The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you so much for joining us on a Friday after a long week of workshop setting. Could I ask everyone to move up a few seats forward. We are a small group, and it might be easier to have a session if we are all sitting together.
So today, we're here where we want to look at like one of the critical concerns that has been bothering so many of us over the years. But the fact that sexism and misogyny are becoming increasingly common in online interactions, whether it is private inn counters or simple interactions online or on the Internet. We see there is speech and forms of expression that spreads, incited or justifies hatred based on sex. There is hate speech against women and girls. This is also entangled with race, class, religion, sexual orientation and other markers.
So now we recognize when we came together to do this discussion that there is a continuum of cyber violence and sexist hate speech is a part of that. We want to focus on this issue.
We also understand that what makes this particularly complicated, in the online spaces when the line between space and action blurs, and representation blurs, what is sex hate speech and other violence that you need a different response. That becomes tough.
This is part of the issue that we want to dwell upon. In this discussion, we're looking at broadly, three broad questions. Though I would like to underscore the point that we recognize first, this is about culture, and we have to change the cultural context so that sexism and misogyny are not seen as acceptable. There is questions, one is legal response, whether the law adjusts this adequately and if not what needs to change.
The second is the Internet intermediary policies and what can change and what can be done better? The third is the issue that has come up right now on which there is no real agreement on what is the role of automated tools in addressing this issue in online environments. How do we see the role of automated tools and algorithms in this context?
With me, for the discussion we have four panelists with us. On my right is Mariana. And we begin with her. Mariana is the Director of InternetLab, I think tab based in Brazil, working on the introduction of human rights and technology. She's a lawyer and holds a Ph.D. in the society of law and has been working on issues around gender, technology, information policies. Now we'll hear from Mariana and her take on the issue.
>> MARIANA VALENTE: Can I ask you to please put up ‑‑ yes, there it is.
Good morning, everyone. First of all, I would really like to thank you for being here. I'm aware that Friday morning is not the best of times after a full IGF. So what I'm going to speak about a little bit here is, of course, hate speech against women in Brazil, but from the perspective of the research that we at InternetLab are developing with IT for Change from India. It is research we started in August, last two years and comprise many phases.
We already started a part of it. There are results that are really interesting to share. And some of what I am going to speak refers to what we have been doing there together
I guess the first thing I think it is important to say here is that naming has a role when we are speaking about violence, right? Over the years when working with online violence against women, we have come up with a taxonomy of forms of violence. Different organizations around the world are doing that. Civil Society organization. Organizations, state organizations. And that has been important to differentiate forms of violence that are happening online and that has a role, not only for science and discussion, but it has become clear over the years that in a symbolic way, it has a role but it also has a role in making something visible and bringing the problem forth and helping victims recognize a problem. But also in unleashing policy responses. Right?
I guess I'm saying that because when we started this project about hate speech against women, one of the issues was exactly that. What is hate speech against women? Why do we need to speak about hate speech against women? What is the problem with not having a clear definition or knowing the boundaries of that, or being able to convey something when we speak of hate speech, right?
Then when we speak of hate speech in our countries, of course, we always have to refer to that in a particular cultural and political context. And because we're doing research in India and Brazil, of course, we're referring to our own context. Then I'm speaking of mine, I'm speaking of a country in which there is a huge conservative backlash at this moment, something happening in many different countries, I guess. It is a conservative backlash after a rise of feminism in the public sphere that was very well noticed.
But at the same time, this is not just a cultural backlash, let's say. It is also very clearly a political backlash. When I say backlash with hate speech or misogyny in general, I'm saying because we elected a President last year who is vocally a misogynist. He has been publicly a misogynist. One of the things that actually happened right before he was elected was a conflict he had with a congresswoman, Maria Rosario. She was discussing a bill around rape. In the middle of the discussion, he said to her that she did not have to worry about being raped because she was not beautiful enough to be raped. So she was not even worthy of being raped. That is the person that was elected in Brazil last year. So of course, that leads to a huge normalization of hate speech. I'm not just saying that this person is responsible, of course. I think the very election of this person reflects something. Of course, when you have people ruling that normalize discourse, it becomes normal discourse every time more.
And we really want to look into that normalization. That is part of what we want to do in this project. We feel that hate speech against women is something that is becoming more and more accepted in some societies. It is really a question why that is, how do you counter that? Of course there is a cultural aspect to this. What we are looking to is the legal framework and how the existence or not the legal framework of hate speech around women relates to that culture. So that is what we're doing right now.
What we started doing is looking into how does the law respond to the issue of hate speech against women, in particular? In Brazil, what we are seeing is that there is no particular framework, although of course, some instruments in law can be used to legally combat, right? For women to be able to prosecute against a particular instance of hate speech. But there is no clear definition of what hate speech is, and there is no clear definition, even in political, in public discussion.
And we have a hypothesis for that. We really think that hate is in a native category in Brazil. This is something that started appearing in one legal decision or another from the year 2000 on. That was not used in the legal framework. The hypothesis we have is that this is being brought into the legal discussion because of the Internet and because of platforms and how they refer to the problem. But when you look at the public discussion before, of course, we were discussing sexism, misogyny, and other forms of hate. Racism, LGBT phobia but not using the word "hate."
Since it is not a legal category or in doctrine, it is harder to know what the boundaries are. When we look at the Court rulings, which is what we are starting to do now to say, okay, if we don't have a proper framework, if this is not clear in law, how do cases that we could refer as hate speech against women arrive in the Courts and how are they dealt with? And so we started to do our research in our national databases, and that is what we're doing right now. Eloise is there, collaborating with the research.
It is hard to find the cases because of the lack of legal framework, and absence of particular words that you can look up for the rulings. Right? Which words do you use to find decisions that refer to women prosecuting because of having been met with hate. We tried different things. We tried broader keywords. Research keywords. Then we got many, many, many decisions and we're manually looking into them to see what appears. And also when we use the most specific keywords, for example, misogyny or hate, one of the things that we realize is that just one or two decisions appear in each court. These are really recent decisions, which are very clearly already in a dialogue with the public discussion going on. But when you look for other words, for example, like "feminism" which we thought it was something that could bring a discussion because of the way that people frame the problems, we found something very curious.
