On 18th March 2016, activists, advocates, educationists and young leaders got together at Facebook’s New York Office in Broadway, for a round table conference on Online Safety, particularly for the women and girls. Real world conversations have extended to the virtual space extensively through the booming social media networks. But this transition has also brought in a set of pitfalls with them. While the world has been introduced to the virtual space as a free platform to connect, talk, share and express, it has also provided the leeway for undue advantage that can be taken of information, and individuals as well.
Just like in the real world, abuse and harassment has followed the women over the virtual space as well. It was observed that women have been threatened of rape and also been harassed with obscene words/comments/pictures that are posted online. While it has surely discouraged some to get on the platform, some are putting up a fight to make this space safe and secure for all the users.
This round table discussion focused on discussing the issues that are discouraging women from getting on the online space and using them to raise their concerns. The activists highlighted the fact that it is the responsibility of social media networks to deal with the pettiest of the issue as serious concerns, and make sure that the information put up by the users is fully secured. Misinterpretation and misuse of the online information is one of the grave concerns and it needs to be advocated at the government level too. Also, the need to make users aware of the safety mechanisms provided by the platforms is something that urgently needs to be addressed.
When Centre for Social Research rolled out #SocialSurfing in the colleges in India, it was observed that the students were either not aware about the safety tools provided in the security settings or only visited the settings only once in a month or two months. Initiating this dialogue on online safety is hence essential with the youth who are dominating the ratio of internet users.
The legal aspect of assuring user’s online safety was also discussed. Due to the lack of recognition of cyber crimes, the users are discouraged to report and counter illegal activities in the virtual space. Hence, the civil society, social media platforms and the law enforcement agencies must work together to get laws in place dealing with cyber crimes.
Such meet ups are highly recommended at regular intervals so that great initiatives, issues are discussed and all the stakeholders work together to resolve the issues.
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