Online battle against online violence against women and girls

Bullying, harassments and threats are no new phenomenon. But the degree to which these are directed towards girls and women have made civil society and academia raise awareness about it.

Forms of online harassment can vary widely, from name-calling and trolling to stalking and shaming to outright sexual and death threats. Women harassed online are many times expected to either ignore or feel flattered in response to the harassments.

But how hard girls and women ever try to ignore it, gendered online harassment has severe implications on their lives. One reason is that social media has become increasingly central to our human experiences and the consequences can “undercut career prospects and the ability to function effectively in the marketplace and participate in democracy” (Wihbey & Walter Kille, 2015).

Because of the dimensions of data they deal with, Internet and social media companies struggle to articulate and implement standards. This is also the case for more obvious issues such as the online coordination of terrorism. Another challenge is the anonymity allowed in several social media platforms, like Twitter, where the harassments are published publicly. And despite extensive investigations ,more research is needed in order to produce knowledge to empower victims, disrupt behaviours of offenders, and increase awareness (Unwin, 2017).

This is Karen Sadlier, doctor of clinical psychology, discussing the impact of cyberviolence and surveillance:

NGO’s are fighting online harassment with online advocacy

More and more women online are taking matters into their own hands, using social media platforms to expose, raise awareness and resist: Resisting #assholesonline – feminist activism against online sexual harassment

The use of social media is also growing as a tool for NGO’s to engage in advocacy work. A study on how organizations use social media proposes a three-stage pyramid to divide organisations’ strategic use of social media in advocacy communication, where the first step is most common:

1)     Reaching out and bring awareness of the cause using informational messages.
2)     Sustaining interest and network of supporters via community building messages and interactive conversations.
3)     Mobilization through call to action-messages.

(Guo and Saxton 2014)

One of the actors committed to combatting online violence against women and girls is The European Women’s Lobby (EWL). Online advocacy is one of their methods to bring social change. Just how they do it is something we will look at more closely in connection to EWL’s online conference #HerNetHerRights (see below).

As an umbrella network EWL brings together women’s movements in Europe. The aim is to influence the general public and European Institutions in support of women’s human rights and equality between women and men. It was created in response to a growing awareness of the need to defend women’s interests at European level. (European Women Lobby 2017)

#HerNetHerRights project and online conference

With funding from Google, EWL leads the project #HerNetHerRights which aims to analyse the current state of online violence against women and girls in Europe. Additionally the purpose is to come up with innovative solutions and policy recommendations to fight online male violence and create a safer, more inclusive web for all women and girls.

On 13 October 2017, within the framework of the European Week of Action for Girls, EWL organises an online conference. It will bring together the main actors on the issue of online violence against women and girls in Europe: researchers and activists, decision-makers and youth, survivors and women’s organisations.

The online conference will be followed-up by a tweetchat discussion, around 4 main topics: a male-dominated digital world, links between sexist media and cyberVAWG, initiatives on protection and justice, recommendations (11h15-12h15).

From 9.30-12.15 am ECT today, Friday 13 October, we will collect comments, pictures and other updates from social media live on this blog. Join us here!!

We will also be back with summaries from key note speakers and reflections on how EWL used social media as an advocay tool during the conference.

Until then, keep an eye out on Twitter for  #Exposetheabusers  #Saynotoonlineviolence and  #HerNetHerRights

Post written by Frida Leander, Julia Andén, Lou Hellberg and Simona Gibauskaité


European Women Lobby (2017) Retrieved 2017-10-11

Guo, C., Saxton, G.D. 2014: Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media Are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 43: 57-79.

Wihbey , John and Walter Kille, Leighton (2015) Journalist’s Resource, “Internet harassment and online threats targeting women: Research review”. (retreived 2017-10-09)

World Wide Web Foundation (2017) (retreived 2017-10-10)

Unwin, T. (2017). Reclaiming Information & Communication Technologies for Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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