The cases in which the word "feminism" appeared were cases actually of men bringing lawsuits against women for defamation because they had been called sexists. And we found many of those decisions. And upon finding that, we were really drawn into thinking that it's interesting how even if we use the words that we would expect women to be using to refer to the sexism they're going through, in the public sphere, we see men prosecuting. Right?
This has been leading us to think that there is even a problem of women being considered worthy of bringing a lot or of even being defamated. Men are feeling incentivized to come to court and complain about women. The second thing that is clear is even when we see lawsuits referring to situations which we define as hate speech against women, they're not never framed as that. It is very uncommon that something brings framed as hate speech against a woman, misogyny or sexist speech. Because we have other laws that protect other characteristics. For example, antiracist law. Or a recent Supreme Court decision against LGBT phobia, declaring LGBT phobia is a crime, just as racist speech is.
You see some cases arriving in court in which you see an intersectional slur, for example, something that refers to a woman's race but also to an aspect of her gender, but it is never framed in terms of gender, right? It is being very constantly framed with the other social markers. But never with the gender aspect of it.
So we're still looking into it. It is only in the next months that we are going to be having deeper results. But this already leads us to a few important questions, I think, which are about the relations between law and culture, right?
If you are speaking about normalization of hate speech against women, what is the relation of that with the absence of the discussion in law? How does ‑‑ how do those things interconnect? Right?
The fact that we don't have a specific framework addressing hate speech against women is that something that frames the issue in the public sphere and in the way that people talk about the problem. That seems to be the case, right? If you don't have even like legal figure, legal concept to frame the discussion around, of course, you're going to frame it in other ways. This leads us to think that perhaps it might be important to think of a legal framework. It doesn't have to necessarily be a criminal legal framework, but to think of legal concepts through which this discussion can also be conveyed. I think one last thing I would like to say about the legal framework in Brazil, it would be a lie to say there is nothing in the law about that.
We have an important domestic violence law, but it doesn't address those issues specifically. But last year, a law was approved, specifically mentioning the word "misogyny." It is not a sexually procedural law. All it did is declaring that crimes that involved misogyny were going to be investigated by the federal police instead of the state place. I'm sorry, that involved misogyny online. And that was enacted because of all the difficulties in doing investigations about online situations and because there had been particular situations of online trolling against particular women, which were ‑‑ didn't find ‑‑ weren't met with competent investigation.
But the problem about that law is that it just says that crimes involving online misogyny are going to be federalized. It doesn't define what misogyny is. And what we found so far is that it hasn't been very properly enforced. Also because of the lack of understanding of what is a crime involving misogyny. So that adds to the question of should we go further into a legal framework and what would that bring to the public discussion?
So that ‑‑ those were my initial remarks. I think there are more things that I would like to discuss about these initial results, but I would like to do that in the light of the presentations of my colleagues. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Mariana. I think when you are making your presentation, one thing I was reminded of is something that the feminist Nancy Free has said, if the term of what justice itself becomes unjustly framed, how can women actually bring a claim.
If the law is a semantic violence, if there is a culture of a particular kind of violence against women, there is a feminist fight forward. This is what struck me.
With that, I will turn it over to my colleague Bhavna. She works on gender‑based issues at IT for Change. I ask her to share what she is studying on this issue and that context.
>> BHAVNA JHA: Thank you Mariana, you made my job much easier. I will just contextualize the same issues in the Indian perspective. I don't have to spend as much time explaining to you what is happening theoretically. So can you have ‑‑ yeah.
Can you go to the first? This is the last slide. Sorry. I think it is going ‑‑ yeah. Just go to the last slide instead. You will have to go backwards, I think. It is the same presentation. Just the last panel of the slide.
So I'll be addressing gender‑based hate speech online. And these are my reflections from the same study that we're doing in collaboration with InternetLab Brazil in the Indian context.
Do you mind if I stand? I would be happier doing that.
Feminist digital activists in India just saw the Internet as a great promise of emancipation, outside of the rules and walls in their homes and communities within the expansive potentialities of the digital society really seemed to be the thing that drove so much of our enthusiasm in the early 2000s. And come recent years, we found that that dream has not proven to be as true as, you know, it had promised to be.
We have had the return of gender conservativism with a vengeance. This gender conservativism has made women try to adapt within the intimate social. For example, over here, is a girl talking about how she has to monitor the photographs that she uploads on to Facebook for fear of, you know, policing by her boyfriend. Or whether it is in the public political. So we have voices where women feel that they must ‑‑ women find themselves attacked within the spaces when they try to engage with larger communities on the Internet.
So we have women facing an onslaught of gender‑based trolling online. This is borne out from a study I.T. for change did, women from 19 to 23, they said they faced gender‑based trolling along the lines of skin color, weight, looks. This is further exacerbated when women are situated within marginal iced identities.
If they are from marginal social locations, they have had ‑‑ very similar to the experience that Mariana shared, of, you know, who would rape you, sort of sentiments, because are you even good looking enough to be raped since you are dark skinned? Such narratives emerge.
This is something that is going out across the world, including India. Journalists, women, politicians face a higher degree of scrutiny, higher degree of trolling on the grounds of gender, even when they're being criticized for public opinions, political opinions, for their participation in scandals, even then they're called prostitutes, which is unique terminology which is used to address female journalists in India. It captures the sexism within any slur that you could use for a journalist.
And also attacked for having parentally Muslim husbands, which is somehow related to her political views.
There is also the dimension of hypernationalistic patriarchy which manifests in the kind of trolling that happens online or in the kinds of exhortations to, you know, to claim an appropriate ‑‑ colonized of women's bodies, especially if from minority communities. As in this instance in relation to Kashmir. This is the kind of videos uploaded on TikTok. This brings me to realize there is a shared normalization and culturalization of misogyny online as well.
