IGF 2017 WS #152
Online freedom for all = No unfreedom for women How do we solve this equation?

Short Title
Online freedom for all = No unfreedom for women
Proposer's Name: Ms. Ingrid Brudvig

Proposer's Organization: World Wide Web Foundation

Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Nandini Chami

Co-Proposer's Organization: IT for Change


Ms, Ingrid, BRUDVIG, Civil Society, World Wide Web Foundation - Women’s Rights Online Network Ms, Nandini ,CHAMI, Civil Society, IT for Change

Additional Speakers

Joana Varon, Coding Rights

Karuna Nain, Facebook



The speakers will make trigger presentations of 3-4 minutes each, which will help in catalysing small group discussions on the following three questions:

- What should be the framework and remit of the law and robust mechanisms for law enforcement?
- How should intermediary responsibility get operationalised?
- What can civil society organisations do to create online cultures that are gender-inclusive and safe?

Amalia Toledo, Htaike Htaike Aung and Joana Varon will draw upon their expertise of working on freedom from violence issues in Colombia, Myanmar and Brazil, respectively, to highlight key issues/concerns around building online cultures that are gender-inclusive and safe. Nandini Chami will discuss emerging insights with respect to defining the framework and remit of the law on online gender-based violence and fixing gaps in law enforcement, drawing upon IT for Change’s research in this area in India. Karuna Nain will give Facebook’s perspective on the role of platforms in addressing online safety for women and girls.

  • Welcome and Introductions: 10 minutes
  • Trigger Presentations (Amalia Toledo, Joana Varon, Htaike Htaike Aung, Nandini Chami, Karuna Nain​): 25 minutes
  • Discussion and Q&A: 45 minutes
  • Concluding Remarks/Wrap Up: 10 minutes
Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


- Session Title: Online freedom for all = No unfreedom for women How do we solve this equation?         

- Date:  December 19, 2017               

- Time: 4.40pm - 6.10pm                

- Session Organizer:  World Wide Web Foundation and IT For Change              

- Chair/Moderator:  Nanjira Sambuli, Web Foundation             

- Rapporteur/Notetaker: Nandini Chami, IT for Change; Nanjira Sambuli and Ingrid Brudvig, Web Foundation            

- List of Speakers and their institutional affiliations:                

  • Nandini Chami, IT for Change

  • Amalia Toledo, Fundacion Karisma

  • Htaike Htaike Aung, Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation

  • Joana Varon, Coding Rights

  • Karuna Nain, Facebook


- Key Issues raised (1 sentence per issue):           

  • State of legal frameworks addressing online gender based violence (GBV), perspectives from India, Colombia and Brazil.

  • The socio-cultural norms informing how women use the web were also shared - perspectives from Myanmar, India, Brazil and Colombia.

  • Perspectives on how platforms are addressing intermediary responsibility to address online GBV were shared, including new features - by Facebook.

  • Along with the audience, ideas on how to further streamline efforts to combat online GBV were addressed, with special mention of the upcoming report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, serving as a benchmark assessment of approaches to tackling VAW, online and offline.


- Please describe the Discussions that took place during the workshop session (3 paragraphs):   

Nandini Chami described the gaps in legal and intermediary response mechanisms and legal frameworks in addressing online harassment and GBV through digital platforms, in the Indian context. The language of legal provisions does not adequately address the complexities of current digital violations such as: non-consensual sharing of intimate pictures -- acts that are termed as revenge porn (e.g. booked under obscenity provisions of the law in India, instead of privacy provisions); sexist speech that may not be sexually explicit; and gender based hate speech/misogynistic abuse and direct criminal intimidation. Broad/excessive language in legal frameworks can also violate free expression and speech. Nandini Chami also raised that the waiting time for executive/judicial orders regarding taking down content perpetuating GBV has a negative impact on women. The issue of online GBV should be framed as a harm that violates women’s dignity and right to privacy. There is also a need for greater social and psychosocial support. Victims of online violence should have a first step of recourse with intermediaries but such recourse should not end up as privatised censorship that arbitrarily curtails free speech.

Htaike Htaike Aung, Amalia Toledo and Joana Varon described the specific manifestations of online gender based violence in Myanmar, Colombia and Brazil, and key gaps/lacunae in existing legal-institutional responses to the problem, including highlighting the (overall) complexity of dealing with online GBV.

Karuna Nain, Global Lead on Safety Policy Programs at Facebook, talked about Facebook’s five point approach to safety (policies, tools, help / resources, partners and feedback) and spoke about the new safety features and response mechanisms to GBV complaints that have been introduced, including photo matching technologies to thwart the sharing of non consensual sharing of intimate images (NCII aka revenge porn), harassment prevention features to prevent unwanted contact and ignore unwanted messages where blocking the harasser may aggravate the situation. Karuna Nain described that Facebook works in partnership with women’s organisations to better understand local gender issues e.g. around sextortion or domestic violence. For example in India, Facebook works with the Centre for Social Research on “social surfing” where they hold trainings in colleges and initiate conversation on women’s voices online. Amalia Toledo of Fundacion Karisma responded that, in fact, consultation with women’s groups has not happened in Colombia or Latin America and this is an urgent gap that needs to be addressed by Facebook. Karuna Nain clarified that Facebook met with 190 organizations across the world in roundtables in 2016 and has been continuing conversations. Facebook also recently held a safety summit in Mexico to bring together organizations working in the region on child safety, women's safety and suicide prevention.

Joana Varon of Coding Rights highlighted that there continues to be a lack of clarity and lack of transparency of Facebook’s due process when complaints are filed. Karuna Nain talked about how reporting works on Facebook and efforts by Facebook to provide feedback to users after they report content via the support Inbox (facebook.com/support) and attempts to provide more localized support through this (for instance if it is a case of NCII, connecting the reporter with local organizations that can provide support).

- Please describe any Participant suggestions regarding the way forward/ potential next steps /key takeaways (3 paragraphs):     


  • There is a need for government and platforms to recognise actions as violence, while also recognising that there are different degrees and manifestations of violence (including sexist speech that is not sexually explicit).

  • When framing legal responses to online gender based violence, it is important to ensure that patriarchal and protectionist biases in existing laws are not reinforced.

  • Freedom of expression and speech need to be contextualised into platforms’ Terms of Service, taking culture and gender into consideration in policy through an intersectional approach.

  • There needs to be due process in addressing complaints - people need to have the right to repeal content takedowns and censorship, with platforms also producing transparency reports reporting on e.g. how many cases of online gender based violence are reported and what was the resulting action.

  • Need more spaces to engage with platforms on their solutions and for local actors to provide cultural contexts to tailor solutions.

  • Platforms such as Facebook need to engage more with local women’s rights groups at a national level to contextualise responses culturally and with a gender lens.

  • Civil society groups working on this topic at national levels would benefit from a unified voice to present recommendations to internet platforms/intermediaries - a network could achieve this.  It was recommended that the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women could be a convening power.

  • There was also a call for more women to claim political space so feminist concerns are addressed in political agendas.

Gender Reporting

- Estimate the overall number of the participants present at the session: 25

- Estimate the overall number of women present at the session: 20

- To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment?

Gender equality and women’s empowerment were reflected upon in the context of how online GBV generates a chilling effect that keeps women from furthering their political, civic, social and economic empowerment via the Internet.