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.
Last month saw the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) report on Hate Crime.
The group, created in 2018, connects researchers, civic society organisations, law enforcement and politicians across parties to work together to better understand and address hate crime. This report summarises findings from the group’s first enquiry, launched a year ago, which asked:
‘How can we build community cohesion when hate crime is on the rise?’
This question is both challenging and complex, particularly when thinking about hate crimes perpetuated online; the report describes the online world as ‘fertile breeding ground for hate crime’ and emphasises that harm perpetuated online has serious consequences offline.
What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is an offence that is:
‘…perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’
What did the enquiry find?
The report confirms that hate crime is on the rise.
As of October 2018, data evidenced a 17% increase on the previous year. Race and ethnicity make up the most of reported hate crime, and religion saw the largest increase, of 40%. The enquiry illuminates the present prevalence hate crime, and takes an intersectional approach to examine how harm is directed at, and experienced by, different groups. Importantly, the report acknowledges that children and young people face significant risks from online hate, and women face disproportionate harassment too.
To gather this detail, the enquiry drew on expertise and insights from organisations working across different forms of hate crime, including evidence submitted by Glitch that underlines the need for greater safeguarding in digital spaces.
What happens next?
The current picture is concerning, but evidence from the enquiry will help policymakers explore solutions that address the complexities of hate crime.
Also, the report explores best practice and highlights education as key to tackling the problem. It notes the positive impact of existing resources currently available for schools aimed at raising awareness of risks and dangers around online bullying, with Glitch’s Digital Citizenship Toolkit included as an example. Ultimately, the report confirmed a need to expand provision of resources and training, especially for young people, to build resilience.
The report offers recommendations, echoing Glitch’s call for greater governance of online spaces and enforcement of standards that protect people’s rights and dignity online.
Consent is simple.
It means giving permission for something to happen and also – this is key – being comfortable giving that permission.
This year’s Safer Internet Day invites us to think about how consent works in digital spaces. Since, according to Ofcom research, we check our phones every 12 minutes and spend, on average, more than a full day a week online, how we relate through the Internet is not insignificant. With a series of taps we are able to connect, interact and share with millions around the world. But the terms on which we interact are not always consensual.
Being coerced into sharing, engaging and communicating in ways we find uncomfortable can be emotionally devastating. Online, this can involve experiencing unwanted sharing of intimate images and videos, having personal information published without our consent, being shamed or deadnamed.
Safer Internet Day sheds light on the range of approaches people take to hurt others online – often strangers but not always . Research published by Project deSHAME, found 6% of 13-17 year olds across the UK, Denmark and Hungary have had their nude or nearly nude image shared with others without permission in the last year, while 2 in 5 have witnessed this happening. Alarmingly,
25% reported witnessing young people secretly taking images of others and sharing them online while 10% admitted having done this themselves in the last year. Non-consensual sharing of images might be done flippantly – perhaps you have seen others doing it for a laugh – but it is one hurtful way in which people are intimidated, disrespected and shamed online.
Girls and women are most at risk; research published by Amnesty International revealed women in the UK and US receive abuse online every thirty seconds – and that’s just on Twitter. Online abuse, whether doxing (publication of private information with malicious intent), online stalking, hate speech, harassment and trolling, always involves treating people in ways no one would consent to be treated.
Conversations about consent – particularly in thinking about healthy relationships – have become more open over the past five years. The viral Thames Valley Police Tea and Consent video from 2015 helped clarify the concept’s simplicity. It explains consent with an analogy of (not) forcing others to drink tea and starkly shows the discomfort and inappropriateness of disrespecting people’s boundaries and preferences. Online, this simple principle of respect is regularly violated.
Last year’s #PlaneBae incident saw a woman on a flight secretly photographed and ultimately harassed when a fictional romance thread captured the public’s imagination on social media. The thread shared on Twitter gained more than half a million likes. The woman was doxxed and targeted with hate messages, despite her repeatedly stating she was not comfortable with the public attention.
This Safer Internet Day, let’s consider a broader understanding of consent: an understanding that covers more than our individual decisions on how much data to share, or whether to accept all the cookies and agree to Terms and Conditions on a particular website. Let’s reflect on what we can do, as online bystanders and digital citizens, to challenge abusive tactics such as doxing and deadnaming.
