Covid-19 has made ending online abuse even more urgent

Seyi Akiwowo started Glitch! to hold tech platforms to account when it comes to online abuse – a mission that is more important than ever

December 4, 2020


When the Covid-19 pandemic forced countries into lockdown and more of our lives moved online, alarm bells rang for Seyi Akiwowo, founder and executive director of UK charity Glitch!. “Increased internet usage means increased risk of being abused online,” she says.

Glitch!’s mission is to end online abuse, particularly towards women and non-binary people, who are more likely to be targeted. In September 2020, the charity published the results of a survey it ran in partnership with the End Violence Against Women Coalition that found nearly half of respondents had experienced online abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram; 38 per cent reported experiencing online abuse in the months prior to the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting an increase during lockdown.

Examples of the types of abuse experienced included trolling, cyberbullying, gender-based slurs and harassment, and threats of violence. Akiwowo points out that domestic violence also increased in lockdown, which can include online elements such as digital stalking, hacking and the non-consensual sharing of private images – “all of those are offshoots of domestic violence”.

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