Facebook’s new hub aims to help ‘keep women safe from online abuse’

1 Jul 2021

Image: © makistock/Stock.adobe.com

Facebook’s hub of resources has been developed with a panel of experts, including Ireland’s Caitriona Gleeson

Facebook has launched a Women’s Safety Hub and will work with an external panel of expert advisers to address issues of women being targeted online.

The aim is to centralise resources for women leaders, journalists and those who have received abuse online. Resources range from training for politicians using Instagram for civic engagement, to blocking keywords and comment control for those in the public eye.

It will also include resources on community media standards alongside procedures for reporting and removing inappropriate content.

Facebook said that while continuing to develop rules of use for its platforms and building engineering tools to target content that is unsafe, it is also aiming to give users control to prevent actions that are specifically targeting women in the online sphere.

“We recognise that some online and offline behaviours disproportionately impact women,” said Cindy Southworth, head of women’s safety at Facebook.

“While we regularly consult with external experts to update our policies, tools and technology to keep women safe from online abuse, exploitation and harassment, we believe there’s more we can do.”

The new external panel is comprised of 12 non-profit leaders, academics and activists who will provide input into policies, products and programmes to better support women who use Facebook’s range of services.

Caitriona Gleeson, who spent two decades working to prevent gender-based violence before becoming CEO of Women for Election, is Ireland’s representative in the group.

“The risk of on- and offline abuse is a growing consideration for many women stepping forward for public office,” Gleeson said. “We want to help address the issue of online abuse and significantly reduce the barriers that women face in the world of politics.

“We’re pleased to be working with Facebook’s safety team and fellow advisers to provide input into transformative policies, products and programmes which will help change the online experience for women in politics.”

Other members of the panel include Mexico’s Margarita Guillé Tamayo, who is a social activist, founder and executive coordinator of the Interamerican Network of Women Shelters. She is an international adviser on gender-based violence for governments and non-profits.

It also features Ji-Yeon Lee, who is an associate professor of counselling psychology at South Korea’s Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. She specialises in cyber-sexual violence.

Facebook has been taking steps recently to tackle abuse on its platforms. It introduced a new feature earlier this year to let users control who can comment on a Facebook post, and launched a feature on Instagram to filter abusive and unwanted messages.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news