Update, 27th February 2023: Over 100,000 people have now signed our petition to end online abuse!
Today (Tuesday, 17th January 2023) as the Online Safety Bill completed its final stages in the House of Commons, the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Glitch joined forces with Baroness Nicky Morgan, Alex Davies-Jones MP, Caroline Nokes MP and campaigner Sharon Gaffka to deliver a 90k strong petition to Downing Street, demanding that the new law adequately addresses violence against women and girls.
In December 2021, Glitch and the End Violence Against Women Coalition launched the petition in response to the Bill failing to protect women and girls – despite them being disproportionately affected by online abuse:
- Women are 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online (1)
- 1 in 5 women experience online harassment or abuse (2)
- Black women are 84% more likely to receive abusive or problematic tweets than white women (3)
- Online abuse against women and non binary people went up by 46% during the pandemic, and it was even higher for Black women and non binary people at 50% (4)
In its current format, the 260 page Bill fails to mention women or girls a single time and only includes provisions to individually filter out abuse from view, rather than removing it entirely.
We’re calling for an Online Safety Bill that is gendered and intersectional, with an understanding that Black women and others who are marginalised are at the sharp edge of this violence, and for it to introduce a violence against women and girls code of practice. This would provide clear guidelines for tech companies on how to prevent and respond to online VAWG in a systematic way, and hold them to account for prioritising women and girls’ safety – or face serious consequences.
New criminal offences won’t stem the tide of violence online
While the government recently announced new criminal offences in the Online Safety Bill, including for image-based sexual abuse, and added coercive control to the list of priority offences in the Bill, it still does not go anywhere near far enough to end the harassment and abuse women and girls face daily.
Criminal offences alone won’t tackle this issue – platforms must proactively prevent their services from being used to abuse and harass, and stop women and girls from becoming victims in the first place. A code of practice would provide guidance and best practice on preventing VAWG and making platforms safer by design – as well as ensuring platforms prioritise our safety over profit.
Previous iterations of the Bill contained provision for tackling content that is ‘legal but harmful’, such as misogynistic content that promotes behaviour that constitutes sexual violence and coercive control, along with the ideology that women are inferior to men. But this has now been scrapped from the Bill.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“While we welcome recent additions to the Bill that would tackle image-based sexual abuse and coercive control, we are concerned that the government thinks this constitutes an adequate response to online abuse of women and girls. The Bill must go much further and take a systematic approach to tackling this abuse. Because if they aren’t forced to, platforms won’t fix a system they’re profiting from.
We’re also concerned that new so-called ‘user empowerment’ tools place the burden on women to manage their own safety by filtering out harmful content. The responsibility lies with tech platforms to ensure their services create a safe experience for everyone. Women are already restricting and modifying our behaviour online due to the threat of abuse, much like we are forced to do in public spaces. This is not and will never be an acceptable response to this violence.
Over 90,000 people signed our petition to tell the government they need to put women and girls in the Online Safety Bill. We need the government now to listen and to act, and we need to see a violence against women and girls code of practice in this bill, to hold tech companies accountable for the abuse of women and girls online.”
Seyi Akiwowo, Founder and CEO of Glitch, said:
“The Online Safety Bill currently excludes holding tech companies accountable for women and girl’s safety on social media platforms. Women, especially Black women, are being silenced, harmed and pushed out of public life by online abuse in all its forms, including sexist harassment, cyberflashing, and rape threats. This government only has a short window to rectify this. We are supporting a simple amendment that will help ensure tech companies must systematically prevent misogynists like Andrew Tate wreaking havoc on our online spaces.”
- European Women’s Lobby (2017) Her Net Her Rights – Mapping the state of online violence against women and girls in Europe https://www.womenlobby.org/IMG/pdf/hernetherrights_resource_pack_2017_web_version.pdf
- 1 in 5 women experience online abuse. Amnesty 2017 Research https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/more-quarter-uk-women-experiencing-online-abuse-and-harassment-receive-threats
- Emily Dreyfuss, “Twitter Is Indeed Toxic for Women, Amnesty Report Says,” Wired, 12 October 2020 https://www.wired.com/story/amnesty-report-twitter-abuse-women/
- The Ripple Effect: COVID-19 and the Epidemic of Online Abuse by Glitch UK and End Violence Against Women Coalition https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Glitch-and-EVAW-The-Ripple-Effect-Online-abuse-during-COVID-19-Sept-2020.pdf
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, End Violence Against Women Coalition, 07960 744 502 firstname.lastname@example.org
About the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW)
We’re a group of feminist organisations and experts from across the UK, working to end violence against women and girls in all its forms. Made up of over 135 specialist women’s support services, researchers, activists, survivors and NGOs, we believe that violence against women is not inevitable and work to tear up the systems that enable it and build a fairer world in its place.
Glitch is an award-winning UK charity ending online abuse and championing digital citizenship. We have a particular focus on Black women and marginalised people. Through training, research, workshops and community building, we’re building an online world that is safer for all. We focus our effort on four key areas: Awareness, Advocacy, Action and Anchor.