Understanding different forms of online abuse and how different people are affected is the first step. Let’s challenge wider patterns of misogyny, misogynoir, racial discrimination and anonymous hate that violate consent online. Join the conversation with Glitch’s upcoming TweetChat to learn more about different forms of online gender-based violence and ways it can be addressed on Wednesday 13th February 12:30pm (GMT).
We can challenge our friends to reconsider before sharing photos of others, and be mindful about how we engage with others, and ask whether we ourselves would comfortably consent for our friends and family to be treated in the way we treat, or see others treated, online. Consent, while simple in theory, is revolutionary. It provides language to defend dignity, which can seem abstract and distant online.
Written by: Sussie Anie – Creative Agent
Editor: Seyi Akiwowo- Executive Director
On 13th February we will launch the first edition of our brand new Fix The Glitch Toolkit. This toolkit is designed to support individuals who want to help end online abuse but might not know where to begin. We have created this toolkit to not only raise awareness of online gender based violence (OGBV) but to begin addressing the problem by equipping communities with tools to take action. This is an exclusive edition comprised of only 100 copies. Find out more here.
To officially launch the Fix The Glitch Toolkit we will host a lunchtime TweetChat at 12:30pm (GMT) on 13th February on how can we end online gender based violence. A Tweet chat is a Twitter-based conversation around a specific topic, using a designated hashtag (#FixtTheGlitch) for each tweet. During the tweet chat, our chair will post questions from the Toolkit which is where you are welcome to share your own posts and views on this issue.
Our expert friends joining us for the discussion are:
- 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
- Chair: Seyi Akiwowo, Founder and Executive Director, Glitch
Partners and expert organisations joining us for the discussion are:
- Amnesty International
- Feminist Internet
- Antisemitism Policy Trust
- The Parliament Project
- Gender Policy and Insights
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN GLITCH TWEETCHAT
- Mark 13th February, 12:30pm (GMT) in your calendar so you don’t forget to join us
- Use the hashtag #FixTheGlitch so that your tweets are visible to those following the chat
- When answering a specific question or replying to comment from another tweeter, use the question number (i.e Q2) and Twitter handles to identify who you’re speaking to
- Remember, this is a good opportunity learn new perspectives and engage more people in a much needed debate on how to end OGBV, so interact in a positive, respectful way
We look forward to hearing from you on 13th February!
2018 was a year of growth for us and we are so thankful for your continued support. We’ve shared some of our proudest moment of 2018 and exciting plans for 2019.
Our Proudest Moments of 2018
Our key focus last year was to encourage as many people to take some form of action to help fix the glitch to end online abuse.
Over 100 people pledged to help #fixtheglitch and be an active bystander online.
Over 30 public figures have received our bespoke Digital Resilience Training.
We’ve been working closely with policy makers and Members of Parliament cross party to highlight the intersectionality of online abuse, outline both its impact and harms as well as explore effective ways to fix the glitch. Our presentation at the 38th United Nations Human Rights Council on Online Violence Against Women was extremely well received.
We were also invited to Number 10 Downing Street thanks to new Glitch Partners Antisemitism Policy Trust.
We are proud of our submissions to two All-Party Parliamentary Groups and our joint response to Government consultation with Centenary Action Group.
We recently developed working relationships with Facebook as well as Twitter who have agreed for us to a host a listening meeting for British Black Women to share their experiences of online abuse in Spring 2019.
Have you noticed our rebrand? Huge thanks to Double Noire this has supported our online and offline campaigns. We’re excited to see more people learning about different forms of online abuse, the scale of the challenge and exploring effective ways to end it.
We are so proud for our work and organisation to be recommended as best practice in a recent European Parliament Report on Cyberviolence.
Our Hopes for 2019
- Deliver online resources to empower more people to help end online abuse in their local communities.
- Deliver more successful campaigns for change
- Deliver workshops to 5000 young people.
To achieve this we need your support. Here 5 ways you can help:
- Donate: support our Christmas Fundraiser you can make a financial donation via paypal.
- Book: our Our Digital Resilience training or our Digital Citizenship workshop.
- Volunteer: we’ve tripled in size but are also looking for volunteers with skills and expertise to help us grow. If you have finance, legal, fundraising or marketing skills we would love to hear from you! Please complete this short interest form.
- Partner with us: our mission to fix this current glitch in our online world can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership. If you are an individual or organisation working to make the online world safer we would love to work with you! Please get in contact.
- Spread the word: we want to build an inclusive movement to end online abuse to fix this glitch. Follow us online and share Glitch with your Facebook friends and your Twitter and Instagram followers.
