IGF 2021 - Day 1 - Lightning Talk #29 "I silenced myself": Brazilian female activists' perspectives on online targeted harassment

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. 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, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> YASMIN CURZI DE MENDONCA: Hi, Everybody.  I'm going to send a link for the moderator.  Just a minute.

May I share my screen?  The online Moderator isn't able to enter this session.  Just sent me a message.  I'm going to send her the link again.  She just entered.

>> We all live in a digital world.  We all need it to be open and safe.  We all want to trust.

>> And to be trusted.

>> We all despise control.

>> And desire freedom.  We are all united.

>> YASMIN CURZI DE MENDONCA: Thank you so much, everybody.  My name is Yasmin Curzi.  I am going to share my screen just a minute.  Are you able to see?  It's okay, the presentation? 

My name is Yasmin Curzi.  It's a great pleasure for me to be here.  This presentation is the partial result from my page dissertation.  I am open to criticisms and suggestions, though.  Without further ados, I will begin because time is short and we are already late.  I'm sorry.

There are several important studies being developed in present days in Brazil regarding agenda based violence, for example, reporting the occurrences and the private (?) by platforms such as (?) led by (?) and internet lab.  My research wants to contribute to this field by looking at the victims' perspectives and their responses in order to find out solutions and how they can be better assisted.  Also, by taking their statements and their gaze into account, I strive to show their agencies, something that is often ignored when we talk about victims.  I am a south (?) victim of attacks on several occasions, so I am somewhat familiar with the multitude of feelings that come up when this violences occur.  So my intent is not to do instructive research at all but to be as respectful and caring as possible with their stories.

So, defining harassment.  Quick look at the literature.  The first main work about harassment is from Catherine Mack kin no one, lawyer and feminist advocate for the U.S. who had acted in strategic litigation to include in the Title VII from the American civil Act from 1964, harassment as a sex discrimination in the work space.  This impacted legislation in other countries such as Brazil, for example, with the Bill 4454 in 1994, from the Parliament from the Congresswoman Maria Luiza Fontenele, despite the advances in the legislative field to harassment in work space, considered crime offense.  Other types of harassment are still lacking legal treatment, legal addressing, such as the online harassment.  So Safernet here in Brazil reported that online violence against women increased to 22% in 2020 in comparison with the same period in 2019.  And 2017 reported that most common types of online harassment against women worldwide were generally abusive language or comments, sexist or misogynistic comments, threats or physical or sexual violence and other types of violence.

Study also developed by Plan International here in Brazil with girls, with 500 girls and women aged 15 to 24, find out that it is -- it was reported by them that they suffered too often with online harassment.  35% of them had reported this.

So, regarding my research, I am aiming to find the victims' responses, actually, how do women journalists and politicians deal with online attacks.  So I interviewed 10 journalists and politicians.  My choice for this group is because they are more exposed to online conversations, to the online public life.  And my hypothesis, which is being confirmed by (?) Internet Lobby, their research from data from social media is that these two groups often suffers more with attacks than men from the same -- very same groups. 

So, according to Abraji journalist, Investigative Journalist Association here in Brazil, 40 of 72 reports of online attacks were against women journalists, and according to Azmina and InternetLab, the report about online violence and social media during the diminishing population, political violence is mostly and recurrently directed towards female profiles in allusion to their bodies intellectuality and other moral aspects.  Men with the exception of queer, elderly, transgender people are more often insulted by users who considered them to be managers (?) taken.

As a result of my research with these women, the main position the main attitudes that they have after receiving an offense or after being targets of online attacks, they didn't react.  And when they were asked why they didn't react, they said most of them said that -- or they didn't find it necessary or they didn't know how or they lack of legal counseling or because of legal costs, lack of patience and their companies also opt for not suing the aggressors.

So, I bring to this presentation some of the statements of my interviewees regarding journalists and fact checking.  According to a report on the subject, women, especially journalists, have been the main targets of these attacks which they affect their participation in these spaces, converging with data from international research on the subject, the recent research from Azmina and InternetLab just find out that women actually -- journalists women suffered more with attacks than journalist men. 

A fact checker was my interview from the agency (?). She reported that traumatic events in relation to the fact checking activity caused her to abandon this particular activity and join another company.  In her account, Barbara, who was this interviewee told two experiences of coordinated attacks against her.  The first led by the movement Brazil (?) a movement here in Brazil involved with the creation of a dossier of fact checkers exposing their personal data and the images of hundreds of journalists.  The second led by the YouTube channel, which is now under investigation by the superior electoral court involved the sharing of her email on a telegram channel by one of the coordination -- one of the coordinators of this organization, followed by offenses and tracks being sent to her email by their followers.