Law enforcement officers equally think of this as a natural thing that happens. Normal thing that happens, that women shouldn't react to. And that ‑‑ they bring in their family values, so other orientation towards, you know, policing women. Because why should women engage in these ‑‑ with these trolls. It could lead to the destruction of their families.
And so the only conclusion I can come to is this is not just trolling. This is the proliferation of misogynistic sexist hate speech. It is silencing women. That is the definition of hate speech. It silences the class of person it is directed at.
And we have to look into whether existing legal policy frameworks that we have within India are adequately addressing this proliferation . So if we evaluate this, the law is silent on the ground of hate speech. It doesn't address gender‑based hate speech in the statute to the provisions that prohibit hate speech, express concern for public order, tranquility and not for the dignity of the individual being targeted.
Victims are forced to take recourse to a patchwork of legislations. And provisions. Right? What are the legislations like? To criminal intimidation, which requires a high threshold of proving that the threat is, you know, of such a nature that it can harm them physically. Potentially. And doing that, online interactions becomes quite difficult. Cyber stalking is a provision which is gender specific provision, but it doesn't cover most forms of sexist hate speech that women face online.
Then we have another category of these Victorian legacy, morality laws which are framed under norms like insight to modesty. Which are problematic because it requires a woman to prove she had modesty to begin with. How do you really go about proving that your modesty was insulted.
Digital public ‑‑ there is also the revisions on obscene legal content. Going back to the legal framing of what is obscenity. In any case, not all gender trolling are obscene. Some could be back to the kitchen sort of insight, which is not obscene, but still demeaning.
So we also looked at defamation, it is an obvious place to go to when you are discussing harms to dignity. Harms to reputation. We found much like Mariana did, defamation laws were invoked but usually against women that are making claims to female sexuality. There is an actress that spoke about liquidity of relationships in her home state. People thought this was an outrage against the moral values of the state. How could she say that women relationships were common in the state. They thought she was defaming the state.
Another place that women can go to, therefore, is maybe since this is the online space, we can go to intermediaries and hoping they will solve our problems and will take the issues seriously.
For instance, this is the report that equality labs did earlier this year. They found that 93% of all hate speech reported to Facebook don't have action. They remain on Facebook. This is the nature of the content that stays up.
This is another one, where the activist is being threatened. Do we have a legal framework that forces intermediaries to sort of take actions? Yes, no, kind of. The intermediary guidelines came in place in 2011. They were supposed to take down content that violated laws, upon actual knowledge of such violation.
Now, this only meant a notice, at that point of time. 2015, want judgment came out and this Supreme Court decision led to the reading down of the actual knowledge standard to a court order standard. So now intermediaries are only obligated to take down violating content if there is a court order that demands they take it down. It creates a higher threshold. Every time anyone is trolled or attacked on social media, they have to have the ability to get a court order, send it to the intermediary and then does the intermediary have a legal obligation to take it down. Right?
The Government is trying to amend the intermediary guidelines, and probably come up with a new version in January 2020. This will include and introduce algorithmic filtering of unlawful content. We need gender based hate speech to be unlawful before it can be taken down. Within the intermediary guidelines, there is some that specify what is the nature of content taken down? They're harmful or harassing, disparaging, defamatory, obscene. Not sexist. That doesn't find itself in any of the terms. And there is also provision that they must take down content with law enforced. There is no law that says they must take down ‑‑ that sexist hate speech is a problem.
Let's say we managed to get a clause introduced that makes sexist hate speech, you know, gender‑based hate speech to be included as a category of unlawful content. We have to address the problem of potential censorship by proactive filtering. And so that is something that we have to really take into serious consideration as we try and create a find a way forward from here. I go back to the three feminist mantras of resist, remedy and redress. Resist through the use of counterspeech, feminist movement. We can try and use movements like I am here, which are trying to get ‑‑ trying to decrease the onslaught of sexist hate speech online. Or we can perhaps come up with a remedial which is judicial approaches, perhaps like an ethics board, which I think Christof will talk more about. And redress, which can be in the form of creative use of definition laws, wherein the laws are used not to, you know ‑‑ these laws that do not see women as the insult to be protected against. But will be used by them and protect themselves from the harms.
So that is a hope that we have, that we can action and can make happen. Or perhaps we can look at as Mariana said, civil law remedies that maybe the lower thresholds would be a more practical way to counter this sort of hate speech. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Bhavna. I think that you brought out this very important point that today, we're caught between two ideas. The nation state and platform intermediary and both indulged in excessive misuse of power.
In the initial days of the Internet when we think the Internet is a stateless place and we have a refuge from the tyranny of the nation state, we increasingly find this is no longer true. That means certain struggles, like the struggles against sexist hate speech, how do we play between the two powers? What do we do? That is harder and harder.
This brings me to the intervention of the third panelist. Neema Iyer, who is founder and director of Pollicy, a civil technology organization based in Uganda. Pollicy uses data and technology to improve how citizens and governments engage in public service delivery. She leads the design of a number of projects focused on building data skills, on fostering conversations on data privacy and security.
And in particular, Neema, I think it would be great to have your reflections on after hearing the two presentations, from your work in the African region, what is the risk we find ourselves in, if you are trying to find legal remedies from hate speech and intervention from the state? Also, we look at dealing with Internet intermediaries for those of us working in the Global South context, what are some of the challenges?
>> NEEMA IYER: Thank you so much. Hi, everyone. How are you doing? Friday morning.
Thank you for having me join this panel. I want to bring the Africa perspective, understanding Africa is not a country, it is many different countries put together. Of course, it does get linked as one because they do tend to have similar laws, which are often copy‑pasted. For this purpose, a lot of the laws are similar.
