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
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.
On 13th February we launched the first edition of our Fix The Glitch Toolkit, a resource designed to support individuals who want to help end online abuse. In 2017 The Law Commission reported 28% of UK internet users were on the receiving end of trolling, harassment or cyberbullying and, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, online abuse disproportionately affects women and girls. Our Toolkit contains guidance for tackling online gender based violence (OGBV) and equips communities with tools to take action. To mark the launch of the Fix The Glitch Toolkit, we hosted the #FixTheGlitch Tweet Chat discussing online gender-based violence (OGBV) with 168 Twitter users.
The chat was a success, trending in the UK and reaching just under 1 million people. Key experts from the UK and beyond joined the Tweet Chat, including:
- Laura Bates, Author and Founder of Everyday Sexism
- Sandra Pepera, Director of Gender, Women and Democracy, National Democratic Institute #NotTheCost
- Soraya Chemaly, Director of Women’s Media Centre
- Nighat Dad, Founder of Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan
- Catherine Anderson, Chief Executive, Jo Cox Foundation
- Gina Martin, Writer and Lead Campaigner on the new UK Upskirting Law
- Azmina Dhrodia, Expert on Technology and Gender Based Violence
- Gabby Edlin, CEO and Founder of Bloody Good Period
- Alice Skinner, Feminist Illustrator and Visual Artist
The lunchtime chat spanned a wide ranging conversation, which we summarise below for those who couldn’t join in. You can also access the Twitter Moment we built to view all the responses to our questions.
The first question focused on the various OGBV tactics seen or witnessed by the panellists, who debated the different tactics of OGBV, how increasingly organised the phenomenon is becoming. The experts also discussed the false dichotomy between online and offline violence.
The debate moved on to a discussion about the impact and cost of OGBV. Consequences such as disinformation, hate speech, abuse & harassment, and mental health were mentioned; as well as the silencing and censoring effect OGBV has on women. The fact that the dynamics and impact of OGBV vary according to different contexts was also mentioned.
The next question was about how social media companies should tackle OGBV. Panellists discussed issues such as better elaboration of products, implementation of community standards, improvements in content moderation and stronger transparency.
The fourth question touched on the issue of how governments can ensure women are safe in online spaces. The lack of political action was pointed out as an obstacle to end OGBV. OGBV is not always seen as a priority for governments. Panellists also debated the need to invest in education policies and on law enforcement training.
Towards the end of our TweetChat, we asked what actions and practices individuals can adopt to end OGBV. Something that was repeatedly mentioned was the importance of offering support to targets of OGBV. Panellist also encouraged individuals to be advocates against gender-based violence.
Our Fix The Glitch Toolkit is designed to help you have conversations about OGBV anywhere, whether it’s at work, school, an organisation you belong to or online with other social media users. This is an exclusive edition comprised of only 100 copies. If you’re interested in being part of the first 100 please complete this short interest form.
#EndOnlineAbuse Campaign: Our Response to the APPG on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing
Today The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing published its enquiry report on the health impact of social media.
We welcome the report’s recommendations, particularly the call for social media companies to be taxed on profits to to fund research and draw up clearer guidance for the public.
Since Autumn last year Glitch and 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. We cannot wait for regulation, we need practical action now. A DCMS consultation last year found four in ten people said they had experienced abuse online. This issue impacts not only the mental health and wellbeing of young people but also negatively impacts on community cohesion and exacerbates existing social inequalities that also disproportionately affect marginalised communities.
Through no negative deficit, using money from the newly announced “digital services tax” of 2% on tech giants, the UK Government can take decisive action towards ensuring the internet is useable for all, championing online citizenship and reinforcing our position as a leader in the digital arena. This new tax is expected to raise an additional £400m a year and we are asking the Government to ring-fence at least 1% of the new digital service tax annually for ending online abuse. We recommend this new money is used to:
- Enforce existing legislation on online abuse and increase police resources
- Educate the public on the importance of good online citizenship.
- Empower individuals and civil society organisations working to end online abuse.
The UK Government has announced a White Paper setting out the responsibilities of online platforms that will be published soon. Consideration is being given to measures we recommend such as an internet regulator, statutory ‘duty of care’ on platforms, and a levy on social media companies.
We look forward to finding out more about these measures and for this consultation to involve as many diverse civil society groups working on online harms and online tech related violence.
We are saddened and horrified to hear about the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of all victims and those injured. We stand against all forms of hate and extremism and the use of online platforms in spreading those messages of fear and violence.
