pm. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

This event is a great opportunity to understand how to build your social media presence while simultaneously preserving your personal wellbeing. You will learn techniques for online self care, safety and security in just two hours. You will learn how to set and stick to personal digital boundaries and how to establish a healthier relationship with the digital space. 

As online gender-based violence (OGBV) is an issue that disproportionately affects women and girls with multi-intersecting identities and marginalised communities, Glitch would like to extend a particularly warm welcome to individuals from these groups. We have received a grant by Doteveryone that will enable us to support travel and/or caring costs for those who come from low socio-economic backgrounds, young mothers and young carers. Please click here if you need this support to attend our workshop.

We cannot wait 2 years to protect women and girls from online abuse and violence

Today Justice Minister Paul Maynard and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright have launched a public consultation to help with a review of the law around ‘cyber-flashing’, ‘revenge porn’ and ‘deepfake’ pornography to ensure the law protects victims and is fit for the modern age. Whilst we welcome today’s announcement and focus on online gender based abuse and violence towards women and girls, we agree with End Violence Against Women Coalition, we cannot wait two years before action is taken to tackle online abuse. 

Evidence is already available and it is strong. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by online abuse such as “revenge porn”, deepfakes and cyber-flashing. Waiting for more than two years for action is not acceptable. Such a wait also creates risks. That is because the tactics used by the perpetrators of online abuse evolve so quickly. We have huge concerns that recommendations given in 2021 will already be out of date, and new forms of abuse will already have emerged for which there will be no legal response.


In short, Government needs to act more quickly and more boldly.
We can act now. Glitch strongly recommends the Government ringfence 1% of the new digital services tax and invest in digital citizenship education, in the enforcement of existing laws and better empower civil society groups providing essential services and support with online abuse.

Tedx: How to Fix The Glitch in Our Online Communities

Online abuse is evidently a huge problem worldwide and just as combating offline abuse and harassment is complex, takes time and requires all of us to play an active role, the same is true with online abuse.

Our Founder and Executive Director shares how the majority of those not directly impacted by online abuse can help reclaim the online public space. Seyi also share some steps for those who targeted or made to feel vulnerable online.

Press release: Online abuse against women must be addressed urges Glitch Founder Seyi Akiwowo as she is named Digital Leader of the Year

 

IMG_20190621_131125Last night Seyi Akiwowo, Founder of Glitch, was announced as Digital Leader of the Year 2019 and Overall Winner of the Final 100 Digital Leaders.

This award comes as Tedx debuts Seyi’s TedxLondon talk on how to fix the glitch in our online communities.

Glitch is a not-for-profit organisation campaigning for increased digital citizenship. Seyi Akiwowo, Founder of Glitch, said :

“It is a huge honour to win both Digital Leader of the Year and Digital Leader 100. I am proud to accept these awards and I do so with acknowledgment of all the amazing women and girls who have survived online harms and those who are working tirelessly to make our digital spaces safe, equal and inclusive.”

“Online abuse affects all of us: over half the adults nation-wide reported having a harmful experience online last year. It is important to recognise online abuse disproportionately affects women; globally, women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online than men and this is a whole lot worse for women of colour. We are living through the devastating consequences of this with increases in self harm, suicide and young girls afraid to speak their mind on social media for fear of abuse.”

“Digital Leaders is a global initiative that ensures digital growth and transformation, promotes social well-being and narrows social gaps. This award is a strong statement that gendered online abuse and violence aimed at women and girls can no longer go unaddressed. “

“As our lives and our democracy move increasingly online, we need to ensure everyone can access the internet without fear of abuse. We all – businesses, brands, employers, political parties, parents, educators and governments – must play our part as digital citizens to ensure innovation and technology does not exacerbate existing inequalities and to protect our online spaces.”

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Helen Wright, Chair of Trustees, Glitch said:

“We’re so proud our Founder Seyi, and Glitch, have been recognised with these awards. Founded only two years ago, Glitch has consistently punched above its weight thanks to Seyi’s leadership.

