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Tech-facilitated gender-based violence is an international, human rights concern, finds new research

San José, Costa Rica, June 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A report released today by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) at the 12th RightsCon summit in Costa Rica reveals that almost 25% of people who experience online harm feel they are targeted due to their gender identity. It says the most prevalent, frequent and severe experiences of online harm occur among transgender and gender–diverse people.

The report, Supporting Safer Digital Spaces, analyzes data from the first statistically meaningful survey of women's and LGBTQ+ individuals' online experiences focused on the Global South. It covers 18,000 respondents of all genders in 18 countries.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly 60% of all respondents experienced some form of online harm "" almost 25% of them felt they were targeted because of their gender identity.
  • Almost one in three respondents (30%) who have experienced some form of online harm and who identified as transgender or gender–diverse reported severe impacts to their mental health, including their desire to live.
  • Almost 30% of women reported negative impacts to their mental health and 23% felt that they could no longer engage freely online after experiencing online harms.

Online harms, which are forms of technology–facilitated violence (TFV), can range from impersonation to doxing, from physical threats to the non–consensual distribution of intimate images and deliberate personal attacks on communications channels. Even after serious incidents of TFV, many people do not seek help "" the survey found that 40% of participants did not reach out to anyone after experiencing online harm.

"Due to increased sexism, homophobia, transphobia and violent threats online, many women and LGBTQ+ people are having to choose between facing the abuse that comes with being a woman or LGBTQ+ online or being silent. This abusive behaviour leads to real harms in both the digital and physical world and there are few supports available to people targeted by TFV," said CIGI Senior Fellow Suzie Dunn, lead author of the report, which details 87 recommendations to address technology–facilitated violence through educational campaigns, legal and policy resources, tools for support and non–governmental resources.

"Right to life and liberty and right to freedom of opinion and expression are basic human rights," said Anja Kovacs, an independent researcher and consultant on internet and data governance from a feminist perspective, who advised CIGI. "TFV steals these rights from women, LGBTQ+ people and equity–seeking groups. Governments, technology companies, civil society organizations, researchers, academics and think tanks must work together to eradicate TFV."

The 18 countries surveyed by global market research firm Ipsos, with funding from Canada's International Research Development Centre, are Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

To read the report and access individual country results from the survey, please visit: cigionline.org/safer–internet.

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