In today’s interconnected world, technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, work, and interact with one another. It has brought numerous benefits, but it has also opened the door to new forms of violence and harassment. Technology-facilitated gender-based violence is a distressing reality that affects countless individuals (predominantly women) and it encompasses various insidious forms. In this article, we shed light on some of the most prevalent examples of this alarming trend.
Threats & Harassment
Threats and harassment are tactics commonly employed in technology-facilitated violence. Perpetrators resort to intimidation by bombarding victims with a barrage of calls, messages, texts, emails, and other digital communications. They may also resort to posting derogatory content online with the intention of humiliating or tarnishing someone’s reputation. Manipulating settings and accounts to disrupt a person’s life, as well as contacting their friends, family, and colleagues to harass or intimidate them, are also distressing manifestations of this type of violence. Moreover, some perpetrators go to the extent of forcing someone to respond to their calls and messages against their will, effectively eroding the victim’s autonomy and freedom.
Stalking & Surveillance
The advances in technology have made it easier for perpetrators to track a person’s phone and monitor their real-time location. They may employ location tracking devices to keep constant tabs on someone’s whereabouts, invading their privacy and causing immense distress. Perpetrators may gain remote access to shared online accounts, enabling them to engage in surveillance and gather personal information. Invasive tactics such as monitoring social media or other online accounts become tools for the perpetrators to control, manipulate, and harm their victims. They may even resort to using hidden cameras or security systems to surveil a person’s home, further violating their privacy. In extreme cases, perpetrators physically go through a person’s phone or install stalkerware and spyware to monitor their activities, leaving survivors in a constant state of fear and vulnerability. The act of checking appointments and work schedules to intrude on a person’s privacy is another alarming manifestation of this type of violence.
Impersonation & Fraud
Impersonation and fraud are tactics that exploit the vulnerabilities of the digital world. Perpetrators may impersonate someone with the intention to damage their reputation, career, embarrass them, or make their life difficult. Creating fake profiles on social media platforms has become a tool for deceiving and manipulating others, which can have severe consequences for the victim’s personal and professional life. Hacking into accounts to gain unauthorized access and control over personal information is another distressing aspect of this violence, which can lead to a myriad of harmful outcomes. Opening or closing lines of credit without consent to cause financial harm is a particularly malicious form of impersonation and fraud. Provoking harassment by spreading false information or instigating others against the victim exacerbates the damage inflicted. Moreover, the advent of technology enables perpetrators to spoof phone numbers and voices to deceive and manipulate others, perpetuating their harmful intentions.
Non-consensual disclosure of intimate images (NCDII) involves the unauthorized sharing of private and intimate photos or videos, causing immense emotional distress and harm to the victims. Perpetrators may also create deep fakes, which are digitally altered videos or images that falsely depict someone engaging in explicit or compromising acts. Engaging in voyeuristic activities, such as capturing upskirt or down blouse images without consent, is another deplorable violation of privacy that is facilitated by technology. Additionally, perpetrators may send unwanted explicit photos and videos to harass or intimidate their victims, subjecting them to further humiliation and psychological trauma.
Limitation & Isolation
Limiting access is another method employed by perpetrators of digitally enhanced violence to exert control over their victims. They may restrict the use of devices or accounts, effectively hindering someone’s access to technology and cutting them off from crucial resources and support systems. Damaging a device to hinder its functionality and prevent its use is a malicious tactic used to isolate and control victims. Perpetrators may also go as far as preventing someone from connecting to the internet or making phone calls, further exacerbating the victim’s isolation and vulnerability. Changing passwords and settings without permission to lock someone out of their accounts is a method employed to control and manipulate the victim’s access to their own digital spaces.
How to Combat Digital Violence
The rise of technology-facilitated gender-based violence is deeply troubling, and it highlights the urgent need for action at individual, societal, and systemic levels. Survivors of such violence endure significant psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical harm, and their rights to privacy, security, and dignity are violated. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach involving education, awareness, and policy changes. It is crucial to educate individuals about digital safety, consent, and the responsible use of technology. Promoting awareness campaigns that shed light on the various forms of technology-facilitated gender-based violence can help victims recognize the signs and seek appropriate support.
Society as a whole must work towards challenging harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women. Creating a culture of respect, empathy, and equality is essential in combating this issue. Encouraging bystander intervention and promoting a zero-tolerance policy for gender-based violence can contribute to a safer digital environment for all.
From a legal standpoint, policymakers should develop and enforce comprehensive legislation that addresses technology-facilitated gender-based violence. This includes criminalizing acts such as non-consensual sharing of intimate images, stalking, harassment, and impersonation. Efforts should be made to close legal loopholes and provide victims with the necessary tools for seeking justice and obtaining protection orders.
Furthermore, tech companies and social media platforms play a vital role in combating technology-facilitated gender-based violence. They should enhance their security measures, privacy settings, and reporting mechanisms to ensure the safety and well-being of their users. Collaboration between tech companies, law enforcement agencies, and advocacy groups is crucial for sharing knowledge, developing effective policies, and supporting survivors.
Digitally enhanced violence is a distressing and pervasive issue that requires immediate attention. By raising awareness, implementing robust legislation, fostering a culture of respect, and promoting responsible use of technology, we can strive towards creating a safer and more equitable digital landscape for all. It is our collective responsibility to stand against gender-based violence in all its forms and work towards a future where technology is a force for positive change rather than a tool for harm.