“Glitch has delivered our Digital Citizenship Workshop to over 3,500 young people across the UK and Europe; and our Fix The Glitch Toolkit, which outlines how everyone can play their part in ending online gender- based violence, has been downloaded worldwide including Australia and Myanmar. Glitch has also delivered Digital Resilience training to

women and girls in all forms of public life across the UK and Canada – helping them gain confidence to be online.

“At Glitch, we look forward to supporting and equipping thousands more people around the world and will continue to champion digital citizenship.”

Jacqueline de Rojas, President of Digital Leaders, said:

“This is an important outcome for diversity and inclusion in technology. Being of ethnic origin myself, I am personally delighted to see Seyi acknowledged for her advocacy and leadership both at Glitch and on the global stage and Andrea for her passion and generosity in inspiring others into technology. Women hold up half the sky and these two BAME women are a fabulous reflection of the digital leaders we want to see.”

The award was announced at the 7th Annual Digital Leaders 100 Gala Awards. Notable guests in the past have been Ministers from the Department for Media, Culture and Sports. Judges for the awards include Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet and Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK amongst many others.

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ENDS

About Glitch

Glitch is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to end online abuse. We want to see an increase in digital citizenship across all online users and to instil these beliefs: that our online community is as real as our offline one and that we should all be working together to make it a better place. Fix the glitch now for a safer web tomorrow.

Glitch was founded in 2017 by Seyi Akiwowo, after she faced horrendous online abuse when a video of her speech at the European Parliament went viral. Glitch has garnered international acclaim.

About Digital Leaders

Digital Leaders, the nationwide programme for promoting effective, long-term digital transformation across government, industry and charities. This year marks their 7th Annual Digital Leaders Award.

About Digital Leaders 100

Each year’s list is created from nominations submitted by members of the 120,000 strong Digital Leaders Community before being shortlisted by the DL100 judges, who are often members of the Digital Leaders Advisory Board. This year’s list is the 7th cohort to join the alumni of previous winners that now numbers over 400 leaders from Government, Enterprise, startups and charities. These former members stay in touch, network and learn from each other through participation in the DL100 Club.

The awards starts with an independent list recognising 100 people and organisations across the UK who are leading the way in digital transformation in all sectors. Previously, the list has featured industry names such as: Martha Lane-Fox, Mike Bracken and Eileen Burbidge. A public vote narrows the 10 finalists in each category to three with judges deciding the overall winner after a short presentation.

About Seyi

Seyi Akiwowo is the Founder and Executive Director of Glitch, a young not-for-profit organisation determined to end online abuse through education, campaigns and advocacy. Using her lived experience and expertise, Seyi travels the globe developing practical solutions with Governments, NGOs and companies to protect our online public spaces from hate and abuse. Seyi was named Digital Leader of The Year and is also Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defender. She is also an inspirational speaker, writer and workshop facilitator who is passionate about leadership. In 2014, Seyi was elected as the youngest, black female Councillor in East London at age 23.

Notes

  1. In May 2019, Ofcom and the ICO announced a joint study where 61% of UK adults reported having a potentially harmful online experience in the past year. It also found that support for online regulation is up with 70% adults in the UK favoring tighter rules for social media sites in 2019, up from 52% in 2018. https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/peoples-online-e xperiences-revealed
  2. Plan International’s report Reclaiming the Internet for Girls found that 43% of girls admitted to hold back their opinion on social media for fair of abuse. https://plan-uk.org/act-for-girls/girls-rights-in-the-uk/reclaiming-the-internet-for-gir ls
  3. Amnesty Troll Patrol Report 2018 found that black women were 84% more likely to be mentioned in abuse or problematic tweets.https://decoders.amnesty.org/projects/troll-patrol/findings
  4. UN Broadband Commission March 2017 report found that globally women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online.https://broadbandcommission.org/Documents/publications/WorkingGroupDigitalG enderDivide-report2017.pdf
  5. Glitch has delivered its Digital Citizenship Workshop to over 3,500 young people across the UK and Europe. Following the workshops, 86% of young people surveyed said they would behave differently online as a result of the information they learned during our workshop. Young people also said they felt an increased sense of self-awareness and responsibility of how their behaviour impacts others.
  6. At Glitch’s Digital Resilience Workshop at London City Hall, 2⁄3 of participants reported feeling safer expressing themselves and being themselves online as a result of attending the workshop.

