World Youth Day Message
With the gush of technology into our lives, electronic communication can be used to intimidate or threaten another, which can cause grave threats to many lives. I believe that the term cyberbullying is too simplistic, and the phrase cyber exploitation and violence, would be more accurate as it better highlights the scale of harm inflicted on victims.
If you have grown up as a woman in Sri Lanka, you may have dealt with some form of cyber-violence such as, stolen photos, fake social media accounts, harassing messages, cyber-stalking, sextortion, rape and death threats. Facebook pages portraying innocent school girls in uniform, to the increasing rate of ‘revenge porn’, all show how Sri Lankan society is deeply rooted in patriarchal norms, unnecessary sensationalizing and a culture of victim-blaming .
A defining characteristic of cyber-violence is the intent of using information to manipulate and hurt someone's reputation in a malicious manner, which may cause serious psychological harm to the victim. All techniques of cyber violence work towards establishing power. The position of anonymity gives the perpetrator an advantage, and leaves the victim at a disadvantage as it creates a constant feeling of being unsafe anywhere. Perpetrators are not limited by geographical/ physical restrictions and can reach many third-parties in just a moment. Thus, an image can be shared with thousands online, and once spread can be extremely difficult to retract or trace.
The youth in Sri Lanka, who are the most active online, become the vulnerable recipients of one of the most common virtual threats. The CID states that in 2018, approximately 90% of university students have been victims of Cyber Harassment. 80% of cyberbullying offenses took place on social media with Facebook being the most common bullying site and the most prevalent bullying offense among university students was the posting of embarrassing videos or photos (65%) . Women in Need published a report recently on a survey conducted that revealed nearly 1 in 4 individuals knew of a friend who had experienced online harassment of a sexual nature .
The lack of boundaries in the digital sphere has become a serious cause for concern and the consequences of it are plenty. Cyber exploitation is now a pandemic. As much as we love the Internet, it can become a scary place when you’re the victim of malicious attacks. But with the right assistance from the Police, Courts and support services, as well as your loved ones, you’ll be able to protect yourself and those around you.