Technology safety is a term coined by our sister project, Safety Net US at the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence. The phrase encompasses the concept that everyone should have the right to use technology without harm or harassment. To achieve this, technology safety also includes education on how technology can be used safely and securely.
Technology safety education isn’t limited to just victims experiencing technology-facilitated abuse, but the service providers who serve them (from front-line workers to police to magistrates), technology companies, and policy makers. They must also be aware of how technology can be misused, how victims can use technology safely, and how abusers of technology misuse should be held accountable.
Intersection with Violence Against Women
Although anyone can misuse technology to stalk and harass another person, Safety Net Australia focuses this intersection with violence against women. Victims of domestic violence, family violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and other forms of violence against women experience technology-facilitated abuse in a more severe degree. Technology is used as a tool to exert violence, whether that is in the form of control, monitoring and surveillance, harassment, or even taking tech away from the victim and removing their ability to access help and safety.
Technology is part of lives – from the moment we wake up to when we fall asleep. This immediate access to technology offers more opportunities to abusers – giving them another tool to stalk and control victims. This is why smartphones are one of the most misused technologies by abusers, because most people have their phones with them at all times.
The internet and the increase of user generated online content has also created even more opportunities for offenders to commit violence against women, including image-based sexual assault (more commonly known as revenge porn), gender-based online harassment, sexual exploitation, and to traffic women.
Safety and Privacy
For survivors of technology-facilitated abuse, it is critical that they are given knowledge and resources to increase their privacy and security when using technology. Survivors should not have to give up their technology simply because someone else is misusing it to harm. They need to become more tech-savvy and take advantage of the privacy and security settings on their devices. For this reason, technology developers need to develop technology in a way that offers user more privacy and security tools.
However, although survivors can become more tech savvy to increase their own safety and privacy, abusers need to be held accountable for their actions. Harassing and abusing someone, whether it is committed via technology, is not appropriate. Committing violence against women is not acceptable, regardless of whether it is rape or distributing someone’s nude images online to harm or harass them. Technology platforms should be built in a way to safeguard against misuse, including policies that forbid inappropriate behaviour and offer reporting tools. Laws and police should respond appropriately to technology-facilitated harm by believing victims, investigating crimes, and holding offenders accountable.
Safety Net Australia
Technology safety is the concept that everyone should have the right to use technology without harm or harassment. The Safety Net Australia project at WESNET supports this goal through providing a wide range of resources and materials for survivors of technology-facilitated abuse. We also provide trainings and technical advice to front-line workers and other service providers who work with survivors. Safety Net Australia also works closely with and advises technology companies, policy makers, and other stakeholders to ensure that victims of technology-facilitated abuse are given tools and resources and don’t have to give up their access to technology, that abusers are held accountable for their actions, and to support behavioural and culture change that prevents technology-facilitated abuse and violence against women.