In the Netflix documentary “the most hated man on the Internet”, a mother seeks justice for her daughter and other women whose intimate photos obtained through hacking are posted on a revenge porn website. The magnitude of apathy of the site owner and his upto 350,000 followers is astounding, their glee at lives destroyed beyond comprehension.
Cyber misogyny or “gendered hatred, harassment, and abusive behaviour targeted at women and girls via the Internet” (1) has been around for at least two and half decades now. In ‘Misogyny Online: A Short (and Brutish) History” (2018), Emma Jane traces gendered cyberhate to the late 1990s around the time of the Internet boom. (2) Today, three out of five girls online and 73% of women journalists have been subjected to cyber violence. (3) In Europe, black women are 84% more likely to receive abusive tweets than white women, just as religion, ethnicity, disability and sexuality remain important predictors on which women attract such hate. (4)
In one fell swoop it seems the Internet takes more than it gives. The opportunities it creates to expand enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression are swiftly taken away as its very nature of ubiquity, anonymity, accessibility allows perpetrators to thrive.
Canadian research concludes that legal reform is best placed to protect women, girls, and other groups vulnerable to abuse online. The Internet should be a space that “prioritizes freedom of expression by fostering a culture in which everyone can feel safe to participate, and where no one is pushed out of the conversation by threats, intimidation, or hateful and misogynist conduct”. (5)
Cyber misogyny cannot be eradicated by State agencies acting alone. A whole of society approach to all forms of gender-based violence, offline and online is crucial, with Internet intermediaries, social media organisations and civil society organisations doing their part. (6)
- Etherington, N. (2015). Cyber Misogyny. London, Ontario: Western University.
- Jane, E. A. (2017). Misogyny online : a short (and brutish) history (1st edition..) [Book]. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
- West Coast LEAF. (2014). #CyberMisogyny: Using and strengthening Canadian legal responses to gendered hate and harassment online. Vancouver.
- Mijatović, D. (n.d.). No space for violence against women and girls in the digital world. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/no-space-for-violence-against-women-and-girls-in-the-digital-world.
- Broadband Commission for Digital Development. (2015). The state of broadband: Broadband as a foundation for sustainable development. Retrieved from https://www.broadbandcommission.org/Documents/reports/bb-annualreport2015.pdf
- Four Special Rapporteurs. (2022). Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice. The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.