How to stay safe online

We all love social media. For most of us, it’s part of our daily lives. In this global pandemic, with our lives increasingly moving online it’s how we connect to our friends. It’s essential for us to speak up and lead change. 

However, it’s really important to recognise that the virtual world is a vast and unregulated space. Threats range from trolling to cyberbullying, stalking to threats in your DMs. So taking steps to protect your digital security is crucial. 

We understand that knowing how to protect yourself online can seem overwhelming. So we’ve compiled some helpful resources to get you started.

  • Safe Sisters is an online organisation that provides info on digital security and how to protect yourself online. Check out their guide, available in English, Burmese and Kiswahili.
  • Luchadoras is a feminist internet platform, which provides info on online safety. Check out their digital security toolkit. (In Spanish. Use Google Chrome to translate into French or English.)
  • Ciberseguras provides tips and spaces for campaigners to organise safely online. (In Spanish).
  • COVID-19 has forced us all to move more of our lives online. This increases the risk of harassment and exploitation. Check out Amnesty International’s How to stay safe online during the COVID-19 crisis for up-to-date advice. 

What is online abuse/harassment?

How to stay safe online

Online violence or abuse is when an individual or group creates a hostile environment with the goal of shaming, degrading, intimidating or silencing individuals. Online abuse not only violates an individual’s right to live free from violence and to participate online, but also undermines their democratic and public engagement.

What is online gender-based violence?

According to Luchadoras the most common forms of tech-related violence against women are:

  • Doxing – unauthorised control or access to personal information and manipulation
  • Monitoring, surveillance and cyberstalking
  • Verbal, sexual and physical threats
  • Dismissing and attacking credibility of content
  • Trolling – online hate speech and discriminatory language
  • Cyber-exploitation and ‘revenge-porn’ 
  • Slut-shaming and sexual objectification
  • Censorship and government imposed internet shutdowns
  • Dismissal from power-holders on the seriousness of the violence/ harassment

Organisations working towards online safety

Here is a list of organisations and networks from all over the world who are taking action against online gender-based harassment. 

GLOBAL ORGANISATIONS AccessNowDefending and extending the digital rights of users at risk around the world.
 Association for Progressive CommunicationWorking to build a world in which all people have easy, equal and affordable access to the creative potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve their lives and create more democratic and egalitarian societies.
 Amnesty InternationalThe global human rights organisation offers courses on digital security and online safety. 
 Feminist Principles of the InternetA series of statements that offer a gender and sexual rights lens on critical internet-related rights – available in several languages.
 InternewsInternews helps local communities use policy, technology, and data to access the information they need and make their voices heard.
 XYZXYZ is a space for practical tools to navigate digital security and privacy from a gender perspective, learn from each other’s activism, inspire one another and co-create.
AFRICAAfrican FeminismA pan-African feminists digital platform and collaborative writing project
 Digital Society of AfricaWorking to strengthen the resilience and ability of frontline activists; human rights defenders and other at-risk groups in the region to independently recognize and respond to digital threats and attacks. 
 Women of Uganda Network Promoting and supporting the use of ICTs by women and women’s organisations in Uganda, to help them effectively address national and local problems of sustainable development. 
ASIA7amlehA non-profit NGO that aims to empower Palestinian and Arab civil society in digital advocacy, by building professional capabilities, defending digital rights, and building effective media campaigns. (In Arabic)
 Gendering Surveillance by the Internet Democracy Project in IndiaThrough research, advocacy and debate, the Internet Democracy Project works for an Internet that supports freedom of expression, democracy and social justice, in India and beyond.
 Hamara InternetEmpower women and girls to thrive in digital space and learn to defend themselves in an increasingly Internet-connected world.
LATIN AMERICAHackBlossomA DIY guide to feminist cybersecurity. Fiercely dedicated to establishing a culture of safe, accessible, and enriching technology free from exploitation.
 LuchadorasHelping women, young people and girls live with joy and freedom both physical and digital spaces, aware of their strength and personal and collective potential.
 Minas ProgrammePromoting programming learning opportunities for girls and women, giving priority to those who are black or indigenous. Challenging the gender and racial stereotypes that influence our relationship with science, technology and computing.
 Take Back the TechA global, collaborative campaign project that highlights the problem of tech-related violence against women, together with research and solutions from different parts of the world. 
US/EUROPEEuropean Women’s LobbyBringing together the women’s movement in Europe to influence the general public and European Institutions in support of women’s human rights and equality.
 Fix the GlitchWorking towards ending online abuse and increasing digital citizenship. 
 HollabackWorking to end harassment in all its forms, offering training in harassment prevention and bystander intervention.
 Internet Society Dedicated to ensuring that the Internet stays open, transparent and defined by you.
 Pen AmericaAt the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression.

Please note: Plan International is not responsible for the content of other sites.

How is online abuse linked to offline gender-based violence?

Online abuse is linked to offline gender-based violence.

The threats, abuse and attacks women experience online are real, harmful and directly linked to the broader issue of gender-based violence. Online harassment is a continuation of the discriminatory attitudes that lead to street harassment, and the broader inequalities that girls face in their societies.

The same patterns of silencing, intimidation, shaming, threats and violence that girls and women face offline are replicated by perpetrators online. Technology exposes girls and women to a wide range of harassment in addition to the harassment that they face on the street.

Online harassment is an issue that cannot be escaped or simply ‘turned off’. That’s why it’s vital we take steps to protect ourselves online. But girls can’t end online harassment alone – they need allies. They need social media companies to take the issue of online abuse seriously – improve reporting mechanisms and hold perpetrators to account.