When will Google, Twitter join the StopNCII Platform?
According to the Web Foundation, 52% of young women and girls have experienced abuse online.
89, that is the number of Cases received through The Launchpad Tanzania — LP Digital’s OGBV Helpline from October 2020- December 2021. 59 of which are Non Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images (NCII) or what is also know as revenge pornography (although one really has to be careful using that as it implies both parties consented to recording the content to be dubbed as pornography). Online gender based violence has a been a major challenge in Tanzania, particularly cases of NCII, Targeted Harassment and Trolling that leads to defamation, Sextortion, Impersonation and Deep Fakes.
Efforts towards Women’s digital inclusion and addressing the digital gender divide will only be impactful in the region and beyond if we address the problem of online gender based violence as a limiting factor and barrier it actually is.
There is a crucial need to continue pushing for deliberate measures through a multi-stakeholder and industry based approach that would merge efforts from both the public and private sectors and digital platforms in pushing for women’s digital inclusion and dismantle the culture of working in silos.
Reflecting on one of the recommended themes — REPORTING- from The Web Foundation’s Tech Policy Design Lab on Online Gender-Based Violence and Abuse ( a multi- stakeholder consultations held between March 2020 and February 2021 with Facebook/ Instagram, Twitter, Google/YouTube, and TikTok, civil society organisations, government representatives), it was agreed that there quite a lot to implement to improve the reporting systems for OGBV that exist in these platforms.
It is because of these poor reporting processes and feedback to victims of OGBV that LP Digital had to be proactive in it’s approaches by deploying and establishing a response mechanism to OGBV which is the 24/7 OGBV Whatsapp Helpline and reporting tool that we use to escalate reported cases to authorities and respective safety departments of digital platforms. Through our work for the past year, we have realised that not only is there a major need for digital platforms to invest in local language content moderators, but they also need to take a few steps back from relying heavily on algorithms that clearly lets most of the online abuse go undetected if it’s not a popular keyword in the algorithm.
A couple of workshops on online safety for women held in partnership with META(then FACEBOOK)over the past months also made us realise more efforts are needed by the digital platforms to also amplify the available existing safety policies, features and resources they currently have which remain unknown to the majority of digital female users, which made us question how accessible are they? are they in a language women understand? are they user friendly?
Reporting processes remain a challenge to most OGBV victims, as our own experience from escalating reported cases show that we need better ways to manage and track reports.
It because of this that my colleagues and I at LP Digital were very relieved, jubilant and excited when we got onboarded to the StopNCII. org initiative operated by the Revenge Porn Helpline which is part of SWGfL, an international charity that believes that everyone should benefit from technology, free from harm. We saw and still see this as a much needed intervention towards OGBV, specifically on NCII cases.
The platform uses an innovative preventative tool/technology to help people from becoming victims by preventing sharing of specific intimate images on digital platforms.
However, it is only Instagram and Facebook who are listed as ‘Industy Partners’ to receive this hash ( a hash is what is created once a victim of NCII logs a case with StopNCII.Org that notifies the platforms to block the images) which begs us to ask, where are the rest of the industry stakeholders? Where is Google? Where is Twitter?
We recognise and acknowledge that these tech companies are already taking some steps to address OGBV on their platforms i.e Twitter’s recent safety features rollout. including the ‘prohibition of use of personal unauthorised images’ however it is the industry based approach that we need to push for and the engagement, allegiance and partnership to platforms like StopNCII.org that will really allow the ecosystem to really make progress in addressing OGBV particularly when it comes to legal action and justice for victims on their platforms.
Also not having these companies on board puts OGBV victims and survivors at further risk of being tortured pyschologically because there is no guarantee that their images won’t be uploaded or found through their platforms. For instance, our own work through LP Digital with victims and survivors of OGBV shows that they experienced the most toxicity on Twitter as a platform when their images leaked.
We therefore call upon Google, Twitter, TikTok and other platforms to join the StopNCII.org initiative to enable an industry based approach intervention to this growing challenge that continues to be a barrier towards safe online spaces and women’s digital inclusion.
We need to be cognisant of the brutal fact that as much as we support women to get online, and encourage and capacitate them to be active users of these digital platforms, we need to equally ensure their safety to stay and engage online as digital rights are human rights.
Written by Carol Ndosi
Project Lead — LP Digital (The Launchpad Tanzania/Women At Web)