Facebook roundtable: creating an online safe space for women

pic: Reuters

The internet is a scary place. Scary mainly because it’s virtual persona allows anyone in the world to develop a pseudo personality and abuse their freedom in making others uncomfortable.

Although it hurts, there are undeniable moments where it aids, such as Social media. Connecting with family and friends from all corners of the world has restored personal connections within families and even established new networks. As Facebook being one of the leading social media sites in Africa, a report from Sprint Interactive indicates 37.7 million Africans  using the networking site in the past year, with 57,7% of the population having access to the app on smartphones .

With a growth rate of 165% estimated for the next year,  creating a safe space for women online where there is  zero tolerance for hate speech and cyber bullying have become Facebook’s priority. Earlier this month, Facebook kick started a Women’s Safety round table in Kenya in an effort to create a harassment free online environment.

Organisations within the continent were in full representation, including NGO’S academic institutions and human rights groups from Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Cameroon, Tanzania and Zambia (among 23 other nations).

More than simply boosting privacy for your account and reporting abusive content, Facebook representatives took heart to develop their global policies in creating a conducive environment to practice freedom of speech. Antigone Davis, Head of Global Safety for Facebook said “We have a community of nearly 1.6 billion people, and we work hard to develop our global policies that focus on safety, encouraging online respect, and honouring the cultural diversity of our platform.”

“It is absolutely critical that we spend time with our partners around the world to listen and learn how we can do better as we develop our policies and educate people about how they can stay safe,” she added.

The Facebook round table which kick started in Kenya and is set to be hosted in many regions around the world is in hope, set to decrease the impact of online harassment. According to a robust UN Report on cyber violence against women and girls published last year , globally, 73% of women have admitted to being abused online.  Emerging hubs of cyber crimes have been reported in Nigeria and Kenya, while South Africa has viral rape tapes on an escalating rise.

While Facebook is creating a global initiative that will hopefully bring a change in conversations in their online space, government interventions where laws criminalize such activity on the online space create a more robust approach on tackling online violence against women and girls.

For more information on Facebook’s initiative, visit their page here.