How to make the Internet safe for women?

A few days ago, an internal report from Facebook’s parent company, Meta, reached Reuters. The report said that due to online abuse, a large number of women are distancing themselves from Facebook. The report didn’t give the exact figure, but Facebook expressed concern that pulling such a large number of women off Facebook means its already deteriorating gender ratio will worsen. The gender ratio of Facebook in India is 70:30 ie 70% male and only 30% female. Women are few and far between.

The reason given in the report is even more worrying. The report said that women are concerned about their safety and privacy. She doesn’t feel safe about it. They fear online abuse, trolling, harassment.

According to Plan International’s 2020 report, 60% of girls and women worldwide are victims of online abuse. One in five girls in the world are kept away from social media due to online abuse, male abuse, lewd comments and indecent behaviour.

In 2020, number one on this list was Facebook, where 39 percent of girls reported abuse. 23% of women on Instagram, 14% on WhatsApp, 10% on Snapchat and 9% on Twitter reported abuse.

The Internet and social media have become such an integral part of our lives today that it is hard to imagine personal and professional life without them. Keeping your distance from social media because of abuse is not an option. In this situation, the question arises of how to make this space safer for women.

Your Story Hindi spoke to some well-known women in the country and the world on this topic, who are very active on social media and are trying to advance women to their level. The panel included Pooja Bangar, Founder, SheWorks, Akanksha Saxena, Editor, Deutsche Welle Asia and Devleena Kolishaw, Community Manager, Your Story.

You can watch the entire conversation in the video above.

One thing that came out of this conversation was that the experience of online abuse is the same for almost every woman. Whether you are the founder of a successful startup, the editor of an international media organization or the community manager of Your Story. Despite being successful professionally and frankly, every woman has to go through such bad experiences in one way or another. All the women on the panel said they don’t know a woman or a woman in their personal lives who hasn’t experienced such abuse.

SheWorks founder Pooja Bangar said that as soon as you create your account on Instagram or Facebook, there is a flood of personal messages. People don’t even have this filter to know who you can send personal messages to and who you can’t. Share an experience you had with her on LinkedIn. A person who works at a large company in the professional social networking space like LinkedIn joined under the pretense of wanting gender diversity at their company. That’s why SheWorks wants to work together. After the first professional conversation, his attitude changed and he started sending personal messages.

Obviously, Pooja blocked the unprofessional talker in the professional space, but these experiences force women to be more alert than necessary. At all times, your antenna is up and your filters are on. Being under this stress all the time will also harm our mental and physical health.

Do we need a women-only social media platform to make the internet safe for women? In response to this question, Akanksha Saxena, editor of Deutsche Welle Asia, says that she is part of many such groups on social media, which are only for women. There is an all-women group in Pakistan, which speaks about women-related issues with great courage and impeccability. Akanksha says we need both types of space. There are many things I would feel safer doing only among women. But in the professional space, both men and women need to be together.

Devlina Kolishaw also agrees with Akanksha and says that the point is if there is a boys club, which is only for men, then why can’t there be a women only club. And it must be because only a woman can connect and feel the thoughts and feelings of another woman.

The gist of this entire conversation, which lasted about 40 minutes, was that women do not need to walk away from abuse. They must be more careful, alert, ensure their safety and be more powerful in the personal and professional space to be able to face and respond forcefully to any experience or incident instead of being scared and holding back.

You can hear that entire conversation in the video above.

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