This journalist opted not to sue the YouTubers because she felt especially that she would be even more vulnerable and exposed as countersuits are very common and these organizations have often done that and have more money to sue journalists, especially from small organizations.

So, harassment also is a siege tactic as organized on networks and distributed on the victims multiple social media platforms in order to silence and intimidate the page seen as an (?).  Julianna, another interviewee of mine, who while also is a Brazilian journalist reported being the target of attacks after having made a story about the fem produced by the far right alternative company.  According to her, she was target of thousand of attacks in just a couple of days after an article was published criticizing the organization, she was enable to use her accounts.  Due to the lack of appropriate mechanisms for reporting, filtering and moderating offensive content on platforms especially those who are coordinated attacks, the option seen by the journalist was to immediately silence her notifications.  In a short amount of time, in Julianna's case there was an escalation from the offenses to deaf threats which led the journalist to contact the legal department of her newspaper agency for action which was not taken by the company, by the agency.

When the death threat came, she informed the chief, who communicated the legal department, but nothing was done.  Abraji, who is responsible also for the journalist rights in Brazil, wrote a letter in defense of the journalist.  The lack of support of journalists from their editorials was reported by at least three other interviewees, many do not know what they can do and need more support in this regard.

So, regarding politicians, the need to look more closely at gender political violence has caused the organization of Americas state to write a declaration on violence and political harassment against women in 2015.  The document calls for definition of political violence and harassment against women, taking into account regional and international discussions on the subject.  And that both violence and political harassment against women may include any gender-based action, conduct or mission and may occur individually or in groups.  Also this violence have their objective to -- or result to belittle, to annoy, to prevent, hinder or restrict the applicant rights or rights of women to have a life free of violence and the rights -- also the rights to participate in political and public affairs on equal terms to men.

Although we can catalog some of the strategies used to spread behavior, it is important to keep in mind the various tactics used to carry out attacks are updated, as council of women from the labor's party or workers party here in Brazil reported to me the right wing is the (?) marker in the sense of knowing what tactics to use and what would be more report and more often more reported than other types of behavior.  They don't bring the debate to the profiles of the candidates.  So to not generate engagement for them, but they screen cap the pulse and publish them in their profiles and there they commend and criticize them.

This type of strategy can reduce the ability to defend one self, in addition to increasing concern about the excessive exposure in social networks.  The possible of gender attacks on their social networks caused the young councilwoman also to rethink their -- her posts on social networks.  As she reported during the campaign silencing herself which was something that she didn't like to do.  She always shared her personal life in social networks if she had an ice cream, et cetera, so trivial things that she stopped to do with afraid of being victim of manipulation of images, whether from (?) which gain a new feature of gender violence, became a new feature of gender violence on the alliance spaces.  So I think this is all that I have to share with you.  I am open to comments and thank you so much for watching this presentation.

Do you have any comments, Clara?

>> CLARA LEITAO DE ALMEIDA: Hello, everyone.  I have a question.  You said that a lot of women weren't encouraged to respond for their aggressions and I wondered if you think there is any tactics that the platform should use to encourage them to answer to the aggressions or --

>> YASMIN CURZI DE MENDONCA: I think that platforms, actually, Yasmina is working on the development of an AI that is able to detect more specifically misogynistic offenses and I think that the platform should invest more in this, not in sense of censoring and cause more positive in the detection of these offenses, but to list these organizations and try to improper their API in the sense, I think there are several works being done in the language field and in the machine learning field also in the sense and I think it could be a path for platforms to dialogue more of these movements and to try to improve their APIs in the sense should be a better path.

Also, I think that most of the interviewees reported to me those who are targeted by coordinated attacks and that suffer multiple attacks in a short period of time, they think that it should be included in the platform, the possibility to -- especially on Twitter, to cause their posts after they were published and et cetera.  And also to report several counts in one time, in one specific time, selecting them, like it exists in other platforms, this type of picture.  So, it's improvements also in the interface of these platforms.


>> YASMIN CURZI DE MENDONCA: So, this is my final remarks.  If anybody have other comments, please feel free to contact me, my email.  That's all.  Thank you.


>> YASMIN CURZI DE MENDONCA: Let's call this.

>> We all live in a digital world.  We all need it to be open and safe.  Question all want to trust.

>> And to be trusted.

>> We all despise control.

>> And desire freedom.

>> We are all united.

(Session was concluded at 13:08 UTC)