The European Commission has launched the #DigitalRespect4Her campaign, raising awareness of and advocating against abuse of women online.
An Inter-Parliamentary Union report published in October 2018 found that 46.9 per cent of female MPs across 45 European nations reported receiving online threats of murder, rape and violence during their time in parliament. Another report on violence against women, conducted by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur, found that 28 per cent of women who had experienced violent abuse online said the experience had driven them to reduce their online presence; and that online violence can cause psychological, physical, sexual and economic damage. The #DigitalRespect4Her campaign aims to address the quantifiable harms caused by violent online abuse and promote good practice in addressing violent online behaviour.
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, who are both spearheading the #DigitalRespect4Her campaign, said in a joint statement: “Dignity, respect and solidarity apply to all of us, also online. Yet, sadly, reality is far from this, especially for women and girls, who are 27 times more likely to be harassed online than men are. It is time to step up the response to online violence. We cannot stay idle and encourage those that cowardly target women and girls online. We have to act and call it out. Women should feel free and comfortable to express their opinions online and to actively participate in public life without feeling intimated.”
As part of the #DigitalRespect4Her campaign, the Commission is encouraging women – particularly those in the public eye – to come forward and share their stories of online abuse, with the aim of raising public awareness of the daily harassment faced by women using the internet. It has also stated its intention to direct further funding to projects working to tackle online violence throughout 2019.
The joint statement by Commissioners Jourová and Gabriel continued: “We call on everyone: EU citizens, industry, civil society and policy-makers to work together to ensure respect for women. Online violence spreads through social media, messaging apps, online forums, video-sharing sites, and videogames. Abusing someone online creates a permanent digital record that can be further disseminated and difficult to erase. We need to fight online violence together to create an inclusive and respectful online culture. Everyone has a voice; and should be able to use it freely and without fear.”