A blight on the online community and something that seems to be reaching a peak at the moment. Far too often we see people being driven off of social media and being threatened with physical abuse. It’s often bad enough for people to fear for their safety. Attacks like these are particularly bad against woman and that’s why the UN has recently released a report on violence against woman online.
But should we be focusing on specific gender when tackling online violence?
My biggest concern is that this will limit prevention of cyber bullying. I am not disputing that online violence against woman is more aggressive at all. We know it is, but that’s not the point here.
The UN report (You can see the full report here and the highlights here) paints a fairly bleak picture. An estimated 73 per cent of women have experienced some form of online violence with woman between 18 and 24 being most at risk of stalking, sexual harassment and physical threats. It kind of scares a person to think how unfriendly and violent the online world is. The report did get me thinking: What about other groups? I’ve experienced a lot of cyber bullying as a male, including physical threats of extreme violence and in rather graphic detail. It’s a fairly common, yet still terrifying aspect of being online.
Some searching on the topic revealed a fairly interesting set of reports that seem to show that violence online is fairly equal in occurrence between men and woman. Take a read there as it really is interesting.
The two most interesting graphs however were the following:
One can see that both sides get roughly equal amounts of cyber bullying while woman get the worst sexual threats online. I struggled to find reports like this in regards to cyber bullying of the LGBT community, but I am fairly certain the resulting reports would show similar (If not more) levels of harassment.
So what am I actually trying to say?
Cyber bullying is a problem and it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with. But I don’t think it’s healthy to deal with it by focusing on one particular group alone. Yes, it’s a great that someone is doing something, but it almost feels like they are trying to treat symptoms instead of the main problem. I believe a broader approach needs to be taken where cyber bullying of any kind is stopped and dealt with. Online harassment should be able to be reported by any person, regardless of gender, race or lifestyle choice and have the right to be taken as serious as any other person reporting the same abuse.
By focusing on the harassment of one group all that’s happening is that other forms of harassment will grow worse. Perpetrators feel they are “safe” and will not be dealt with as aggressively as those who harass woman. While offenders against woman will hopefully now start being dealt with more swiftly thanks to recommendations by the UN, what will become of offenders against other groups? Will they be dealt with as swiftly as the UN would like those who are harassing woman online? I surely hope so because cyber bullying knows no racial, gender or life choice boundries. They go for what they see as the weakest point of any group and will stop at nothing to try and get their targets to be submissive and remove themselves from the online world.
Online harrasment of woman may be the worst out there. I agree myself that it is. But any attempt to stop cyber bullying needs to be stopped on an all inclusive level if it hopes to be successful at combating this kind of violence.