First of all, I wanted to start out with research we're doing under the feminist Internet network. This is across sub‑Saharan Africa. What are the lived experiences of women online and particularly related to online gender‑based violence. As part of this we're doing broad based quantitative surveys and qualitative research as well.
Related to this topic, what we found is that most women are not aware of any laws which exist to protect them online. So the numbers are somewhere around 80 to 90% have no idea that there are laws to protect them. The other 10 to 20%, their stories are that with they do go to the police, they're just laughed at. One of our in depth interviewees said the police asked her to show her where it hurt on her body. They were like show me where it hurts.
In the first case, in relation to Brazil and India, these cases don't make it anywhere, because the police refuse to file them because it is joke cases. It is not real life. We are stopped there itself before we can get into the legal system. That is the first point I wanted to make.
In terms of Uganda, I wonder if it is an extreme case, but I think it is the norm. I will tell you a couple of laws across the continent. In Uganda we have the Computer Misuse Act passed in 2011. That is the only act which mentioned cyber harassment. Under that, you can be tried for hate speech under offensive communication. So that is one.
In Kenya, a similar act called the Computer and Cyber Law. As we have already heard, there is a lot of vague wording. For example, "indecent" and "gross," and it never explain what that means.
The laws are really just completely subjective. And purposely so because a lot of the laws are passed to stop dissent and throw your opposition into jail under the vague laws that anyone can use.
Another scarier one coming up in Nigeria that is broadly called the social media bill or hate speech bill. This was actually thrown out of court and two weeks ago, it again resurfaced. It is one of the more extreme ones because it is focused on hate speech, but the penalty is death or life imprisonment. Again, of course, related to ethic violence or post content that may cause the death of someone, you in turn should face the death penalty in all the laws there is no wording around women. I'm not saying this is a good law. They have gone to the extent to say they're willing to kill someone but no way brought in a gender lens.
In I think Senegal, the law protects minorities, minority tribes, and minors. And pornographic content. And women are left out. They don't fall into the minority group and don't fall under minors. So when your photos are leaked, there is no way to protect you.
This is more extreme. Talking about laws to protect women. There are laws being passed to punish women. This is particularly a case in Uganda, in 2014, the antipornography act was passed, and this was a very contentious time. There was a lot of different laws being passed such as antihomosexuality bill, the miniskirt bill. Basically, there is an obsession with moral policing in the country. You know, we have already been hearing about the rise in conservativism.
So not only is the law silent on hate speech, it also punishing women. For example, in Uganda, if your images are leaked, you can be arrested and imprisoned because you have affected the morals of the society. So whoever leaked your images goes scot‑free. A lot of the cases are online. You can see who did it. Like, no one is hiding it. In one case, the woman published her text messages with the person's name visible, he admitted to doing it, nothing was brought against him. The lady was fired, disappeared for six months, finally resurfaced. We have seen this multiple times, actually. In one case, there was actually a case of a college student that leaked her own images and actually sent to jail. The other cases they were arrested but never given jail time.
The other interesting laws are around talking about intermediaries, the social media tax also, again, Uganda. And this tax was passed very quickly. The President made a statement on Twitter saying there is too much gossip online. And within two months, the bill went into force which essentially requires everyone to pay about 200 Uganda shillings per day to access social media websites. 200 shillings is 6 to 8 cents, it is a lot of money for people in Uganda. It is prohibitive. We have studied access and how it affects the population. Women are much more affected because they just can't afford it. Already the data prices are high. So to add money on top of that, that is another tool of silencing women and keeping them offline.
There are notable cases I wanted to bring up. There is one case ‑‑ this might be the only case, where the cyber harassment law has worked in the favor of a woman. It was a case by member of parliament called Sylvia A. She started to receive messages from a young man. And the media framed this as love messages. Of course, they were messages of harassment for a year. When they finally went to court, she broke down, starting crying about how traumatic this experience was. This young man started laughing. Laughed through the whole court proceeding. He did receive two years of jail time. What is interesting is the response to that as well. Because once the verdict was given, then she again became a victim of trolling. Everyone wanted her to apologize for making a big deal of nothing when really she's stopping men from professing their love and, you know, just the general patriarchal structures.
What is important there is that this was only possible because she was a woman in a position of power and was able to bring this case out. But for most people, as I said earlier, this is just not possible. The case would have ner reached this extent.
Another case is that of Dr. Stella Janzy, which is ongoing the past two years. She ‑‑ once she approached the first lady, because she wanted there to be a program for young girls to receive sanitary napkins for free. This wasn't done. She called the President a pair of buttocks and said some statements that he should actually have been aborted. For that, she was charged under the cyber harassment law and actually been in jail for about a year now. So that's another case that was used.
And going back to intermediaries, African Governments have very little stake in what the platforms do. The most that you see now, as you mentioned is the social media tax, which again, affects Ugandans, it doesn't affect the platform in any way. Ugandans suffer at the hands of these laws.
What I would bring up is the use of algorithms to filter content. Right now, Facebook's moderation has seven African languages, when in total there are about 3,000 African languages. It is out of the question that algorithms or whatever intelligence can filter the context in the African context. And the other important thing is that these community standards for example are determined by Facebook, not governed by laws. They're not forced to.
That means that the community standards of the world are based on what Facebook and the U.S. think are morals. So now, these western morals are being instilled into African economies, because in the African context, for example, the breasts are not sexualized. In some cultures it is okay to show your breast. On Facebook this would be unacceptable and taken down. So I think there is really this ignoring of the cultural context. Very little power from the countries to do anything about it. I'm really glad we're having this conversation.
I'm really interested to see where it goes in terms of the legal framework in protecting women. A lot of the laws are being passed all across the continent to repress women and freedom of expression. I would love to chat more about this during this discussion. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Yeah. And now we turn to our fourth panelist, Christophe Speckbacher who is part of the team on gender equality on the Council of Europe. They're proposing activities in the field of standard, setting, research, awareness mainstreaming, and variation activities of the organization. Christophe Speckbacher will give us the perspective of the Council of Europe on the issue of online sexism and sexist violence especially in light of the recent recommendation in 2019 that was issued on preventing and combating sexism. On this Christophe, I have a question for you. After seeing this, we see a broad culture of sexism and misogyny. We try to draw the line. Everything in sociality, we can see as sexist. Sexist band, sexist jokes. We have to legalize and draw the line. What point does it become criminalized or become sexist hate speech.