We wish you a wonderful 2019 and we look forward to working with you to end online abuse.
Yesterday, Amnesty International has further proved that online abuse is a violation of our human rights with the launch of its latest report on women in politics and journalism. Results from the global crowdsourcing project, named TrollPatrol, support what women, particularly black women, have been reporting for over several years. The research revealed that women in the US and UK face a staggering level of abuse – every 30 seconds on Twitter – and that black women are 84% more likely than white women to face abusive or problematic tweets. Organisations like Take Back the Tech, Women’s Media Center and The National Democratic Institute’s Not the Cost Campaign were one of the first to address this pandemic and we pay tribute to their dedication. Now that we have intersectional data, it’s time we all help fix the glitch and end online abuse.
Last year I experienced a tidal wave of misogynoir, which is abuse that’s both misogynistic and racist, after a speech I made went viral. As a young black woman in politics observing how other women were publicly treated on social media platforms, experiencing abuse first hand was the final straw. This is why I founded Glitch, a not-for-profit organisation that exists to end online abuse. Our workshops centre on digital self care, self defence and digital citizenship and were recently recommended as best practice in a recent European Parliament Report.
According to the report, 1 in 10 tweets mentioning black women is either abusive or problematic, compared with 1 in 15 directed at white women. We strongly agree with Amnesty, social media companies such as Twitter must be more transparent but they must also engage and support many more diverse activist groups using their platforms. For so long, research, policies and Government interventions to address online abuse have focused on children and women, as if the two are homogenous groups. By doing so, we are ignoring the real drivers behind a lot of online abuse and online bullying, affecting women and girls on a daily basis. Amnesty’s research is a welcome step towards a more nuanced, intersectional critique of online harms.
It’s important to understand that while women experience all different kinds of online abuse, the overall impact has a silencing effect that represents a potent threat to gender equality, human rights and democracy. It causes anxiety and, in very sad situations, has resulted in girls self harming and taking their own lives. Amnesty’s Write for Rights Campaign has inspired thousands of people around the world to write to Jack Dorsey, asking him to take serious action. I’ve also received so many messages from people sharing their own experiences of online abuse and losing loved ones.
So, how do we begin to address online abuse?
The current online/offline dichotomy is unhelpful and hides much of the violence that women and girls face online. Founder of Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates’ book Misogynation is a collection of essays talking about the importance of joining the dots between the different forms of violence that women and girls face. We can already see patterns emerging between domestic violence and terrorist attacks and in individuals who are violent offline also, sending abusive messages to women online. Even with these cases we again see social media platforms failing to enforce their own rules.
Having presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council this summer, it was very online abuse towards women in politics was far too common. On a personal level, I strongly urge all political parties and membership organisations to develop a code of conduct for their members and be crystal clear about the support they will provide to their candidates and members when standing, campaigning or representing the organisation.
Moving forward, we need to amplify the experiences of women in public life, campaigners, councillors, candidates, activists, founders of charities, Youtubers, artists and bloggers. We also need to amplify the everyday woman who may use #blackgirlmagic, #blackhistory or #metoo and face abuse from those who are hijacking hashtags and derailing them for their own racist, sexist (or both) agendas. We must have more, frequent and visible conversations on online abuse and the diversity of experiences women face.
I hope we continue to see responsible data-gathering on women with intersectional identities like black disabled women and black muslim women. However, civil society groups cannot combat online abuse alone; tech companies and governments must also be involved. We therefore need new money, resources and training to understand and appropriately educate, enforce and empower society against online abuse. We also must see sufficient resources to support diverse media groups such Black Ballad, Media Diversified and Gal-dem Magazine who are mentioned in the research, as well as diverse academics, technologists, law enforcement and civil society groups to continue their vital work.
Finally and arguably most importantly we need to see more men be effective allies to women online and certainly must see more white women be effective allies to black women. Last year, the BNP created a racist and sexist Christmas card, which well-meaning Twitter users then forwarded on to Diane Abbott MP when sharing their outrage. Abbott, who receives almost half of all online abuse directed at female MPs, need to see the offensive card over and over again? Glitch’s digital citizenship workshop, aimed at all online users but specifically young people, encourages participants to under with digital rights comes digital responsibilities and adopt an ‘active bystander’ attitude when engaging in activities online. Black women have been talking about their negative experience online and thanks to Amnesty, we now have the data to prove it. But it’s up to all of us to make lasting change.
First appeared in the Huffington Post