Introduction

Due to the advancement of technology, we are rapidly transforming how we communicate, interact, and shape society. This transformation is particularly critical for vulnerable groups, such as women of colour and members of the LGBTQ2+ community. It is these groups who have historically suffered the most from stigma and violence in the context of structural inequality and discrimination, and technology has amplified this suffering.

To coincide with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence in 2018, GATE brought together five panelists to discuss online violence, technically known as “technology-facilitated violence, abuse and harassment.” These panelists included: Nasma Ahmed, Director of the Digital Justice Lab; Irene Poetranto, Senior Researcher at The Citizen Lab; Kate Robertson, Associate at Markson Law; Takara Small, Host and Producer of The Globe and Mail podcast, “I’ll Go First” and Founder of VentureKids Canada; and Molly Thomas, a reporter for CTV News, YesTV and CPAC.

This panel not only explored the impact of technology-facilitated violence, abuse and harassment, but also why our legal and political structures are failing to effectively address it–and what we, as individuals and as a society, can do about it. Some key insights and terminology from this panel, are summarized below.

Key terms to know:

  • ICT–Information and Communication Technology
  • Sextortion–private images or video that are used to blackmail a victim
  • Doxing–making private information public (like home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.)
  • Trolling–targeting a victim with a barrage of messages to enact violence against them
  • Revenge porn–the non-consensual release of private video or images
  • IoT–the Internet of Things (this includes anything that can be connected to the Internet, such as smart refrigerators, home-security systems, wearable devices, etc.)

Because technology is so ubiquitous, and thanks to the borderless nature of the Internet, abusers are using digital tools and platforms to harass, intimidate, and surveil.

Due to the fact that technology is so ubiquitous, and thanks to the borderless nature of the Internet, abusers are increasingly using digital tools and platforms to harass, intimidate, and surveil their victims. It is also common for abusers to use multiple technologies in combination with non-technological tactics to harass or perpetrate violence against their victims. In domestic abuse cases for example, abusers often exert “coercive control,” meaning they demand access to the emails, texts, messages, etc. of their victims. In some cases, they use IoT devices like smart home-security systems to physically control their victims’ movements. Unfortunately, it has become m