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How Technology is Helping in the Fight Against Online Abuse


Sergey Zolkin: UnSplash

This article will explore the ways in which technology is helping in the fight against online abuse. Take a look…

With 4.6 billion users worldwide, it’s fair to say many of us has incorporated the internet into many aspects of our lives. This includes work, dating, shopping, and staying connected to those we else may not be able to.

Whilst the internet proves to be a crucial part of daily lives, it also opens us up to the possibilities of falling victim to online abuse. There has been a sharp increase in this, particularly in what is known as ‘revenge porn’. Recent laws brought in mean perpetrators can now face up to 2 years in prison for revenge porn offences.

Punishment for such crimes has become easier due to the introduction of certain online tools that aim to wheedle out indecent images from being shared in the first instance. Advanced technology is also helping with other forms of online abuse. Keep reading for more details…

What are the Common Forms of Online Abuse?

Online abuse can take many forms including:

  • Revenge Porn: this term refers to the sharing of private photographs or videos without permission. In its simplest form, a person might post nude photographs of a former partner on social media sites as ‘revenge’ for that person terminating the relationship.
  • Trolling: the sending of unpleasant or offensive messages. This can include leaving comments on a person’s social media posts.
  • Social posts: posting nasty or offensive comments about a person on social media platforms.

How is Technology Helping Reduce Online Abuse?

Florian Krumm: Unsplash

When it comes to fighting online abuse, technology is our most effective weapon. Some forms of advanced technology include:

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is slowly creeping into every corner of our lives, and can be an incredibly effective tool in the fight against online abuse. A large number of cases of abuse occur against children, and AI can help to analyse the language used during online chats.

An example of how this works could be, for instance, a child may be chatting to somebody online who claims to be the same age as they are. However, AI tools can spot language anomalies which suggest that the person is, in fact, an adult.

AI can also assist in identifying and catching revenge porn perpetrators. As we’ve mentioned earlier, this is the sharing of intimate pictures and videos, and can cause extreme distress to the victims.  Popular social media platform, Facebook, is now using AI or machine learning to recognise and identify ‘near nude images or videos’ and to remove these automatically, rather than waiting for them to be reported by the victim.

This is an important move forward as, quite often, these images would be online for some time before the victim even became aware of them. In some cases, the victim may have chosen not to report the images for fear of retaliation.

In addition, Facebook has piloted further actions, including victim resources which allow individuals to securely send an image to Facebook which they fear may be shared. Facebook will then ‘red flag’ the image to ensure that it does not ever appear on the platform.

Racial Abuse Detection

The last few years have seen an increase in online abuse targeting sports stars, including Premier League footballer, Marcus Rashford.

This abuse, which often includes racist commentary, is something which individuals, authorities and organisations have been working hard to stamp out. Companies like Pinsent Masons are on the case.

The company is currently redeveloping a digital tool which allows businesses and sports clubs to conduct online searches to identify abusive content and to file an urgent takedown request quickly and easily.

In 2021, we saw the first case of a perpetrator being convicted and imprisoned for online abuse against a sports star. Simon Silwood was jailed for eight weeks for posting racist abuse against footballer, Romaine Sawyers. The prison term was welcomed both by Romaine Sawyer and his team, West Bromwich Albion.

Harassment Tools

Brooke Cagle:

Another group of people targeted by online abuse is that of female journalists. Many of these professionals report a significant amount of online harassment and abuse, often relating to a story that they have published.

Tackling this is the Harassment Manager tool which allows female journalists and other high profile professionals to document and manage the abuse they receive on social media platforms. Through this, they can hide abusive messages on their feeds. The tool also lets individuals quickly block perpetrators as well as reporting them.

Online Abuse is Still Abuse…

Advances in technology mean that, in 2022, online abusers are running out of places to hide. As governments begin to finally take online abuse seriously, perpetrators face much more harsh penalties, which is a huge step forward. Particularly as online abuse can often escalate to real life abuse during which people sadly lose their lives.

As well as making the most of technology to stamp out online abuse, one of the most effective tools we have is the fact that we’re now talking about this distressing crime.

By joining in the conversation and encouraging more people to report online abuse, the better chance we have of making it clear that this abuse will no longer be tolerated by victims or the authorities.

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