For media enquiries please contact:
Casey Calista

Casey.calista@lodestonecommunications.

Protecting the Debate: Intimidation, Influence, and Information – an Update

Comments joking about raping MP Jess Phillips by a newly selected UKIP candidate for the upcoming European Election have sparked discussion about the online abuse those in public life face. The current gap in legislation means police are still deciding whether an offence has been committed, and what sort of harm it represents.

Scottish politicians have also recently highlighted the growing problem of online abuse in politics .

6 months ago, in collaboration with the Centenary Action Group, Glitch responded to the Cabinet Office consultation “Protecting the Debate: Intimidation, Influence and Information”.

We were pleased to see the UK government recognising the need for stronger legislation to address hate and abuse in politics as well as the ways in which digital technology is used to target women in public life.

We expressed support for the proposed new offence in electoral law of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners. However, any new offence created must recognise the gendered and intersectional nature of abuse women suffer in political life. Threatening and harassing those in public life is not acceptable; it is toxic for politics, a threat to democratic engagement and silences healthy debate.

This consultation must introduce robust measures to address intimidation of parliamentary candidates and party campaigners, including potentially criminalising intimidation of party candidates online and offline. We also called for broader measures to be taken to tackle intimidation, harassment and abuse of those in public life.

Why is this so important?

If unchallenged, abuse and harassment of candidates and campaigners will undermine representation and inclusiveness in politics. As the consultation recognised, Amnesty International’s research found Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) women Members of Parliament are targeted far more than their white colleagues. Ultimately, hate can seriously damage people’s wellbeing and fuel violence in real life, as we saw in the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016.

Everyone across society should feel safe and able to access their right to stand for public office; these issues must be addressed directly and fully to protect democracy from new threats. Making the intimidation of those in public life an electoral offence is not only a vital first step, it sends a message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

What is Glitch calling for?

  • The government response to this consultation, and any new offence created, should pay more heed to specific, gendered and intersectional abuse women suffer in political life
  • Individuals found guilty of a specified offence should be prohibited from standing or holding any elected office for a period of 5 years. This would ensure consistency with other electoral offences and serve as a deterrent
  • The new electoral law should also cover people who have publicly stated they are going to stand for election even when their candidacy has not officially commenced
  • Digital citizenship needs to be central to education, taught universally and from a young age. This is now recognised around the world from UNESCO to the UK House of Lords

What was the consultation’s outcome?

From July to October last year, 41 formal responses were submitted. The government has published a report summarising outcomes this month.

The proposal to introduce a new offence was generally welcomed; most responses agreed that intervention is needed to protect political debate.

What happens next?

The Government has taken some initial steps including;

  • Provision of a Crown Prosecution Service information pack for MPs to help recognise and report intimidating behaviour
  • Discussions with social media companies about a ‘pop up’ social media team to provide support during elections
  • Steps to implement the recommendation that “the Government should bring forward legislation to remove the requirement for candidates standing as local councillors to have their home addresses published on the ballot paper”

However, as the European elections approach, candidates are still at risk.

What can I do?

The Fawcett Society has created a petition calling for the Government to take this more seriously as a matter of urgency. You can read more and add your voice to the call for a more respectful, kind, hate-free politics here.

Reform takes time. We cannot wait for new legislation, whether from this consultation or from the Online Harms White Paper, we need action now.  By committing to ring-fencing at least 1% of the new digital services tax, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2018, the Government could commit £4m annually to ending online abuse.

Through no negative deficit, we can lay foundations to ensure we are world-leading in the digital arena and that everyone can participate online safely. Now is the time for this Government to invest in ending online abuse and in creating a safer web for tomorrow.

