Violence Against Women on Social Media – The New Reality?
In this age of “Social Media”, a double edged sword always hangs on our heads. On one hand, is the ability to freely express our thoughts and ideas on public platforms, maximizing their reach in an unimaginable way. On the other is the lurking danger of our information being misused, and our privacy and dignity being attacked.
A case of such “trolling” has just taken place, where popular news personality Barkha Dutt was at the receiving end of sexual slurs and harassing comments on Twitter. This follows in close proximity to the case of prominent social activist Kavita Krishnan, who was also trolled on social media, with abuses of a sexual nature. These two women are well known, and are well liked and followed on social media. Their opinions and thoughts hold value to many in India and around the world. However, these instances of trolling remind us that women, famous or otherwise, are particularly vulnerable to cyber crime, and cyber abuse. In a study by The Guardian, it was found that eight of ten most abused writers were women. These numbers are disgraceful, because it seems like the misogyny and ill-treatment of women has now entered the seemingly neutral cyber space.
In this regard, Minister for Women and Child Development Ms Maneka Gandhi, has recently made a statement saying that online attacks on women will soon be considered as a crime. She has recommended that the Home Ministry create a separate department to deal with online attacks against women.
Popular web portal The Quint has come out with an excellent video, discussing this issue of trolling of celebrity women.
For the past one year, we have been partnering with Facebook, for our #SocialSurfing program, dealing with issues of online safety among youth in India. As Internet reaches the smallest of corners of the country, it becomes of utmost importance to understand and know the basics of using internet in a safe and secure manner. One of the key aspects of our #SocialSurfing program is Counter Speech, which is essential in tackling cases of trolling and harassment on social media.
Internet has tremendous potential to be used as a tool for empowering the women of the country, and instances of cyber crime just pushes us back by centuries when women were subjugated. We sincerely hope that the Government of India takes a strong stand against this issue.
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