From the Council of Europe's guidelines and your own experience in this area, can you also reflect on that a little bit?
>> CHRISTOPHE SPECKBACHER: Thank you very much. I'm very happy to be here and to be the last element on this panel, giving also the European perspective, and for those who think that everything that has been mentioned before is not something that is of concern to Europe, that would be a pretty wrong idea because we have exactly the same issues in Europe. It is just that it is a generational matters. People realize only nowadays that these problems are the problems of sexism and stereotyping are deeply entrenched in our European societies as well at various levels and affecting different categories of actors, impacting still on the gender issues in Europe.
You won't be surprised to hear that the pay gaps are in western countries, Western Europe, in particular. And we have not reached a satisfactory balance for men and women in particular institutions. Only very few parliaments have reached the ideal threshold of a minimum of 40% of men or women in parliament. And we're far from 50% in most of the cases, with very few exception.
The me too movement over the last few years have shed a new light on the various problems connected with sexism as the what or one of the underlying causes of these persisting inequalities in Europe. And this is why after let's say 40 years of work at the level of the Council of Europe in Strausberg on addressing the gender pay gaps, women's rights, the property representation of women and senior positions in the industry, in particular institutions, et cetera, it was decided to address the subject of sexism itself as a self‑standing concept. So we moved from the layers of positive rights as for instance, enshrined on the European convention of human rights, which prohibits discrimination, including based on gender, et cetera, to get progressively into the very roots of these persisting inequalities in Europe.
The problem is that so far, the instruments that we had at the European level and sometimes more globally because some of these instruments that you see on the screen are also open to non‑Council of Europe Member States. They don't deal really with the problem of sexism and sexist hate speech as such. They are ‑‑ some of them are obviously the prolongation, I would say, of the issue of sexism, if you take for instance, the Council of Europe convention on action against violence and domestic violence in 2011. I mean, the issue of sexism is everywhere in gender equality as well and gender‑specific approaches to violence, et cetera.
This is the instrument, which by the way, tries to revoke the definition of rape and the principle of lack of consent. We are proud of this instrument. It also prohibits forced genital mutilations, stalking, forced marriage, harassment, but not in the cyber space as such.
The same with the convention on cybercrime. We have a fantastic tool here. And although it covers a number of important things, like the attacks on the Internet systems. And databases, et cetera. And also VR protocol, deals with racist and xenophobic hate speech, it does not cover gender‑specific and sexist hate speech.
We have also for the European continent another important text, which is the EU code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online. Which was negotiated by the European Commission. So in Brussels, with some of the lead players that you can see here on the screen. But this text deals with the classical forms of hate speech, like racism, xenophobia, based on religious considerations but not the forms of violence which are gender related or based on sexism.
So for these reasons and also because of the recent gender backlash, we also have in Europe both in ‑‑ mostly in central Eastern Europe, but not just the phenomenon of neoconservative movements. And also because of the social reactions to the me too movement. The Council of Europe has decided to work on sexism.
I would like to show you a picture of the kind of things that okay, we wouldn't see that in Europe any more. Ride me all day for three pounds. That is in the open space. That was in the United Kingdom a few years ago around 2012, I think. Obviously, when you have something like that, you have immediately a number of organizations which would jump through the roof, so to say, and which would call for the removal of this kind of advertisement. That is what happened, indeed, I think within a week, it was removed. The company tried to defend itself by saying, well, we have done the same with men, also naked men, half naked men or men in suggestive positions. The fact that those were men was unfoundable in the city or in places where there was less traffic or less visitors.
Now, what does it say? We have the same problem with the Internet. What you see right now on the screen is an advertisement ‑‑ an official advertisement of the Vilnius city. It is a promotional poster done in the context of touristic attractiveness of the capital City of Lithuania. This has been on the net for quite some time now. Maybe two years almost.
I have not seen or heard any reacts asking for ‑‑ reactions asking for the removal of this publicity. Although we have the same problems in the real life, in the real, tangible public spaces and in the Internet, apparently, the ‑‑ what is in the Internet is a particular source of challenges.
And we have, of course, as another form of online violence, that's the most probably the most extreme form. It is these Internet communities which are nowadays extremely hostile to women. They have been ‑‑ they're in the process of being researched at the moment.
I have taken here an excerpt from the Wikipedia, that you all know, concerning the definition of the so‑called Incels. This is the abbreviation for Involuntary Celibates.
These groups are sometimes extremely violent in their communications and ideas they propagate. According to the research conducted and mentioned on Wikipedia, apparently, members of the Incel communities were involved in physical attacks and shootings on several occasions in North America.
For those interested, the Danish Government is doing research commissioned this year to map what they call the "manosphere." It will be released in 2020. It will be research on the various male‑dominated hate groups.
So the recommendation of the Committee of ministers on preventing and combating sexism is probably the first international instrument. It is not a Treaty. It is an instrument. It has a legal value. It is a recommendation of the Committee of ministers of the Council of Europe to the Member States. It can be used for policymaking. It can also be promoted by NGOs when they do advocacy now in the different countries of the Council of Europe.
This text pursues a global approach with regard to the problem of sexism. It has different chapters on the judiciary, communication, sports, public sector, private sector, et cetera. There is one chapter specifically on the Internet and new communication tools. But what I wanted to say is that the ‑‑ because of the importance of the Internet today, replacing the classical media, as you know, as you all know, we have nowadays online newspapers. We have online advertising spaces.
