Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web (WWW), thinks that the normal progress towards a more gender-equal world is slowed down, if not thwarted altogether, by incessant online harassment of girls and women across the globe.
Tim, who invented the WWW in 1989, recently explained how “seriously” perturbed he is about the deep-rooted impact of the online gender abuse.
Recently, in an open letter marking the 31st anniversary of the WWW, he elucidated:
“I am seriously concerned that online harms facing women and girls — especially those of color, from LGBTQ+ communities and other minority groups — threaten that progress.”
“This should concern us all. And at times like now, when coronavirus is closing offices and schools, the web becomes the only way we can continue to work, teach our children and get vital health information to keep ourselves safe.”
In saying so, he warned that the repercussions of online bullying and abusive behavior were not just limited to the digital world. Such continual harassment has often lead to women quitting their jobs, young girls skipping school, and relationships turning sour. In other words, the women-kind are being mercilessly silenced at a time, when millions across the globe are fighting for gender equality.
In concluding how “the web is not working for women and girls,” he urged the multinationals and governments to work towards combating this serious issue.
It is to be noted here that in 2019, Tim Berners-Lee had inaugurated the “Contract for the Web”, an action plan specifically launched to save online platforms from forces wanting to fabricate a “digital dystopia.”
According to him, if one has to terminate the existing pattern of misogyny, and embed a sense of gender equality into the minds of people – online or otherwise – the idea has to be rooted, by design, deep into the products and services, rather than going ahead with the old practices.
“A world where so many women and girls would be deprived of such basics is completely unacceptable,” he said.
It might shock many but as per a survey conducted by the Berners-Lee-backed Web Foundation, more than half of the total number of young women using the internet have experienced violence online.
These harassments and abuse have come across as threatening messages, sexual harassment, and private messages sent sans consent. And as per 80 percent of the women taking the survey, the matter is getting worse by the day.
In fact, a 2017 study found that almost half of female internet users aged between 11 and 18 have faced online harassment in some form.
Another poll conducted in the United Kingdom among 1,000 boys and girls, suggested that about 48% of females had experienced cyber-harassment on social media platforms. The harassment came in a multitude of ways including receiving distressing images, having their images being shared sans any consent, or getting cyberbullied through regular contact without consent.
According to recent research published by YouGov in the UK, one in every four people – irrespective of their genders – have experienced some sort of cyber-harassment or the other. In fact, those aged between 18 and 24 are more likely to be harassed online, with around 55% of the participants claiming to have been a victim of the same. 33% of the victims were in the 25-34 age group.