Research findings on tech-related violence against women released

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By Flavia Fascendini for APCNews

Argentina, 26 August 2014

Between April 2013 and June 2014, APC carried out its multi-country research project End violence: Women’s rights and safety online, exploring the availability, adequacy and effectiveness of domestic legal remedies and corporate policies/redress mechanisms to address the issue of technology-related violence against women. These are some preliminary findings from this research:

Internet intermediaries and violence against women online

A recent report, “Internet intermediaries and violence against women online” released by the Association for Progressive Communications for the “End violence: Women’s rights and safety online” project, analyses the policies and framework of the three major internet intermediaries, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in regard to violence against women online. These case studies allow APC to further its progress by creating a bridge between social networking platforms and policy makers by analysing and addressing concerns found in the intermediaries’ online policies and responses to issues of VAW.

Technology-related violence against women proves to be a key issue as social media and networking websites provide users the platform for expression of thought, speech and media content. While these websites are used by hundreds of millions of people daily, the risk for technology-related violence increases as well, including forms of violence such as hateful and offensive speech, cyber stalking, sexual harassment, surveillance and unauthorised use of personal information including images and videos. These internet intermediaries therefore have many gaps in their policies regarding handling such issues when it comes to privacy and safety for users and viewers alike.

Through recognising the gaps in the mechanisms used by these three major intermediaries, a safer online environment can be maintained that “will not tolerate behaviour and practices that are harmful and violent to women and girls.” The research conducted in these case studies is based on the internet intermediaries’ compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This framework emphasises companies’ requirement “under international law to respect human rights, to avoid infringing human rights, and to address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.” These Principles therefore stress the need for the internet intermediaries to “take positive steps to prevent, mitigate and remedy human rights violence” and in this case to have a more focused approach on the issue of violence against women.

Read or download the full report Internet intermediaries and violence against women online. Executive summary and findings

Read or download the full report Internet intermediaries and violence against women online. Twitter: A case study

Read or download the full report Internet intermediaries and violence against women online. Facebook: A case study

Read or download the full report Internet intermediaries and violence against women online. YouTube: A case study

Technology-related violence against women – Recent legislative trends

This study seeks to explore recent legislative developments aimed at addressing and providing avenues of redress for technology-related violence against women. We explore the objectives, structure and application of four domestic legislative responses to different forms of violence against women, seeking to understand how domestic legislatures are responding to increasing awareness of violence against women online.

The key questions that this report has sought to ask of the legislation include:

1. What is the background to the legislation? Why was it introduced?
2. What was the legislative history of the legislation? What changes were made during the legislative process, and why?
3. What recourse is available through the legislation? Does it criminalise offences related to violence against women online? What provisions are in place to ensure that victims of technology-related violence have access to justice?
4. What are the main critiques of the legislation? What are its primary failings? Has it been successfully applied/invoked to date?

This report analyses the following pieces of legislation:

1. The South African Protection from Harassment Act 2010;
2. The Nova Scotia (Canada) Cyber Safety Act 2013;
3. The California (United States) SB 255 Electronic Communication Devices: Prohibited Distribution of Personal Information; and
4. The New Zealand Harmful Digital Communications Bill 2013.

Read or download the full report Technology-related violence against women – Recent legislative trends

Domestic legal remedies for tech-related VAW

The Philippines-based organisation Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau was in charge of developing a review of related studies and literature on domestic legal remedies for tech-related VAW for the “End violence: Women’s rights and safety online” project. An upcoming research report on domestic legal remedies will be finished later this year and available online.

This review of related studies and literature forms part of the legal remedy research which falls under the End violence: Women’s rights and safety online flagship project of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

The review will present different perspectives on the interrelatedness and interconnectedness between ICT and VAW. It will cover the existing laws, prevailing policy frameworks and mechanisms in cases of technology-related VAW, and identify gaps and emerging issues from seven countries, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines. The review particularly aims to contribute to the realisation of the objectives of the legal remedy research:

• To get recognition of technology-related VAW as constituting violence against women.
• To encourage reporting of technology-related VAW to obtain redress for survivors.
• To identify and propose remedies either through existing mechanisms or through the establishment of new ones.
• To provide positive recommendations that support women’s access to justice and ability to exercise their full range of rights, online and offline.

Read or download the full report Domestic legal remedies for technology-related violence against women: Review of related studies and literature

Case summaries from country reports

The following case summaries are excerpted from “End violence against women: Country reports”, which involve seven countries and are part of research commissioned by APC. It is important to stress that the names of survivors have been changed, and in addition, country information is not included in the summaries, in order to protect the privacy of survivors. Instead they are categorised by region: Central and East Africa, Central and South America, South and Southeast Asia, Southeastern Europe.

Read or download the full report End violence research: Case summaries from country reports

Note: Additional documents will be published later this year.

This research is part of the APC “End violence: Women´s rights and online safety” project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and is based on a strong alliance with partners in seven countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, and Philippines. For more information visit GenderIT.org and Take Back the Tech!

(END/2014)

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