"I did nothing about it." Lessons on tech-related VAW in the Philippines

By Foundation for Media Alternatives Publisher: APCNews    

Since the highly celebrated sex video scandal of a local television and movie actress with a doctor in the Philippines made it to the headlines, a few more similar cases were reported in media. Just recently, another local celebrity couple figured in a sex video scandal. The hard drive of the computer containing the said video of the couple was allegedly stolen and uploaded on YouTube. Immediately, the sex video went viral, although it has already been taken out. While there were people who were supportive of the couple, there were also those who criticised and condemned them. To date, the two have already sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to help trace who uploaded the video.

It would seem that while the nation watched as the sex video scandal of 2009 unfolded, the lessons were not fully grasped. The same continues to happen.

In its efforts to help end violence against women, especially those that relate to technology-related violence, the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) continues to conduct activities for the promotion of equal rights and women empowerment, in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), women’s rights organisations, and some government agencies. Towards this end, FMA utilises various strategies that include engaging different organisations including government agencies, utilising various forms of social network, and conducting training workshops with various groups, in its efforts to raise people’s awareness on the issue and encourage concrete action.

On 3 August 2013, FMA trained 30 youth leaders from different communities in Metro Manila on ICT and VAW. The objective of the activity was to promote a deeper understanding of VAW in relation to ICTs and to make partners of the participants in the prevention and fight against VAW. After the activity, FMA hopes to encourage the participants to bring down the issue and train other people in their own communities. The activity was also a venue to share experiences, if any, on technology related violence. Although nobody shared any personal experience on this issue during the workshop, one participant related how he witnessed a neighbour suffer due to a video that circulated in their neighbourhood. One person allegedly took a video of a woman undressing, without her consent and circulated this in the neighbourhood. This was traumatic for the woman involved and she did not dare venture out of her house for fear of being ridiculed. Eventually, she and her family moved out of the neighbourhood due to the experience.

A mini-survey was conducted following the workshop activity regarding ICT usage and technology-related VAW. All participants admitted to having access to the internet and all of them have Facebook accounts. Other social media sites frequented include Google+ and Twitter. When asked if they have ever experienced technology-related violence, many said yes. The most common violation reported was the uploading of photo/video without their consent, followed by other people accessing their personal data, and thirdly, receiving abusive comments. The mini-survey also revealed that more than half of those who have experienced some form of violation did not do anything about it. About a quarter of the respondents said they reported the incident to authorities or at least sought counselling. This just shows that many still consider technology-related violence as trivial. They recognise the emotional harm and the invasion on their privacy, but do not consider them as grave enough to warrant the filing of a complaint or other legal action. As one of the participants said, when it comes to sex videos, “They can only watch but they cannot touch.”

The participants in the training workshop said they gained a better understanding of ICT and VAW after attending the activity. Many said they realised that they should be careful of what they post online – either they get compromised or they hurt others. The internet should be used properly so that they do not fall victim to online violence. Another learning they shared is respect for other people’s rights. Many also said they will share whatever they learned with other people.

A similar activity was held on 23 August 2013 before a class of college students taking up Community Development.

One way of addressing technology-related VAW is through secure online communications (SOC). In April 2013, Felix Lapuz of FMA attended a training conducted by APC in Prague on secure online communications. This training was repeated by Felix in a two-session workshop conducted with the staff of FMA, which resulted in FMA becoming more conscious of protecting its files and using available software for added protection. The following month, a one-day SOC training for end-users, or those who utilise ICT for personal or as part of their organisational work, was organised by FMA for some of its partners. Thirteen women representing eleven women’s rights organisations attended the said training on 19 July 2013, where they familiarised themselves with ways and techniques to avoid data loss, invasion of privacy and similar incidents, especially those relating to VAW. A longer training of trainers session is in the pipeline whereby FMA will be training representatives of women’s organisations to become SOC trainers themselves. One of the objectives of the training is to encourage the organisations to promulgate policies within their own organisations regarding online security.

Other efforts of FMA to inform and educate people about technology-related violence include radio guesting appearances and taking part in consultation meetings with both government and non-government agencies.

More information:

End violence: Women’s rights and safety online .

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