You see how the City of Vilnius is using this well instead of posters on the street. We have to think of the language and communication. One of the objectives of this recommendation of the Council of Europe is to address sexism, via the promotion of gender neutral or gender inclusive language. It calls for the systematic review of all the legal texts. So as to take out any sexist or stereotypical elements. And I should say, actually, we could start with ourselves at the Council of Europe.
I came across several texts, recently, which are fairly old but are still regulating the council organizations. The texts still referred for instance, to the Chairman. And the text goes on with he, he, he, he. It was obvious that women were not meant to occupy such a position. In French, obviously, on our website, when we refer to the European code of human rights, we still say (speaking non‑English language) The men's rights and not (speaking non‑English language) This is something we have to work on ourselves. These little tiny things tend to usually build this culture of stereotypes and sexism.
As we go to the chapter on the specific chapter on the Internet, social language, communication, that is contained in this recommendation, the ‑‑ there is a call to criminalize sexist hate speech. That should apply to all types of media. The text does not provide for the definition of sexist hate speech. It leaves it up to the country and their specific problems in various regions of Europe and how they want to address sexist hate speech. And to focus or not on specific areas or forms of expression, whether in writing or in pictures, et cetera, et cetera. It calls also for the establishment of reporting procedures in order to facilitate the detection of sexist hate speech. And obviously also sanctions. And there is a call also for all the operators to take proactive measures to facilitate the detection.
You see on this slide the various measures that the recommendation also calls for. I mean educational, awareness raising measures, informal measures, conducting campaigns about the risk of the sexist misuse of social media. We have now some countries which have launched programs, especially targeting the young public and young users of the Internet. In Slovenia, they have a project called click off, not just to inform women and young boys about the risks of certain behaviors on social media or some websites or platforms, but also to address the problem of addiction.
Apparently, which is connected with the use of the Internet. As some of those who are in the room here know and have done research about the use of the Internet, many people on the platforms and on the networks, they tend to use it sometimes to create their personality or sometimes another personality. The Internet has really become a kind of mirroring place for humans and their either ‑‑ the person they are or the person they would love to be or the person they want to tell the world that they ‑‑ that they are, although sometimes it is based on ‑‑ how could I say ‑‑ imaginative stories, information, et cetera. There is a kind of lyrics around all that.
There is obviously in this recommendation a chapter on media advertising and other communication services. So the idea is to ban sexism in the various forms of media and advertisement. Interestingly, there is a call also to review the defamation laws so the countries would include the elements of sexism in defamation laws, because this is probably one of the classical tools that could be best used to also deal with sexist hate and sexist content.
Obviously, the dialogue with the industry is very important. The model that the drafters of the recommendation had in mind was to develop ‑‑ was for the industry to develop themselves into programs, to deal with the reporting or disclosure of illegal or provocative or harmful content, et cetera. Along the rules of conduct that the EU has established, for instance.
But obviously, since all the media operators are not just global, it is also for each country to provide for, for rules and regulations, which could support the development of such programs. As you know, they already exist in various fields, like dealing with internal fraud or deals with internal discrimination, so on.
We count a lot also, obviously, on the awareness of journalism and journalists and the media communication, communities to contribute to this efforts and also of researchers. In relation with the depiction of women at the moment ‑‑ an increasing issue is connected with the pornographic industry. The Internet allows a number of new phenomena, I would say. Like youngsters selling images of themselves to make money via pornographic platforms. The new technologies also allow to make people look younger.
The problem is that the pornographic industry is powerful enough to lobby sometimes the Governments, I'm thinking especially of the U.S. because there was evolution in the case law in the U.S., to facilitate the continuation of these pornographic contents.
And according to research, that was conducted in Hungary for instance, the most highly rated pornographic movies are often movies which are extremely violent. So these are worrying trends, I would say.
So to sum up, quickly, we obviously need a more gender sensitive approach as regards all our policies that we have in place. In order to be able to deal with this new forms of online sexist violence.
Initiatives already taken in a few Member States if we sum it up as the recommendation of 2019, did it this year. We need complementary actions in various feels, education, awareness raising, criminal enforcement, obviously. Multistakeholder approaches, involving also the industry and NGOs in case they are given there the possibility to file lawsuits in the common interest. We need rapid reaction mechanisms, obviously. We would also need new offenses, certainly, sexist hate speech is one, probably also online stalking or harassment or doxing, which is the inaccurate information about persons. It is a form of harassment, actually.
As we go to the criminal response, we have noted from several countries which have started to criminalize this new phenomena. We have noted an overreliance on the criminal law response. As a problem many of you will know, the criminal justice system is slow in terms of response. It is not uncommon to have proceedings that last 3 to 5 years. The criminal law response should not be the only avenue available in case you need to remove, for instance, illegal content. That is why the dialogue and other soft law mechanisms with the industry are equally important. When we are dealing with global platforms, we may well be confronted with platforms which are hosted or operated by companies in one country, where the victim or groups of victims would be in another country. And obviously, the persons using these platforms would be in a third country. So all of these are challenges to bear in mind for the future. Thank you very much for your attention.
>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Christophe. I would like to open the floor for comments or questions. If you have a comment or question, put up your hand, I can come around and pass the mic. Okay. First you. Then... okay.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, thank you. It was really interesting my name is Maria. I work for global women's right organization, based in the U.K. I will keep it really short. I know we are pushed for time. As some of the panelists know we have done similar support and research in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nepal. All the findings from Uganda, Brazil and India mirror what we did in the small‑scale study. The question is what the panelists think might need to happen internationally? Despite increasing global commitments, G7, G20 and increasing regional initiatives. Christophe highlighted some of those. There doesn't seem to be anything to show it is enshrined in the policies and laws. Two that come to mind for me is definition, lack of global definition does present challenges in measuring and documenting the experiences, and comparisons. I know there are issues of defining contentious ‑‑ particularly those that want to restrict freedom of expression. A global movement for creating a definition would be useful. And also data collection. Obviously data collection isn't done at the regional or global level. It makes measurement and comparisons and documentation quite difficult.
