Social Media as a New Platform for Violence

By GIANINA SCHWANECKE, DER SPIEGEL (Opinion)

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Social media sites like Facebook allow ease of communication and flow of idea, but also present new threats to women.

The delegates in the Disarmament and Security Committee (DISEC) have been debating the threat social media plays in relation to the spread of radical ideas. The weaponization of social media has been attributed to movements such as the Arab Springs Uprising of 2011.

The age of the internet has ushered in a new era of social activism, lending a platform to the most marginalized of communities. For many it is a tool of empowerment, but for women, the internet is just as dangerous as the real world, exposing them to threats of violence and abuse.

While those in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) may be discussing ways in which to address violence against women, calling for community initiatives and victim support facilities, few have called attention to online violence.

Online violence is a very real threat and one which is all too common in today’s media saturated environment. It includes instances such as, online rape threats, online harassment, cyber-stalking and blackmail.

The Global Fund for Women has attempted to call attention to the issue after a study found that less than half of all reported cases are investigated.

The study found that women between 18-30 years of age, those most active in online communities, were most often the target of online violence. Women in political roles are especially vulnerable to such attacks.

Where many women report instances of online violence, they are often met with dismissal and many police units lack the infrastructure and technical skills to address the matter.

Sadly, many women respond simply by taking themselves offline — sometimes through choice or after pressure from family members.

The internet, especially social media sites, has become yet another battleground for women’s rights and political freedoms. Online violence has just as damaging an impact as real violence. It speaks to the same evils which inspire attacks on women and grows a culture of disrespect for women.

In the digital age, countries must recognize and begin strategizing ways of addressing this emerging threat.

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