Sunday 24 September 2017

Facebook launch new guide for women to prevent 'digital harassment'

RTÉ presenter Blathnaid Treacy, Julie de Bailliencourt, head of Safety Policy at Facebook, and Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, at the launch of ‘A Guide to Staying Safe on Facebook’ yesterday. Photo: Sasko Lazarov
RTÉ presenter Blathnaid Treacy, Julie de Bailliencourt, head of Safety Policy at Facebook, and Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, at the launch of ‘A Guide to Staying Safe on Facebook’ yesterday. Photo: Sasko Lazarov

Jane O'Faherty

A new guide to dealing with abuse on Facebook is the first result of the social media giant's partnership with an Irish women's safety NGO.

Facebook joined forces with Women's Aid to draft and launch a set of guidelines for users who may be victims of revenge porn or dating abuse.

Margaret Martin, director of Women's Aid, said the guide was the culmination of two years' work, which first began when her organisation contacted Facebook.

She also said Women's Aid had seen increased reports of dating abuse and 'revenge porn', but said it was unclear whether or not this meant that incidents were becoming more common.

"There may not be an increase in incidents, but it may be because more people are now comfortable talking about it."

Ms Martin added that many instances of digital abuse, such as harassment via messaging or 'revenge porn', was perpetrated by current or ex-partners of victims.

She also called for new laws that would sanction offenders who target their victims online. Such legislative change would see targeted awareness campaigns for younger web users, as well as a specific commissioner and office for digital offences, she added.

"We know the dangers of speeding and not wearing a seatbelt, because we have developed a lot of campaigns to raise awareness," she said. "But we now need to do the same for digital abuse, and alert people to the harm they could cause.

"If you upload intimate pictures and put them on a porn site, and put up the address and name of the woman on the website, it can be very dangerous for her wellbeing, mental health and physical safety."

'A Guide to Staying Safe on Facebook' was launched at the company's headquarters in Dublin yesterday, and aims to help women to better protect their privacy on the website.

The guide was the result of two years' of talks with over 150 women's safety organisations and experts across the world.

Julie de Bailliencourt, head of Safety Policy at Facebook in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the website's team was ready to help people suffering from digital abuse "24/7".

Ms de Bailliencourt also said the guide and further dialogue with experts would help to inform their policies going forward.

She also urged those suffering any form of bullying on Facebook to use the reporting controls available to them.

"We see people, for example, who set up accounts and use them for the sole purpose of harassment.

"If it is someone who is a victim of blackmail, we tell them they should also get support offline, such as a solicitor, police or NGOs," Ms de Bailliencourt said.

Irish Independent

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