Fixing Glitch: time to take a public health approach to tackling Online Abuse

King’s College London

In a new WORLD: we got this episode, Seyi Akiwowo discusses understanding and awareness of the intersectional impact of online abuse.

Glitch
A workshop with Glitch

In the latest episode of WORLD: we got this, campaigner, activist and CEO Seyi Akiwowo highlights the intersectional impact of online abuse, and calls for more understanding of the factors that drive people to trolling and abuse online.

With online abuse levels having risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, conversations about the safety of online spaces are becoming more prevalent in social and political discourse. Seyi points out that whilst there is an increased demand within the corporate, political and social sectors to provide training on this issue, there are still many barriers faced that lead to a lack of sufficient support and services for victims. Not only are young people disproportionately affected, she also draws attention to the lack of discussion around intersectionality within online abuse. Seyi highlights that articles around abuse faced by women and minority groups are often phrased using terminology that erases gender or race from the conversation, which both prevents targeted action and further alienates victims. This is exacerbated by the institutional lack of knowledge and understanding of how to support intersectional victims.

You don’t have the privilege of not knowing whether your race or gender played a part of it… You still have to prove you’re worthy of justice.– Seyi Akiwowo

Seyi suggests that taking a public health approach to understanding the drivers behind people committing abuse would enable more effective preventative measures, lightening burdens faced both by victims and by organisations such as the NHS that address the impact that abuse is having. She points out that a wider educational conversation around our online responsibilities, as well as what social ills drive cyber abuse, are more effective than legislation alone for understanding and “fixing the glitch”. With mental health struggles behind a significant aspect of online trolling, taking this approach could provide more effective preventative action to avoid abuse.

Having faced her own struggle for justice after being the victim of “mob-style harassment” and online abuse, Seyi was prompted to start a campaign called ‘Fix the Glitch’, which has grown into a wide-reaching charity since its creation in 2017. Focusing on three pillars of Awareness, Advocacy and Action, Glitch works to make online spaces safe by raising awareness of the impact of online abuse through an intersectional lens. The organisation calls for multilevel solutions such as a tech regulatory body, examination of content moderation and international political collaboration, as well as campaigning for legislation and education into social drivers of online abuse.

Listen to further insights into online abuse action in the podcast “A public health approach to online abuse with Seyi Akiwowo” via Apple or Spotify.

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