As the story unfolds and more evidence is shared, we are increasingly frustrated to hear about the use of social media in this attack. This is not the first time we’ve seen these platforms used for ill and unfortunately we do not believe it will be the last. One of the attackers posted pictures on Twitter of his weapon and shared his intention to attack. He also posted severals links to his manifesto, an anti-immigration and anti-Islam screed, an hour before the attack on a platform called 8Chan. If we want to become better able to spot and prevent attacks from happening there must be investment in data gathering to identify patterns and join the dots between all forms of online abuse and in real life (IRL) attacks
We call on all platforms to prioritise and invest in the safety and wellbeing of their users, especially the marginalised communities that have historically been targeted the most. IRL attacks such as these could have been prevented and we look forward to hearing social media platforms commit to an investigative review with the aim of implementing new policies and processes. We have questions that must be urgently investigated and answered. How long has this attacker and the group he belongs to been organising via social media platforms? How long was the Facebook livestream allowed to play? Why are these platforms struggling to take down the video?
Social media cannot be used as a tool to further existing inequalities and spread hate. This is why we also call on Governments to invest in digital citizenship and literacy education and ringfence new money for tackling all forms of online abuse. We recommend these funds are used to:
- Enforce existing legislation on online abuse and increase police resources
- Establish new legislation where needed to address hate speech online
- Educate the public on the importance of good online citizenship
- Empower individuals and civil society organisations working to end online abuse
We must stand united and fix the glitch in our online spaces to end all forms of online abuse and prevent IRL attacks from happening.
This afternoon, the Chancellor of Exchequer Spring Statement made reference to the responsibility of tech giants and online harms. While we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to protecting the public from online harms and ensuring that global tech giants pay their fair share, we cannot wait for regulation, we need practical action now.
A DCMS consultation last year found four in ten people said they had experienced abuse online. This issue impacts community cohesion, mental health and wellbeing and exacerbates existing social inequalities that also disproportionately affect marginalised communities. During the Autumn Statement last year, the Chancellor announced a new “digital services tax” of 2% on tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter. This tax is expected to raise an additional £400m a year but we are yet to hear any further details on how this new money is going to be spent.
To efficiently and effectively combat online abuse, Glitch and the Centenary Action Group repeat our call for the Chancellor to ring-fence at least 1% of the new digital service tax annually for ending online abuse. We recommend this new money is used to:
- Enforce existing legislation on online abuse and increase police resources.
- Educate the public on the importance of good online citizenship.
- Empower individuals and civil society organisations working to end online abuse.
Through no negative deficit, using money from tech giants, the UK Government can take decisive action towards ensuring the internet is use-able for all – championing online citizenship and reinforcing our position as a leader in the digital arena.
The Prime Minister has called online abuse in public life “a threat to democracy” and evidence clearly proves that online abuse is a growing problem. As the UK Government looks to introduce new laws to make the UK “the safest place to be online”, now is the time to invest in ending online abuse and we urge the Chancellor to invest as a matter of urgency.
The first Women’s Day was marked in February 1909, in wintry New York. Much has changed since, but sadly, women today still face old threats that simply come in new vehicles, digital ones.
If you were a woman in 1909 Britain you were likely treated as your father or husband’s property. This was still five years before you could serve as a constable in the police force, at least nine years before you would have the right to vote, and a whole sixty-six years before discrimination against women in employment, education and training became illegal.
Many of the rights we take for granted today have their foundations in The Sex Discrimination Act, which passed in 1975. That same year, the United Nations officially marked International Women’s Day (IWD) as an annual celebration of women’s achievements and a day of campaigning for women all over the world to live as equals. From that first gathering in chilly New York to a day commemorated internationally, the movement has come far.
Today, we live in a world revolutionised by the Internet – if you are 25 or younger you have grown up with it. We have immeasurable information at our fingertips and can find advice on almost anything online. It feels like progress. Or at the very least, like potential for progress.
Unfortunately, the Internet’s current, almost-anarchic state is also part of the reason why, even in 2019, women still face serious threats.
Globally, women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online. Further, women of colour, women with LGBTQ+ identities and women with disabilities are targeted more. Shaming, sexual harassment, stalking, non-consensual photo sharing and threats of violence have proliferated on social media and in comments sections on articles and videos. Online abuse, while perpetuated through new technologies, echoes outdated and toxic attitudes to women. Amnesty International’s research also found politicians and journalists who are female and black almost two times more likely to receive abuse on Twitter than their white colleagues.
Interviewing for the Guardian, Diane Abbott, said she stopped using Twitter because of the racist and sexist abuse she received through the 2017 elections. “It’s a shame really,’ she reflected, ‘I used to enjoy Twitter.”
Balance for Better, this year’s IWD theme, underlines the need for women to be better represented across society, particularly for girls to be supported to pursue their interests in fields traditionally dominated by men.
