[These policy recommendations are informed by the four research studies that Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN) partners worked on in various regions around technology facilitated gender based violence (tfGBV), and are compiled and structured for this piece by Srinidhi Raghavan and Tigist Shewarega Hussen. The FIRN studies can be accessed here.]
In the past five years, following evidence based research findings FIRN have been providing policy recommendations. Similarly, these research studies conducted as part of FIRN provide us with a substantial and nuanced Global South entry point to building recommendations for various stakeholders and building better systems to respond to experiences of violence but also enhance accountability between technology companies, governments, and citizens.
These recommendations have been collated here as part of FIRN’s intervention in the sector. We would like to acknowledge here that, while there are context-specific recommendations at national and regional level, these are commonly mentioned by all partners in the network. These recommendations provide us with a way forward as well as a clear path on how to ensure that various entities address online gender-based violence.
- Governments, technology companies must respond proactively to hate speech, especially when uttered by political leaders. For example governments should implement human rights-based, feminist responses to hate speech, such as content moderation regulation for internet mediaries, including a requirement for companies to publish transparency reports with disaggregated data and the companies responses to them. Moreover, governments must apply pressure to platforms to ensure user rights are are respected and that those targeted with TFGBV on their platforms have accessible and understandable options regarding content removal, user suspension and other safety issues.
- Technology companies must set up a response team for online GBV where content takedown requests are urgently responded to. This is especially required in cases involving the non-consensual dissemination of intimate images and personal data. Ensure that these response teams use a human-rights based approach combined with a feminist approach, equity-focused, trauma-informed, survivor centric and intersectional feminist approach as well as have content capacities in multiple local languages as well as strengthened processes and capacities to address incidents of violence that are reported to them, including those against LGBTQIA+ people.
- Civil society actors must advocate for policy changes and expand our understanding of OGBV to protect the rights of trans, non binary and gender diverse individuals online by seeking to prevent online hate speech and discrimination.
- All actors need to ensure that existing redress mechanisms around gender-based violence include and employ implementable prevention strategies and victim-centric redress mechanisms in various institutions, including schools, colleges and universities, around technology-facilitated gender-based violence and include not just women but also trans, non binary and gender diverse individuals.
- Civil society actors must work to ensure existing laws on gender-based violence include aspects of technology-facilitated violence, and work to deepen focus and attention from law enforcement authorities on TFGBV through gender-sensitive digital security trainings to address complaints of cyberbullying, cyber harassment, leaked private information, etc. and to provide assistance, counselling and legal support.
- Governments must work make policy reforms to protect electronic and personal information. They must ensure the right to data privacy and give women and gender-diverse people full controll over their personal data and information online at all levels. They must adopt policies and legal and regulatory frameworks that provide comprehensive protection for the use and development of secure digital communications, including by promoting strong encryption and anonymity-enhancing tools, products and services.
- All actors must create safe spaces online and offline for people affected by TFGBV – to provide legal advice, psychological counselling and emotional support as well as provide peer and/or public support.
- Governments and technology companies need to develop clear and comprehensive policies that prohibit online harassment, bullying and hate speech that contribute towards OGBV and ensure that they are enforced consistently and with care.
- Technology companies to provide inclusive and respectful reporting tools in different languages that allow users to report OGBV and expand the same to include trans, non binary and gender diverse individuals.
- Work towards reducing the gender digital divide with State parties across the globe and ensure not only access, but also a meaningful participation of women and people of diverse genders and sexualities in the Internet as a political space.
Digital security understanding
- Governments to provide digital education in and out of schools to sharpen an individual’s skills to know and understand the implications of being online, how to innovate within the digital world, and how to take the precautions that the use of technology requires.
- Governments and civil society organisations can conduct regular public campaigns in local languages on raising awareness on hate speech and TFGBV by ensuring broader understanding of technology-facilitated gender-based violence and its impact while highlighting key issues around digital security and safety
- Civil society actors to build the understanding of state actors and of the public, especially women and LGBTQIA+ people, on how patriarchy manifests itself in online platforms and how to create a more feminist internet that gives women their full rights to internet access and freedom of expression, as well as a better understanding of online threats and how to take action against these threats, especially in the case of trans, non binary and gender diverse individuals.
- Technology companies to enhance online safety and actively work with developers to create digital tools and products that are suited to local contexts and that can be accessed in local languages. Features should be easy to access, utilise and troubleshoot.
- Technology companies to ensure transparency of social media design, as well as other software applications and architecture.
- Technology companies to adopt clear community guidelines and terms and conditions that are in line with human rights standards on freedom of expression, and are responsive to hate speech and other forms of technology-related violence, while taking into account the needs of groups facing violence such as women, LGBTQIA+ people and minorities. Provide guidance on what to do if bystanders witness an incident of online GBV.
- All actors to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of OGBV on Trans, non binary and gender diverse individuals through public campaigns.
- Governments and civil society actors to provide digital security training - In terms of how to ensure that women can participate fully online, to be trained in the secure use of digital platforms, especially on digital safety and hygiene in order to protect themselves while fully enjoying their rights online.
- Emphasising privacy policies when browsing and data protection which are protected by the Data Protection and Privacy laws.
Feminist, LGBTQIA+ leadership
- Governments and technology companies to remain open to dialogue with feminist, LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights activists and others for the design of not only legal but other interventions within state bodies and processes – especially those responsible for ensuring prevention of violence against people.
- LGBTQIA+ communities, feminist organisations, activists and advocates should acknowledge the heterogeneity of the community and open-up a conversation within the community to address some of unintentional and intentional exclusions that has been happening with regards to trans, non-binary and gender diverse individuals
- For governments to establish inter-ministerial task teams in each country and conduct regular multistakeholder consultations nationaly with the relevant ministries, government agencies, civil society, academics, media and social media platforms
- Civil society must create more cross group conversation like between feminists, technologists and others to ensure robust, intersectional and complex discussions and outcomes on gender and intersectionality, and ensure that the integration of gender into discussions as well as stakeholder representation at these spaces is not tokenised and work towards nuancing and deepening feminist ideas of justice in relation to the internet
- All stakeholders to engage with trans, non-binary and gender diverse individuals and communities to understand the struggles they face using online platforms and design better, more inclusive platforms.
- Conduct research to better nuance people’s understanding of online GBV, especially among communities who don’t use English as their primary language, including why people perpetrate hate and violence online.
- Ensure and encourage funding skim that prioritises national and regional based studies for a closed understanding of context before investing on global studies, which often results on the surface engagement
- Ensure feminist research on and by marginalised groups of people from the global South that unpacks our experiences, needs and imaginations of the internet, including how people are building and sustaining resistance and alternatives.
- Ensure that research begins to build connections between economic injustice and TFGBV, digital economy and TFGBV, and the gendered impacts of internet shutdowns.
- Cross-movement, cross-regional and transnational research and solidarity building needs to be resourced and encouraged, especially but not limited to addressing issues of extraterritoriality and pushing for multilateral accountability mechanisms.