A new research report, “Cyber Violence Against Women In India”, has said that online abuse is a serious issue in India, claiming to affect more than half of the country's women using online platforms. It regrets, however, “Women and other targets lack support and understanding to respond effectively.” The report is based on a survey of 500 women and separate interviews with 10 of them.
The report's findings say, “Thirty-six per cent of respondents who had experienced harassment online took no action at all”, adding, “Twenty-eight per cent reported that they had intentionally reduced their online presence after suffering online abuse.”
The report further says, some respondents “found it hard to think of online harassment on par with violence, even though 30 per cent of those who had experienced it found it 'extremely upsetting' and 15 per cent reported that it lead to mental health issues like depression, stress, and insomnia.”
The research report comments, “Though avid users of social media, respondents lose trust in popular platforms because of harassment against them or someone they know. Over half want stricter community standards for content, and the ability to escalate reports of abuse.”
According to the report, “Mechanisms to report abuse on social media platforms fall short. Victims are more likely to block abuse than to report it”, adding, “Yet blocking is ineffective against organized, sustained campaigns using multiple accounts.”
The report says, “Assailants readily exploit mechanisms to report abuse, alleging their victims have violated platform guidelines to disable their accounts, adding, “Thirty percent of survey respondents said they were not aware of laws to protect them from online harassment.”
It points out, “Only a third of respondents had reported harassment to law enforcement; among them, 38 percent characterized the response as 'not at all helpful'.”
This research, which is part of Freedom House‘s Hyperlinkers project, seeks to amplify the voices of marginalized communities in global digital rights discussions. Freedom House is an independent, non-partisan watchdog organisation, dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.\A part of this research has also been published in the Freedom on the Net 2016 India report by Freedom House.
The research says, the report has been published at a time when, in India, as elsewhere in the world, “online harassment of women and marginalized genders and sexualities has become rampant, in contrast to Internet’s initial premise of equal opportunity and neutrality.”
“What we have today is a flawed internet that reflects the offline world we live in, where women and marginalized communities are abused, harassed, threatened, stalked and violated on a daily basis”, it points out, adding, “This research report aims to analyse the unique threats that women and marginalized sections in India face online and how Indian laws affect these problems.”
Commenting on the research methodology, it says, “The report uses both qualitative and quantitative research, including analysis of media reports involving online harassment of high profile women.” It bases its findings on “a survey of 500 social media users and interviews with ten of the respondents.”
The majority of survey respondents are women under 35, living in major cities, and educated to college level or above.
Download report HERE