Representation is key; more women in politics and technology could help shape a more balanced world, but women need to feel safe and resilient enough to participate – especially online. More women involved at every level, from design to the boardroom, could make technology smarter, more inclusive and safe for everyone.
Great work is already underway; Stemettes organises mentoring, hackathons, talks and exhibitions to inspire girls to explore STEM careers, and Feminist Internet’s ground-breaking projects challenge harmful representations of women, working to prevent sexism being embedded in Internet and Artificial Intelligence technologies.
We can all play a role as active bystanders to encourage women to contribute to these spaces and by challenging and reporting voices that attempt to intimidate. The Fix The Glitch Toolkit provides resources to clarify the different forms online abuse can take, and practical advice about how to respond to online abuse.
The Internet reflects but also shapes the offline world, and has potential to reach millions. In late 2017, we saw the #MeToo movement shed light on the scale of sexual harassment. The movement has also prompted discussions both on and offline about how gender norms affect everyone.
Today, we have technology that could help us collectively address barriers women have faced in silence for so long, but until we address the imbalance that limits gender representation across society and the toxic online behaviour that intimidates women from making their voices heard, this will remain only as potential.
Just as the Sex and Discrimination Act of 1975 fuelled social change that helped women feel safer at work, legislative reform today could catalyse much-needed change to make online spaces safe. The introduction of a ‘tech tax’ last year was a fantastic step. Policy interventions could build on this by ring-fencing revenues from the new tax to fund public education and campaigns about online well-being alongside better governance and policing to investigate online abuse.
“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
― Malala Yousafzai
To mark International Women’s Day 2019 and Women’s History Month we are asking the Chancellor of Exchequer to make a commitment to ringfence at least 1% of the new digital services tax in the upcoming Spring Spending Review.
Representation is key to change; more women in leadership positions, public life and technology could help shape a more balanced world, but women need to feel safe and resilient to participate – especially online. One in ten women in Europe have experienced some kind of online abuse since the age of 15. Amnesty International has reported a “silencing effect” for women and girls who upon suffering online abuse have been forced to censor themselves in online spaces. This prevents women and girls from accessing relevant information, expressing their opinions and participating in public debates. It is only right that social media companies, while paying their fair share in supporting our public services, help end online abuse on their platforms.
Glitch have partnered with the Centenary Action Group (CAG) a cross-party campaigning coalition convened by Helen Pankhurst to lead a new campaign to end online abuse. During the Autumn Statement last year, the UK Chancellor announced a new “digital services tax” of 2% on tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter. This tax is expected to raise an additional £400m a year. By ringfencing at least 1% of this new tax annually for ending online abuse – the Government can commit £4m to further establishing online standards which are fair and necessary to the growing digital economy.
The UK has positively benefited from internet innovations, and to continue to benefit we need to manage the related threats of online harms and violence in the digital world. We wouldn’t stand for sexist, racist or violent threats in our society- so we shouldn’t stand for it online. We cannot wait for legislation we need practical action now. Let’s be global leaders in creating ethical online standards.
Our campaign provides recommendations of how the 1% should be used; to enforce existing and new legislation on online abuse and increase police resources; educate the public on the importance of good online citizenship and empower individuals and civil society organisations working to end online abuse.
How can you help us?
This weekend, ahead of the Spring Spending Review can you:
- Write to the Chancellor of Exchequer asking to make a commitment to ringfence at least 1% of the new digital services tax to help achieve this.
- Write to your Member of Parliament asking them to ask a question during the Spring Spending Review debate to make a commitment to ringfence at least 1% of the new digital services tax to help achieve this.
- Tweet your MP asking them to support @glitchuk_ and @centenaryaction’s #endonlineabuse campaign
Through no negative deficit, using money from tech giants, the UK Government can take decisive action towards ensuring the internet is use-able for all – championing online citizenship and reinforcing our position as a global leader in the digital arena.
She speaks with the conviction of a woman who knows what she is talking about—because she lived it. The name of her non-profit, Glitch, refers to the unintended negative consequences that can come with internet communications (more on that in a minute) but it’s also an appropriate label for the way the organisation was founded, which she describes as an accident.
How can someone start a campaign by accident?
Elected as Newham’s youngest Councillor at 23 years old, Seyi Akiwowo (Shay-ee Aki-wo-wo) was a trail-blazer for millennials, minorities and women alike. Although her status as a young black female made her stand out amongst her more traditional 50-something white male colleagues, she received a largely welcoming reception and strove to be an inclusive role model for marginalised communities.
