When one thinks about online safety for women, the primary stakeholders in the conversation obviously involve social networks and search engines which give individuals a platform to express their views in the first place. Facebook, Twitter and Google are also places where a huge spew of hate and aggression is hurled at women — from critiquing the clothes of a cricketer’s wife to body shaming sportswomen, actresses, and just about any woman out there — the trolls will not stop at anything. So how are social media networks stepping up and giving women the tools to empower themselves?

At the first session of the Online Safety Summit, The Social Safety Network, spokesperson from Facebook stressed that it is a mission-driven company which has numerous policies and community standards in place to combat bullying and any kind of harassment.

“The internet is the invisible force driving advancement for women in India. It opens up economic opportunities, helps with education and gives women a voice,” says Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director, Facebook -India, South & Central Asia – ‎Facebook. “We want to help women in India capitalize on this opportunity and help keep them safe while doing so. We have policies which prohibit bullying, impersonation, harassment and hate speech; products which are designed to help prevent abuse and help those in need; and we work with a variety of non-profits to deliver safety educations programs across the country.  We believe that by working together, through organizations like SheThePeople, we can have a greater impact on helping women in India stay safe online.”

Programmes To Spread Awareness

“Every piece of content on Facebook is reportable and we have robust mechanisms and local stakeholders in place to help that happen. Our biggest challenge is that not many people know about our safety regulations, which is why we conduct extensive outreach programmes to spread the awareness.”

Sunita Mohanty of Google agreed with Das and stated that education and empowerment is key to the company. And of course, global policies need to be localised (or as she says, glocalised) so that in context, it is faster to address a possible report on the search engine.

Catching Them Young

“When it comes to Internet, we at Google, believe in starting young. We have safety workshops for students in schools. We recently conducted a programme called Internet Saathi, which reached out to 10 million rural women in 100,000 villages. So, we are working with the government​ and Supreme Court to ensure safety for children on the internet which obviously percolates to women,” said Mohanty.

The word trolling is perhaps even more amplified on Twitter, where behind the garb of anonymity, one might be more likely to get away with verbally abusing someone. Mahima Kaul from Twitter said that the platform is open and public so that anyone can seek out information based on their interests and needless to say, a conversation always has two sides.

“This can lead to abuse and harassment but it is important to keep the debate civil, irrespective of how opposing two views may be. We are all about enabling the victim and we also constantly strive to come up with policies which doesn’t necessarily sanitise the platform. Because of this, we don’t take down any content which doesn’t violate Twitter rules.”

Facebook, Twitter and Google aspire to keep listening to their users and keep safety parameters in place. Ankhi Das concluded by saying that women in general need to speak more and fight for their rights

“There needs to be changes in the discourse. Women should be able to say whatever they want and we, as organisations, will continue our commitment to support them by making the internet a safer space to interact and engage.”

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