On June 19, 2021, the world commemorated the 7th edition of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in a bid to address the rising incidents of sexual violence cases that followed lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines caused by the pandemic, as reported by the United Nations (UN).
Up until now, several global bodies have been actively involved in setting up solutions to protect millions of people, especially vulnerable groups like women, against abuse and related cases, particularly at a time when more people spend longer time online.
Announced today, July 1, 2020, during the UN Generation Equality Forum held in Paris, is the public commitment of four of the world's largest tech companies — Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter — to make their platforms safer for women. This is done in a bid to tackle online abuse against women and promote gender equality.
The outcome of these commitments would be the introduction of new systems or upgrade of existing ones to make reporting abuse more effortless and improve the overall online experience for women and girls.
It is interesting to know that this initiative, led by the World Wide Web Foundation, kicked off over a year ago to bring together stakeholders together to design solutions to address the challenge.
Eve Kraicer, Policy Officer, Gender and Data Rights at World Wide Web Foundation, explains to Techpoint Africa that during this period, the Foundation converged 120 experts from tech companies, civil societies, academia, and government of 35 countries to co-create solutions and prototypes to tackle online abuse.
The Foundation also sent out an open letter — co-signed by prominent women across six continents — to the CEOs of Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter insisting that these companies must be deliberate about implementing processes that can lead to real change.
Meanwhile, Facebook has announced updates on what it is doing concerning women's online safety. Cindy Southworth, Head of Women’s Safety at Facebook, diclosed in an official post the formation of a group of 12 nonprofit leaders, activists, and academic experts to help develop new policies, products, and programs that better support women that use Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.
Following this, the social media company also announced the launch of Women’s Safety Hub, an online space for sharing information about tools and resources — on safety, policies, training, and tools — for women. It will be specifically opened to women journalists, public figures, and abuse victims.
"To keep women safe from abuse, exploitation, and harassment online and offline, we regularly update our policies, tools, and technology in consultation with experts around the world —including with over 200 women’s safety organizations.
"We look forward to working with other leaders and companies in the technology space to make the internet a safer place for all women across the globe,” Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Facebook, states in an official statement.
Kraicer believes that this public announcement would make the companies accountable while making others step up to the challenge. However, she adds that her organisation will be tracking the companies against their commitments and receive reports annually on their progress.
While acknowledging the peculiarities associated with different regions, Kraicer assures that solutions that will be built are expected to take into consideration how women in different parts of the world interact with the Internet.