TROLLING

Online violence claws back women's rights

In Summary
  • Online violence includes among others, shaming, blackmailing, rape threats, busting and scorning
  • All these forms of harassment manipulate the beliefs and values of the audience
Girl reacts to cyberbullying
Girl reacts to cyberbullying
Image: COURTESY

The year 2020 saw an increase in media consumption by 20 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic as reported by Statista. This led to a surge in online trolling, which has infected cyberspace like a deadly virus. Internet users, especially women, have as a result become more vulnerable to online violence.

Internet trolling is understood as intentional cause of quarrels to humiliate users by posting or commenting on the internet. The habit has turned into a pandemic with an increase in idleness and insensitivity.

Online news readers wake up daily to headlines where women are ridiculed for what they wear, who they are or their marital status. This is considered entertaining and normal. The subjects are humiliated by insensitive comments as the larger part of the crowd are amused.

Online violence includes among others, shaming, blackmailing, rape threats, busting and scorning. All these forms of harassment manipulate the beliefs, values of the audience.

The abuse can go for hours or days, creating an image of countless prosecutors against one accused without an advocate. Hence the internet, which could have been a safer world away from the pandemic, has both connected and disconnected its users.

Malamuth and Briere in their article 'Sexual violence in the media: Indirect effects on aggression against women' discuss how thought patterns formed by the media can play a role in behavioural change, including sexual violence and discrimination against women.

Achieving women's rights has been costly. Just when women's voices were becoming audible and the world beginning to embrace change, online gender-based discrimination is dragging this milestone back.

Online news channels have been major contributors to such thought patterns. They publish and republish the same stories from almost every angle conceivable. They call for and anticipate different reactions from the public.

Achieving women's rights has been costly. Just when women's voices were becoming audible and the world beginning to embrace change, online gender-based discrimination is dragging this milestone back.

A research by World Wide Web Foundation & World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts showed that “52% of young women and girls have experienced online abuse, including threatening messages, sexual harassment and the sharing of private images without consent.”

Social media companies may not be able to protect their users from abuses neither can they be held responsible for the crimes. Therefore, uncontrolled cyberspace is becoming more dangerous than real life.

Gender equality and women's empowerment have not been fully achieved as goal number five of the Sustainable Developmental Goals. In a study by the United Nations on the position of women before and during the pandemic, 70 per cent of health workers leading the fight against Covid-19 are female. If internet trolling is not considered a more dangerous and here-to-stay pandemic, the global economy among others will be directly affected by online women violence.

A call to action during global media conferences or Safer Internet Day is paramount. This would match the SID theme 'Together for a better internet'. Women tomorrow can be formed today but not while online violence is out of the control of those who can call a stop to it.

Online violence is taking us back to the 1850s. Women who suffer online violence hurt where it hurts most, the heart, and this is not easy to recover. Killing the rights of a person in their hearts is like disabling the mind, which is worse than denying them physical rights as the mind is the power to will.