• Women’s online safety is taking centre stage for all social media platforms in India

    Women’s online safety is taking centre stage for all social media platforms. In India, from tackling trolling, suicide and depressive comments through posts, the challenges are many. The number of Internet users in India is expected to reach 450-465 million by June, up 4-8% from 432 million in December 2016, a report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India and market research firm IMRB International shows. At least a third of these will be women. These numbers would have anyone thinking about the kind of safety and privacy issues that are likely to arise.

    Shaili Chopra

    Internet, as much as it is a tool of freedom of speech and expression, it also poses several barriers to women. From online stalking to photoshopping their images, to porn and nudity and other challenges are real issues for women today. Additionally there is the concern that in India, women don’t get priority over men when it comes to access, data plans and more. Our existing value systems are such, that women are often not given access to the internet ‘because it may be unsafe’ for them.

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    Where do some of the answers lie for such challenges? Are they going to be provided online or offline? Could regulation be the solution? How much regulation is too much or too little? Could it at all help?

    Inclusive spaces are integral for a balanced growth of the internet. Progress of women online, access to opportunities, skills and business, economic empowerment and tools can all combine to make the internet a meaningful place for women. For example, there are over 2 million Small and Medium Businesses on Facebook of which a third beyond to women. How can these numbers multiply further?

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    There is need for informed communities that can foster safety for women by way of self regulation over government regulation. The issue of government or authoritative intervention belies the very foundation of the world wide web and social media.

    I believe using economic empowerment as a tool for women can prove to be a catalyst in having more women online. What do women want from the internet?

    - Safe space for opinion and thoughts
    - For relationships
    - For business intent, brand building
    - For networks to leverage and grow
    - For people, groups and communities that can help them whether teachers helping teachers or mental health forums.

    30% of the total social media users are women and that is a good ratio of ambassadors to project the way women are utilising the online agency. If the same is built upon by discussing, counselling and conversing issues that are relevant to women in the online environment, we might lay the base for a safer environment.

    -Safety is a subset of confidence
    -If women get to see empowerment as an outcome of being online, social media can become a game changer for them
    -SheThePeople.TV through its many programs has noted that women come over to events to learn and network.
    -Our research and regular efforts with women show they are keen to find connect and ways by which their objectives of business or individual brand building can grow.

    Women’s online safety is agnostic to locations across urban and rural areas. It’s the value systems that differ. Nonetheless, the process of building and preserving safe spaces is something that will take a lot of time since it’s going to need offline intervention and a shift in mindsets. Efforts and campaigns to make people aware of privacy settings and dealing with abuse online would remain the primary method of knowledge sharing that proves to be prevention. What might help, in the meanwhile, is to grow the 30 per cent number by encouraging more and more dialogue and discussion with women who are engaged in business or some form of economic activity, giving them reasons to look out for positives of the internet.

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