The #MeToo movement once again showed the prevalence of continuing harassment and violence against women. Presently, women across the globe are falling victim to a new type of annoyance – online harassment.
A survey by Feminism revealed that almost 50% of women who live in India’s metros had experience of online abuse. Research conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that maximum online harassment or abuse occurs on social media.
With the rise in online harassment, it has become more important for women to know how to protect themselves from abusive people and predators.
This women’s ultimate safety guide against online harassment will show you how to stay safe with online dating, cyber-bullying or chatting online.
In order to be safe, you need to know the types of online harassment that takes place, the laws that protect women from this kind of abuse, and the measures that you can take while using social media sites.
What Is Online Abuse?
According to a poll carried out by Amnesty, 23% of the women surveyed in eight countries had experience with online harassment.
As if finding real-world victims was not enough, perpetrators can now harass, abuse, and stalk women online. Online abuse creates an adverse environment for women and provides people behind LCD and LED screens with the power to degrade, humiliate, or terrify them.
According to Forbes, cyber harassment is the online expression which is done repeatedly to target a specific person and which causes extensive emotional suffering, giving birth to the tendency of bodily harm in that person.
Receiving threatening messages from unknown people in the chat box, receiving abusive comments on one’s images, private and intimate images of one’s getting shared online without the consent of the person can be some examples of online abuse.
Along with this, hacking someone’s account, tracking someone with the use of spyware also fall under the category of online abuse.
In no way is this kind of abuse acceptable as it violates a woman’s basic human rights.
Kinds Of Online Abuse
- Online Harassment
When people form a group to target a particular woman with the use of abusive comments, derogatory images for a period of time, it is considered as online harassment.
This happens with both celebrities and normal people. One example can be of a specific video or picture going viral. The comment section floods with hate comments, sexist, or racist comments targeting the one who has uploaded it.
As an extended form of offline violence, online abusing often includes a sexual or physical threat. In some cases, these threats also cross the boundary of the digital world and affect the real life of the person.
- Sexist Insults
Based on the stereotypes related to one’s gender, regardless of her actions, it is the woman who gets criticised. The use of abusive words that are specifically targeted at women is also utilised in this type of harassment.
In this type of abuse, one’s personal details are revealed without taking the consent of the person. Anything ranging from a woman’s phone number, address to email id can be a part of the disclosed information.
This is usually done by hacking the person’s computer and accounts, only to make the concerned person panic.
- Racism & Discrimination
Using racist, sexist, or other types of comments targeting one’s identity to humiliate or demean an individual falls under this category. This is a very common form of online abuse that is faced by almost all women.
Indian Laws Protecting Women Against Online Harassment
Many sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) protect women against online harassment:
Under this section, a person can be held guilty if s/he uses any gesture, word, or takes any action that insults a women’s modesty.
This section holds a person guilty if s/he stalks a person, repeatedly tries to contact the person even after knowing that the person is not interested.
If a woman feels that a comment or image or a post is harming her reputation, she can file a case against the perpetrator. This can result in two years of jail for the perpetrator.
By receiving any form of violent intimidation like rape threats from a stranger, a woman can lodge a case under this section.
There are other laws that protect a woman against cyber-attack or online harassment. A woman must educate herself of these and follow certain social networking and cyber safety rules to be on the safe side.
Social networking sites have become a platform for trolls and predators with harmful motives to harass women. Short of staying off social media altogether, there are ways in which women can avoid being harassed or take action against those harassing them.
It is necessary to know which safety measures one should take for these platforms.
How To Stay Safe On Facebook
In the case of Facebook, there are a number of safety measures. Some of them are outlined below.
- Keep Your Password Safe
Set a password that is hard to guess. Don’t share your Facebook password with anyone. Make use of Facebook’s two-step verification which requires the user to enter a code each time he/she logs in.
- Block Abusive People
If a person is abusive or ill-mannered, block them. Blocking a person does not allow that individual to see your profile or information and they will not be notified that you have blocked them.
- Report Obscene, Abusive Or Offensive Content
If any content is obscene, offensive, abusive or derogatory to you or to women or any community in general, report that content. Facebook is known to give priority to such reports and take immediate action.
How To Stay Safe On Instagram
Similar to Facebook, you can block a person on Instagram too. Also, follow the same guidelines for setting your password.
- Keep Your Account Private
Unless you’re a celebrity or using Instagram for your business, you can keep your account private. This way you can decide who is allowed to follow you.
- Report Harassment
In Instagram, it is possible to report to report harassment via the Help Centre.
Almost all social networking sites have help centres that are designed to provide all the assistance to those who face any kind of harassment or bullying online.
Every woman must keep herself updated with all these to have a safer and pleasant experience in these sites.
This article on how to be safe online can help women prevent online harassment. As online abuse and harassment is becoming a huge issue, using these tips to stay safe online can be very empowering.
The effect of online abuse is very distressing for women and we need the government, lawmakers and social media sites to take more action against it.
Apart from this, women should also take steps to empower other women and teach them to keep themselves safe in the online space.
We can do this by sharing our stories, spreading awareness, and helping different organisations who are doing the same. If you have dealt with online harassment in any way, do share your experience below.
Marceline Joseph is a social activist who is associated with several organisations that work for women empowerment. She has also spoken at several seminars on women safety. Apart from this, she provides homework help to the students. She also loves to paint and is especially fond of adventure trips.
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