>> AUDIENCE: First, thanks for all the intersectionality. I think the feminist analysis and intersection of feminist analysis bringing a lot of clarity. I think that can help anyone. Thanks. Thanks also for the very concrete examples.
I wanted to say one thing around pornography. I think that can derange the conversation. We know there are porn sites that are very, very well developed content models. Content management models really with the participant. I think this bringing outside of this conversation, girls with adult content and consensual adult content. I want us to be aware, we need to be careful, then we dismiss the feminist analysis, the intersectionality that is brought here as a way to identify sexist hate speech, and we go back to a typical western, white, specific kind, also, if you want, feminist discourse that can make vanish all of the nuances you brought in the conversation.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello, hi. I'm Debra from Italy, I'm a trainer in human rights education and activist against hate speech.
When hearing you, my concern is when you think about awareness of women, especially young women, I meet a lot of problems when talking with especially teenagers, I come from a country that recently going back when it comes to controlling bodies and what and how women should act, things like that is really worrying.
I won't take too much time in giving the example. My question is, how can we address the problem of patriarchy with so much internalized with young women, they think being feminist or fighting for human rights is annoying.
To the point if men are acting violently and rate of violence against women and killing of women are raising, women are taking too much, they're repressing men by raising their voice. This is a really worrying pattern we're seeing, you know, when trying to educate women, if I speak up, I am annoying. I make men in a difficult position.
How can I address this? We're internalizing patriarchy and system of repression so much, we have more women sometimes ‑‑ women can be more sexist than men because we have so much victim of this system. How would you address this problem? This is one of my biggest struggle.
>> AUDIENCE: Katrina from the association for progressive communication. I also want to thank you for a very interesting panel.
I have two question. One question is in particular to the Council of Europe. I would like to know how Council of Europe review policy and develop gender sensitive terminology in the context of some members of the European Union which experience backlash against gender concept itself. In the case of Bulgaria, which rule out gender as unconstitutional.
In relation to the question, I also have question to all speakers. How we can make sure that legal frameworks is protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association of LGBTIQ community.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much for all the thoughts and all the things that are happening in India and Africa and different countries. I'm Vladimir K., on Article 19 from the Office of Mexico and Central America.
And I have like two questions, maybe some of them that are related to some of the things that have already been mentioned here. But the first one it is like what do you think of the ‑‑ whoever wants to take it, of the punitive perspective to tach online violence? We actually now in Mexico are having a big discussion on the different loss to change penal codes for tackling or facing nonconsensual sexual images. What we are seeing is overwhelming impunity, and journalists being killed, no access to justice or women facing femicides. How like this punitive perspective of tackling violence work.
I will jump to the second question. How do we like balance this perspective of hate speech and online violence with freedom of expression. And just very quickly third. How you are defining hate speech? Because what we are seeing also in Mexico, different countries, and regional Latin America, states are using hate speech to censor legitimate speech and expressions and to those dissenting voices. Thank you very much.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, we have a question from the online participant. It is from an illustrator from India who is recording the session. The question is reflecting on a previous session at IGF and raising from the point of view, it is important to not create a hierarchy by not including trans, and nonbinary people in the discourse. How inclusive are the genders we're fighting for. Since the discourse is still looking at gender through a binary lens.
>> MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, everyone. We have 10 minutes. I request all the panelists to give like a two‑minute quick response to the part of the questions each of you would like to respond. We will start with Christophe.
>> CHRISTOPHE SPECKBACHER: Thank you for the question, how to address patriarchy that have you seen in Italy. I think if you look at the recommendation from 2019, it requires action at different levels. The idea is really to change cultures and stereotypes, the perception of women and men's roles, et cetera. Innovatively it will require action at different levels.
Obviously, I think if we are speaking of the patriarchal model of the overwhelming position of men, I think it is time to involve men themselves in the policies. They shouldn't be seen as just a policy for ‑‑ by the women, for the women. I know some countries are trying to use sponsors from, you know, like celebrities from the cinema sector to convey and support the new messages addressing men specifically or also sports trainers in the locker rooms when they talk to the young boys. Et cetera.
We have also men nowadays who start to use another discussion in the promotion of the gender equality policies by saying, well, every man has at least one woman in his life. A mother, a sister, a daughter, et cetera. It is also men's world, men's business. So probably that's the kind of focus that could be developed.
How will the Council of Europe review the situation of gender backlash in certain countries? You mentioned Bulgaria. When it comes to this instrument, the recommendation of 2019 adopted this year, it will have two to three years to implement it. Then we will start a review process to see how it is actually implemented in the Member States. And I guess we'll have more and more information by then and be able to exert progressively a pressure on the countries.
How to tackle ‑‑ that was the question from the gentleman from Mexico. What would make the justice system work, but work better with regard to some of these criminal offenses we are talking about. I think it is important nowadays, as part of these equality policies to also draw all the consequences from the concept of gender mainstreaming, which means that policymakers IE Government, parliament should nowadays include the gender dimension in all aspects of policy making and all institutions of the state. And that includes the judiciary. And training, for instance, the judges, the prosecutors, in the police system, training people on the agenda issues is absolutely crucial. We have seen how progressively there are now some improvements, there are certain questions which are taboo, if a woman is raped and now goes to the police. There are certain questions you don't ask like what were you doing that evening so late outside on your own or what were you dressing, exactly.
So these are questions which should definitely be taboo. It is a matter of education also in the state institutions.
>> MODERATOR: Neema.
>> NEEMA IYER: Right. I think a lot of the questions that people asked are really good questions. I would also love the answers to those questions. Across Africa, a lot of these hate speech laws are being passed to gag freedom of expression. They're just hidden under different names, but of course, that is the overall purpose of them. And I think a lot of Civil Society is struggling with how to reverse some of the actions of this, but it also feels like we're being bulldozed by the laws and there is very little we can do about it.
