In an effort to combat the increasing incidents of online violence targeted at women and children and bridge digital inequalities, Tech Societal, a digital safety, rights, and society advocacy group, organized an online safety workshop on Tuesday. The workshop aimed to educate civil society organizations, government sexual assault referral centers, and other participants on digital safety measures.
During the event, Sylvia Musalagani, the Head of Safety Africa, Middle East, and Turkey at Meta, emphasized the importance of ensuring safety for women and children online. Musalagani highlighted the prevalence of non-consensual sharing of intimate images, which disproportionately affects women. Disturbing data also revealed that children and minors are exposed to risks such as sexual abuse, rape threats, and violence online.
Musalagani discussed Meta’s policies, tools, and technologies designed to promote safety for vulnerable groups online. She mentioned platforms like MyDigitalWorld and Parents Education Hub, which are utilized to raise awareness about safety and prevent online crimes. The Meta representative emphasized the company’s commitment to building communities while prioritizing safety. Musalagani mentioned that accounts sharing malicious content on Meta platforms are taken down, and Meta employs sophisticated detection technology, AI, and collaborations with law enforcement agencies and centers for missing children to combat online crimes.
During the workshop’s interactive session, Adedayo Thomas, the Executive Director of the National Film and Video Censors Board, expressed concerns about the low digital literacy regarding online safety in sub-Saharan Africa. Musalagani further highlighted Meta’s collaboration with child experts from the police, film censors board, and non-governmental organizations.
Participants also discussed the challenges related to the effective implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP) and the Child Rights Act (CRA). Rita Ilevbare, the coordinator of the Ekiti State Sexual Assault Referral Centre, urged advocates for women and children to test the provisions of these acts to bring about tangible results. However, Temitope Ogundipe, the Executive Director of Tech Societal, pointed out that the non-adoption of VAPP and CRA in some states hinders the success of the acts in addressing online violence.
The workshop shed light on the alarming vulnerability of children and adolescents to online risks in Nigeria, with a recent report from the Nigeria Communications Commission indicating that 90% of 4-16-year-olds in the country have been exposed to cyber risks. Additionally, women and girls in Nigeria disproportionately face online violence, including non-consensual image-based sexual abuse, rape threats, cyberstalking, and doxxing.
Discussions also touched upon the collaboration between social media platform owners and Nigerian law enforcement agencies regarding data sharing for the prosecution of arrested cybercriminals. The Meta representative mentioned that privacy laws prevent the sharing of user data with third parties, including law enforcement agencies, highlighting the need to strike a balance between freedom of expression, safety, and privacy on the internet.
The workshop, titled “Advancing Women and Children’s Safety Online in Nigeria: Image-based Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response,” was held in partnership with Meta and funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office through its Digital Access Programme in Nigeria.