New training to block, mute and report online hate directed at women

New online training

will be rolled out by the eSafety Commissioner to help female employees and small business owners combat gendered online abuse as new data shows women are significantly more likely to report adult cyber abuse than men.

The free social media self-defence classes will kick off during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, teaching participants how to recognise, report and block abusive behaviour and activate in-built app features that filter out negative and distressing content.

Women made almost two-thirds (64.3%) of the 2,033 complaints to eSafety’s new Adult Cyber Abuse scheme between 23 January and 31 October 2022, with the main harms including reputational harm (407 reports), nasty comments and name calling (350 reports), harassment (279 reports), fake and impersonation accounts (136 reports), and unwanted contact (119 reports).

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said online abuse can have profound psychological consequences, especially when it’s part of a broader or sustained pattern of abuse that degrades who you are as a person.

“One impact we’re seeing in our research is how it’s stifling women’s career aspirations,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“Our research shows that one in three women surveyed have been abused online in a professional context; a rate that is even higher for younger women and those who have disability or identify as LGBTIQ+.

“These experiences, which are frequently misogynistic, compel some women to close their social media accounts and avoid leadership positions for fear of further abuse and harassment. When their voices are silenced, it is society’s loss and when people are hounded out of public forums because of hate, vitriol and violence, democracy suffers.

“We have a collective responsibility to call out misogyny and hate wherever we see it, while also supporting individuals to safely respond.”

The social media self-defence training was previously only offered through organisations but is now open to individuals who use, or would like to use, social media as part of their job or business, including volunteers.

“We want people of all backgrounds, genders and sexualities to do this training. As well as improving your social media safety skills, you’ll be part of a growing movement of online upstanders who know how to respectfully and safely call out abuse against others,” Ms Inman Grant said.

The upcoming sessions will take place on:

  • Thursday 24 November, 1:15pm – 2pm AEDT
  • Thursday 1 December, 3:15pm – 4pm AEDT
  • Thursday 8 December, 1:15pm – 2pm AEDT

“We hope this training will persuade more women to engage online, sharing ideas and pursuing their career aspirations and fulfilling their leadership potential. We know it won’t always be easy, but their example and courage will inspire other women and girls to follow their lead and join in public discussions,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“I know how it feels to be targeted by aggressive, faceless accounts when you present as a woman in a position of responsibility or leadership. They hone in on your appearance, your clothing or your parenting skills, and make offensive and sexualised comments that have nothing to do with your job but everything to do with trying to degrade and humiliate.

“Training like this is only part of the solution. As well as holding perpetrators to account, industry has an important role to play. We need online platforms to enforce their terms of service and quickly remove any content or account that breaches those terms.

“In cases where someone has reported serious cyber abuse to a platform and it has not responded, report it to esafety.gov.au. We have powers to have content removed if it is both intended to cause serious harm, and is menacing, harassing or offensive in all the circumstances.”

To sign up, or to stay up to date on future social media self-defence webinars, visit: esafety.gov.au/selfdefence

To report serious cyber abuse, visit: esafety.gov.au/report

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.