And I do agree with the comment that it is very important to have definitions. I wonder if having those definitions will make it easier for us to go after these laws and strike them down. Across the continent, as I said a lot of the cybercrime laws are copy pasted from one to the other. I wonder if we start one then we push other countries to adopt similar laws. Yes, it is true, there is not international application of these laws. Laws that are passed in one country, if there is a law in Uganda, it can't be used to try someone in Kenya. We don't have the processes for that to happen. That is also a very important discussion.
To the person that said feminists are arc annoying, but yeah, in Uganda, I feel like there is a positive development online. Maybe not in physical spaces but I feel in the past five years, because of the noise that feminists are making, I feel like the conversation has changed. And men and women are more careful about what they say online. So I think we have to just keep being annoying.
>> BHAVNA JHA: Thanks for your questions. They're really, really thought provoking.
So on the issue of, you know, what sort of aims we should have, I think the only response to the diminishing space for feminists or claims of feminism is counter speech, conversation, dialogue. We have to keep talking, engaging with young women and young men and, you know, everybody will follow the cues and ensure we don't lose the grounds that we gained over the course of the movement.
As far as how should we address the ‑‑ can we get together as an international community? I think definitely we should consider coming up with some broader categories, definitionally. And then we can use those in order to contextualize to our local, specific, cultural context. And that might be a great step going forward since as Mariana pointed out, naming and pointing out what is misogyny are all proving to be difficult struggles for everyone around the world.
As far as our friend who asked about what do we do about the freedom of expression and association of the L.G.B.T.Q. community and also the remote question. In the Indian context, we had outside judgment and participatory and those within the sex and gender in the constitution, constitutionally there is expanding sense in that sense. There is other gender identities. How do we bring that and respond to the hate speech within the L.G.B.T.Q. community? That is something we have to reflect further on.
I don't have an easy answer for that. On the question from my friend from Article 19, how do we balance hate speech and online violence and the freedom of speech and expression, I think it is important to recognize that it is implicit within the idea of freedom of speech and expression that we provide substantive freedom of speech and expression. That cannot exist if we don't create safe spaces and create an atmosphere of safety for people when they communicate whether it is in the real or online spaces. Thank you.
>> MODERATOR: Mariana, since you are last panelist to come. I want to take the liberty of asking you to comment on the issue that has come up on when we talk about protection from hate speech, it can easily lapse into a patriarchal productionism, how do we draw the line? Can you reflect on that.
>> MARIANA VALENTE: Thank you. I think all the questions were interesting. We could discuss them forever. I will get to that.
I would also like to say that when we're speaking of the adequateness of punitive frameworks, this is something we have been struggling with for a while. I think around women's protection and issues around gender in general, not just online, right? Especially because in ‑‑ I think in all correspondents, but I certainly say from the standpoint of Brazil, when you are speaking in an intersectional ‑‑ from an intersectional perspective, we know that punitive solutions will punish certain bodies and not other bodies. This is something to take into consideration when considering the punitive situation. It is a difficult situation. We have never come up on answers on that. There is consensual images. And that was the hardest question. Should we have a specific criminal offense for that? And that always leads to like internal discussions. That brings up another interesting point that others bring in it different ways, as well. Which refers to the freedom of expression perspective. I also agree that even the hate speech discourse, it is being weaponized in the very weaponized public spheres, let's say. We have been seeing in many different countries, the idea of hate speech being used to curtail dissent, of course, but at the same time, one thing I would like to bring up is that this is usually how we frame this within this community, but our research on other topics has also been showing that this is not necessarily the way it is framed in the judiciary. We don't have enough results to speak about this in the case of sexism, but we have previous research from people on our team about racism in the judiciary. That was also a question that was brought up, when we are speaking of racist slurs for example, is freedom of expression an issue or even discussed?
What we found out in the Brazilian courts is usually this issue doesn't even come up because the difficulty in having a judge recognize that something is racist. It is like a level before. It is not that you have a judge discussing, okay, this is racist, but there is an issue of freedom of expression. No, there is a difficulty even saying this is racist.
Of course, this has to be in mind all the time. Sometimes we overstate how the discussion is being made. And we are having difficulties in defining that something is racist or something is sexist. I don't know if I made myself clear.
And then there is the question on feminists being annoying, right, and all the discourse. I think there is an interesting discussion on that. I completely agree with Neema, we shouldn't stop being annoying. We shouldn't lower the level of the radicality of the discourse of feminism, of course, but at the same time, there is some thought to be made on how to revamp strategies, when certain terms are too weaponized? What do you do? Do you insist on them? Do you come up with other terms?
I read an interview from Patricia Hill Collins, she was asked the same question, what to do when the very talk around feminism was so weaponized, she answered we need to get to the values. If we need to come up with new words to reach that, that is also fine. And that does not mean lowering the level of radicality. Right? It means how do we reach people through different kinds of discourse.
Then someone was asking me about the whole freedom of expression from men and women, coming up in the research and other discussions that we have been making, right. I think what she means is that we have constantly seen the whole freedom of expression discussion being framed around men's freedom of expression. This is what we have been finding in all the Court rulings, men being able, like, to bring their freedom of expression issues, and how ‑‑ it is like privacy, right? It is all of the rights that have always been thought of as being rights of men. We have the same discussion regarding privacy. How do we discuss privacy and feminism in a context that women have fought so long for publicity, to be in the public fear, not the privacy fear.
It wasn't the privacy right that women had. It was the privacy right that men had regarding patriarchy. Right? It made women stay private. It is the same discussion that we have to approach, like, what is freedom of expression approach that is really feminist that addresses women. This is a lot of discussion. Just to address the online questions, which I think is really important. I don't think we have actually addressed it sufficiently in this panel.
I think this is something we should always take into consideration in these discussions, transgender people, nonbinary people. A quick comment on that. Our laws are far from being able to address that properly or even to recognize that. And I think that is something also this discussion must bring.
>> MODERATOR: So thanks a lot, everyone. Yeah. I think we are out of time. We are done.