Protecting women's safety online

8 Mar 2023
Christine Jardine

It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is, or the technological advance, women somehow still seem to be towards the back of the queue when it comes to thinking about how it affects us.

And not just women but all vulnerable groups. Those of us who fight for womens’ rights have, I believe, a responsibility to take with us on the journey. So many of those inequalities are the same.

That’s why on this year’s International Women’s Day, with its theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” I have tabled a bill in the Commons which would require social media companies to regularly report on the steps they are taking to address online abuse against women, girls and other minorities.

So many women pioneers who have helped pave the digital way and yet, at the same time, there is a real danger of women being excluded from these spaces altogether as the digital world becomes increasingly unsafe.

One in three British women have experienced some form of online abuse, according to women’s charity Refuge. And we should not forget the role intersectionality plays in this. Study after study has shown that Black women are disproportionately impacted by online abuse.

To make matters worse, social media companies are too often missing the mark when it comes to protecting women and girls. One recent study showed that Instagram failed to act on 90 percent of abuse sent to women.

Whether it’s a continuation of domestic abuse that’s already playing out offline, or an anonymous social media troll, too many women feel alone when it comes to facing online abuse. And that’s just not good enough.

Right now, the Online Safety Bill is making its way through Parliament. The Conservatives have sold the legislation as a once-in-a-generation chance to revolutionise how we keep people safe online. Yet despite this, they have completely failed to mention women and girls in the Bill. Not even once.

We deserve better. That’s why I’ve tabled my Bill and why Baroness Lynne Featherstone, my colleague in the House of Lords, has tabled an amendment to the Online Safety Bill to the same effect.

So today, on International Womens’ Day, it’s important to set out our case for an online world that is safe and make clear to those who abuse that space that we will not rest until we are successful. 




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