Technology Facilitated Gender-Based Violence — why should we care?

You are currently viewing Technology Facilitated Gender-Based Violence — why should we care?

I came across this topic when listening to this TED Talk by Ashley Judd. With advancements in technology, come benefits but also more sinister disadvantages. Unfortunately, there has been a spike in online gender-based violence, and the technical term for that is Technology Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV).

According to ABS, about 11% of Australians aged 15 years and over (2.1 million) experienced personal fraud in 2020-21. This was higher than the rate in 2014-15 (8.5%). But why is this an equity issue?

As people’s lives become increasingly digitally mediated, gender-based violence has likewise shifted to the digital realm. Perpetrators of Technology Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) have adopted the tools of technology to broaden the scope of violence they enact against their victims. Whether it be intimate partner violence, gender-based harassment, hate campaigns, or misinformation campaigns, technology is now being used by abusers to further these harms. Digital technologies have simplified well-known abusive behaviors, such as stalking and child luring by providing convenient tools for abusers to access their targets. Additionally, they have opened the door to new forms of abuse that require technology, such as the non-consensual creation of sexual images of women through artificial intelligence (i.e., sexual deepfake videos or virtual reality pornography). Systemic sexism is also being reinforced online. In recent years, communities have developed on messaging fora, group messaging apps, and social media websites, where people actively share and amplify sexist, hateful, and violent ideas about women, girls, and transgender people. Unfortunately, as with the increase in COVID-19-related domestic violence, there has also been an uptick in TFGBV in 2020 as people are required to engage more often online.

Forms of TFGBV:

Harassment

This encompasses a variety of unwanted digital communication. It can involve a brief incident, such as a single targeted racist or sexist comment. Reports show that women with multiple intersectional marginalities face significantly higher rates of online harassment and attacks that target their gender as well as their other identity factors.

Networked Harassment

This includes coordinated and organized attacks against particular individuals or issues, such as by groups that target feminists or people who post about racial equality issues online. According to their study, networked harassment against women has been conducted through a loose network of individuals from what Caplan and Marwick call the “manosphere,” which is a collection of men’s rights activists (MRAs), anti-feminists, pickup artists, altright groups, incels (involuntary celibate men), and other groups that hold anti-women and racist views or who seek to reinforce patriarchal gender norms. These groups encourage online harassment against specific people and groups and share discriminatory views on message boards such as Reddit, 4chan and 8chan. For example, groups of misogynistic men have been known to monitor websites that post non-consensually distributed intimate images in order to collectively stalk and harass the women featured in the images.

Image-Based Sexual Abuse

This includes the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, voyeurism/creepshots, sexploitation, sextortion, the documentation or broadcasting of sexual violence, and non-consensually created synthetic sexual media, including sexual deepfakes. 

Public Disclosure of Private Information

Defamation and Misrepresentation

Stalking and Monitoring

Stalking can be done through the use of technology, such as monitoring a person’s social media posts, tracking their location, or installing commercial stalkerware (and now more popularly, Apple airtags) on their devices. It typically involves repeated unwanted monitoring, communication, or threatening behaviour that can cause a person to feel fear.

Doxing

One of the more dangerous forms of the publication of private information is doxing. Doxing is the publication of personal information such as a person’s legal name, address, phone number, contact information, driver’s licence, workplace, and private documents or correspondence without their consent

Impersonation, threats, and hate speech

Death threats and rape threats have become common and even normalized in online dialogue. Women journalists, academics, politicians, and human rights defenders face rape threats and death threats online, particularly if they are speaking or writing about equality issues or typically male-dominated topics.

THE IMPACT

The harms caused by TFGBV are felt both at the individual and the systemic level. Individual people can have their privacy invaded and their autonomy threatened, experience psychological harm, feel fearful, limit their expression and face reputational, professional, and economic consequences. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Psychological and Emotional Harms
  • Privacy
  • Safety
  • Silencing
  • Economic Harm.

Education is the first step in preventing TFGBV. There are many resources, tools, and support groups that help with empowering people to stay safer online.

Leave a Reply