Only 40 years ago, sexual harassment and domestic violence were viewed as normal. Today we see the same pattern of subordination in cyberspace. Cyber-harassment is seen as trivial.
With one in every three women a victim, the World Health Organization considers violence against women “a global health problem of epidemic proportion”, ranging from domestic abuse to street harassment, sex trafficking, rape and femicide. Social media has fuelled this pandemic.
Since more and more people can easily access the internet and social media, cyber violence against women and girls is an increasing concern. Despite the lack of data, EU estimates show that one in ten women have experienced some form of cyber violence since the age of 15.
Cyber stalking, for example, refers to a person repeatedly sending unwanted e-mails or text messages to their victims. Cyber harassment relates to offending a person online with unwanted sexually explicit messages, threats of violence or hate speech. One of the most disturbing forms of online violence is non-consensual pornography, which former partners often commit. This means posting or distributing sexually graphic images or videos online without a person´s permission.
While roaming around the blue and white world of Facebook, many forget the basic idea of using the social platform in a healthy way as many use it as a tool of harassing others, especially girls.
Most girls are still unaware that the digital space is being invaded with sexual harassment, violent messages and threats, and these are crimes.
In a recent study report, Cyber Crime Awareness Foundation (CCABD) revealed that among the victims of cybercrimes in the country, 51.13 percent are women while 48.87 percent are men.
According to a report, women from 18 to 30 years of age are mostly become victim of such crimes, and the percentage is 73.71, while 0.52 percent are below the age of 18, and 12.77 percent are of 30 to 45 years and 3 percent are above 45.
Women are mostly vulnerable to fake social accounts and account hacking as on average 14.29 percent of women become victims of propaganda through fake or hacked accounts. 9.77 percent women receive threatening messaging in social network sites.
Farzana Tasnim, an MSS student of Dhaka University, said many girls, like her, have to face cyber harassment on Facebook, especially in the ‘Other Messages’ section’. An series of example are given below
“Most of the harassing messages come from fake IDs, and we cannot even track the culprits without any legal help,” she said adding, “Though primarily we tend to block those IDs or report them, it cannot be a long term solution.”
Esratul Jahan, a student of Dhaka University, told UNB, there is nothing new in harassing women on Facebook. “While women are facing violence and harassment everywhere on roads and at home, they have to also face such unexpected behavior at the digital platform.”
Receiving replies in comments having slang words, getting links of pornography in inbox — these are happening every now and then in the Facebook, she added.
“Such harassments definitely create stress on mind. Many girls do feel that they should stop using Facebook. But that cannot be a solution. Instead, they should take legal actions against those who are harassing them,” said Esrat adding that if such crimes are not resisted, then the criminals get encouraged further to commit more heinous crimes against women.
Jannatun Naima from Rampura, shared her experience with the UNB correspondent saying that one day she received a message in Facebook from someone containing abusive language, and the reason behind sending such messages was not to accept that person’s friend request.
“I was so shocked seeing such messages. I’ve the full freedom to decide who’ll be on my friend list and whose request I would accept,” she added.
Naima expressed such kind messages create a mental pressure on personal life as well.
According to the report published by CCABD, 30 percent of the victims have no idea about how to take legal actions against the crime while 25 percent did not take any action thinking that they will not get any result after lodging complaints.
While the study found that many victims remain silent and prefer not to take any legal step, 44 percent victims believe that immediate and exemplary punishment can reduce cybercrimes.
Social media that is supposed to contribute to the maintenance of societies where democracy and multiplicity prevail could be an effective means for structuring, directing and internalizing the given ideology. Although the internet or social media are supposed to create a public sphere emancipating individuals, the fact that the social media networks are under control and surveillance refute the thesis that those virtual media are really open forums. Besides, the content incorporating violence does not only produce negative effects on the users but also makes them somewhat dysfunctional. Nevertheless, unconscious or uncontrolled use of the power of social media may lead to the spread of hate speech, infringement of personal rights, psychological attacks, symbolic violence, broadcasting private visions without the consent of the interested parties, deceiving people with fake accounts, spreading negative discourses intending to abuse, in addition to mobbing, harassment and insult along with the circulation of malevolent views and information on the Internet. Although it was introduced at the beginning of 2000’s in Turkey and is still in its infancy, media literacy seems to be given prominence gradually in printed media through the views of experts and specialists. It might be inferred that there is an attempt to raise consciousness toward the potential threat that unconscious and uncontrolled use of social media may bring about. Thus, regarding the news coverage pertaining to violence and social media, the respective issues seem to be held quite objectively to draw the attention of the public to the potential threats that the abuse of social networks may cause as well as to raise consciousness for media literacy instead of merely vilifying social media. In this respect, preventive and protective measures against the offensive content as well as reasonable and proper use of social media are highlighted.