So when she found herself in Strasbourg at an EU-sponsored event on the refugee crisis in 2016, her natural reaction was to defend a Syrian refugee who was being viciously heckled by the alt-right contingent in the room. In an impassioned 90-second speech, Seyi responded to the jabs by challenging former colonialist countries to invest in developing nations to “ensure economic and political stability” and prevent the need for emigration. Asked why she responded the way she did, Seyi admitted, “being the girl that I am, mouthy and stubborn and I can’t stand bullies, I had to say something!”
But Seyi’s Strasbourg speech was soon met with hate speech.
In the days that followed, Seyi received a flood of death threats and other online abuse primarily from members of neo-nazi groups. This came less than a year after Member of Parliament Jo Cox was assassinated in broad daylight by an alt-right extremist, reminding the world that not all threats are empty. Even with the support afforded to her by her public office, social media platforms essentially ignored Seyi, her friends’ and her colleagues’ reports of abuse. The local police department was having a similarly difficult time filing all the onerous paperwork required in such cases. In the meantime, the abuse continued. Something had to change. So Seyi took action.
“I told you I was stubborn.”
Seyi went to work educating herself and others on the prevalence and impact of online abuse. Globally, women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online, and an estimated 5.43 million young people in the UK have experienced cyberbullying. Seyi felt a responsibility to use her public platform to end online abuse, and Glitch was born.
At the heart of the organisation’s message is the idea of digital citizenship. It’s not just about not being a jerk online, but actually exercising the full rights and responsibilities one would have as a member of any modern egalitarian community. Just as you might pick up litter in your neighbourhood or volunteer with a local civil society group, so too are we responsible for maintaining a clean and safe online environment. Just as we have freedoms (e.g., freedom of speech) protected under the law in the public sphere, these same rights extend to the internet. Digital Citizenship rests on the notion that as more people exhibit positive behaviour online, it will inspire others to do the same and foster more meaningful engagement based on mutual respect.
Since its founding in 2017, Glitch has made incredible strides towards achieving its goal through educating more than 3,500 young people on digital citizenship and 50 women in public life on digital resilience, advocating for the UK Parliament to ringfence a portion of the proposed “tech tax” to help make the internet safe for all and presenting at the 38th UN Human Rights Council on Online Violence Against Women.
In her role as Founder and Executive Director of Glitch, Seyi recently returned to the LSE, her alma mater, to share some of her experiences and lessons-learned leading an advocacy campaign with current students.
Top tips from a #ChangeMaker:
- Don’t let the group that your campaign is targeting set the agenda and don’t let them hold the purse. As an activist, other organisations might want to partner with you and offer to sponsor your campaigns. Having someone else foot the bill for your latest initiative may sound like a win-win, no? “No, no, no,” Seyi cautioned. When it comes to budget, consider whether to welcome external donors. As well-intentioned as they may be, external agencies have their own agenda and may try to change your message. #NoFilter doesn’t only apply to photos.
- Form alliances with like-minded groups and individuals to create value. Other alliances with women’s and children’s groups such as the Centenary Action Group and Feminist Internet have provided Glitch with access to powerful civil society networks and decision-makers that it might not have had otherwise (for example, groups that may hold similar core values but differing political views).
- Speak the same language as your audience. Although Seyi is unreservedly left-leaning on the political spectrum, she recognises the value of collaborating with representatives on the other side of the aisle particularly given the UK’s current political climate. Meeting up with a Tory Party MP? Why not wear a non-threatening shade of blue? Phrases like “digital economy” and “internet safety” can be music to the ears of a potential right-wing ally whist still getting your agenda across. Because a safe internet benefits everyone, no matter his or her views.
Prior to Seyi’s seminar I was familiar with the concept of online abuse, but I honestly hadn’t thought much about my personal power to stop it. As she spoke, I was struck by her passion and ability to tackle such a seemingly intangible and untameable issue. Seyi’s grit reminded me that although change can seem impossible, that’s not a reason not to try.
Whether you’re compelled by Glitch’s mission and are ready to assume your place as a digital citizen or you’re inspired to take on your own cause like Seyi did, I’d encourage you to check out Glitch’s website. There, you can learn more about the organisation’s three pillars of awareness, advocacy and action, sign up to receive a Fix The Glitch Toolkit to host your own conversation on ending online abuse or take the pledge to “never to commit, condone, or remain silent about online violence against women + girls”.
And you might want to join me in ordering a t-shirt for just £18, with 20% of profits going directly to Glitch. Available in five colours and just in time for International Women’s Day, it reads:
“Hey Alexa, can you switch off the patriarchy?”
Krista Kartson is an MSc Development Management candidate at the LSE and holds a BA in International Studies from American University in Washington, DC. Krista has eight years of professional experience in international relief & development, and most recently designed programmes for displaced persons and returnees in Iraq. Her research interests include the political economy, land tenure policy and post-conflict stabilisation in the Middle East.