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WHAT IS
ONLINE ABUSE

PEN America defines online abuse as the pervasive or severe targeting of an individual or group online through harmful behaviour.  

 

When it's directed at women and gender-diverse people, it is considered technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV). And it happens at alarming rates.

FACT: An abusive tweet is sent to a woman on Twitter every 30 seconds, according to Amnesty International.

Defined by LEAF as the "use of technology to engage in manipulation, control, and sexual violence against women and gender-diverse people, and the proliferation of all forms of misogyny and gender-based violence online", TFGBV is inherently connected to larger systems of oppression and discrimination which affect women and gender-diverse people disproportionately, particularly "those who hold intersecting marginalized identities, such as 2SLGBTQQIA, Black, Indigenous, and racialized women; women with disabilities; and women who are socioeconomically disadvantaged". 

Discrimination, prejudice, and unchecked fear aimed specifically at Black women and gender-diverse people has a name: misogynoir. (Misogynoir: where racism and sexism meet, The Guardian, October 2015)

Scale of Severity / Cause for Safety Concerns

Hover to view examples below. 

Content Warning: Examples used here may be upsetting

Insult

"You suck."

"You're a hack."

Vulgarity

"You're a fucking idiot."

Sexist
& Racist Attacks

"Another angry bitch."

Implicit Threats

"People like you should be shot."

Explicit Threats

 

 

"I will kill you."

What online abuse looks like

Insults & Harsh Criticism


Comments that mock your physical appearance or belittle your intelligence and abilities.




Profanity & Vulgarity


Comments containing swearwords and/or sexual or demeaning references to body parts.




Sexist, Racist, & Homophobic Attacks


Comments that draw on demeaning stereotypes or that disparage real or perceived aspects of your identity, like sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, and country of origin.




Gaslighting


Comments intended to negate and/or make you question your judgments and realities.




Implied Threats / Intimidation


Comments intended to shut you up by suggesting physical harm.




Explicit Threats


Comments that express precise and clear intention to harm you.




Doxxing


Broadcasting private information about you (like your home address or social insurance number) that puts you at risk.




Slanderous or Libelous Comments (forms of defamation)


False statements that damage your personal and/or professional reputation.




Rallying Others


Comments that encourage others to join the attack against you.





 

Other forms of TFGBV:

  • posting or threatening to post sexually explicit images of you without your consent

  • posting video and audio recordings of you without your consent

  • attacking your website, phone, security system, other devices

  • impersonating you or your account(s) with fake accounts

  • deepfaking: digitally altering someone's face or body to make them appear to be someone else in images and/or videos, typically used maliciously or to spread false information

Governments are becoming increasingly aware of TFGBV. Many are working with civil society and industry to combat it. Advocates around the world are advancing all manner of recommendations to ensure an internet that is free from gender-based violence.

Informed Opinions joins other organizations in calling for urgent government action and accountability on the part of social media platforms to ensure an internet that is free from gender-based violence.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

 Achieving an internet that is free from gender-based violence will require dismantling the systems of oppression and discrimination that support TFGBV. The onus should not be upon individuals to protect ourselves. However, until those with institutional power step up, here is what you can do to guard yourself from online abuse.