Minister for Digital agrees to ask the Chancellor to ringfence 1% of digital services tax to end online abuse

On April 29th, MP Lyn Brown, Co-Chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s APPG, delivered our recommendations to the Minister for Digital. We are very pleased to say that MP Margot James has agreed to ask the Chancellor to look into ringfencing 1% of the digital services tax to ending online abuse. Watch the full clip here

 

Response to Online Harms White Paper

Today the UK Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sports have published the long awaited Online Harms White Paper. For the last two years Glitch has campaigned for social media companies to produce reports revealing how much harmful content has been found on their platforms. We are extremely pleased this has been included in the UK Government’s White Paper.

Glitch is not about imposing restrictions on how we use social media nor censoring our right to free speech or freedom of expression.  These recommendations are solely about protecting all users from clearly defined harms, dissuading harmful behaviour and investing in digital citizenship.

Our recommendations are focused on ensuring social media are a safe place for all people to use, to express themselves free from online hate speech, harassment and abuse. Our calls for reform include, regular and holistic transparency reports, effective reporting processes, statutory duty of care on platforms, a levy on social media companies and investment in digital citizenship and resilience education.

A Survation poll , commissioned by Level Up last month, found that 56% of women under 25 and 40% of women from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background said they had been harassed at least once on Facebook. Not only is an intersectional approach to addressing online harms necessary but also the inclusion of as many diverse civil society groups working on online harms and online tech related violence. Over the coming weeks we look forward to working with civil society groups to provide a detailed analysis and response to the Government’s proposal.

Our response: Mark Zuckerberg asks governments to help control internet content

On Saturday 30th March, Facebook’s Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted in an open letter that the company needs governments’ help to control content on their platform. This includes stronger regulation around harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. Glitch strongly believes these social media platforms cannot be used as a tool to spread hate and further existing inequalities. For last two years Glitch along with many other civil society groups have been calling for significant action and investment from social media companies to tackle harmful content on their platforms.

Our recommendations are focused on ensuring social media are a safe place for all people to use, to express themselves free from online hate speech, harassment and abuse. Our calls for reform include, regular and holistic transparency reports, effective reporting processes, statutory duty of care on platforms, and a levy on social media companies. We are pleased that Facebook has not only finally admitted there is a huge problem but are also making similar calls for reform. This is a long awaited announcement and we agree action is needed from governments as part of package to fix the glitch and end online abuse. However, we need a multifaceted approach to ending online abuse and this must also include social media companies adopting a duty of care to all users. 

Online abuse in all its forms is having a devastating impact on mental health and wellbeing, democracy and human rights.  A Department for Culture, Media and Sport consultation last year found four in ten people said they had experienced abuse online. Addressing online harms such as online abuse, bullying and malformation requires not only a universal approach from governments and businesses but also partnership working amongst all social media companies. This is also part of our call for reform. We are pleased that such partnership working exists to address some forms of extremism and child sex exploitation. We ask that the scope of this partnership is extended to review online gender based abuse and violence.

More recently a Survation poll , commissioned by Level Up last month, found that 56% of women under 25 and 40% of women from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background said they had been harassed at least once on Facebook. Not only is an intersectional approach to addressing online harms necessary but also the inclusion of as many diverse civil society groups working on online harms and online tech related violence.

Following Zuckeberg’s announcement and the long awaited UK Government White Paper on Online Harms which is expected to set out the responsibilities of online platforms, Glitch also hopes to see the White Paper cover areas of regulation and reform Zuckerberg is finally calling for.

These calls for reforms will become empty promises if there is no commitment to financial investment from all social media companies. Since Autumn last year Glitch and 100 women’s right organisations and activist from the Centenary Action Group have been campaigning for new money to protect the public from online offences and harms. We strongly believe global tech giants should pay their fair share.

The new “digital services tax” of 2% on tech giants such as Facebook is expected to raise an additional £400m a year and we are asking the UK Government to ringfence at least 1% of the new digital service tax annually for ending online abuse. These reforms and calls for investment are the decisive actions we must see to fix the glitch and ensure the internet is safer and useable for all.