Cybercrime on the agenda of the Sixth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Cybercrime on the agenda of the Sixth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Date: October 5, 2011
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Media monitoring is part of my day to day activities at Gender Links. Last week I came across a front page headline “Hunt for facebook rapist” in the Daily Sun, a national tabloid in South Africa. The article reported of a man who has been using facebook to con young women aspiring to go into competitive modelling for five years, and recently raped one of the girls. This incident is among many crimes and violence that internet users especially those on social networks get exposed to.

The Sixth Annual IGF Meeting took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 27-30 September 2011 under the banner “Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation.” Among other things, the mandate of the IGF is to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet. It also facilitates discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discusses issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body.

Cybersecurity is one of the topics that dominated the IGF and delegates sounded an alarm over the rise in cybercrimes, urging governments to establish strong legal safeguards to combat the malpractice.

But like many other issues, women are more vulnerable to cybercrimes than their male counterparts. A study by Oxygen Media and Lightspeed Research indicates that 57% of young women aged 18-34 years chat to people online instead of face to face. Facebook users spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on the site, updating every detail of their lives. This demonstrates how risky women are to cybercrimes. Hopefully as individuals, companies and governments embark on coming up with measures to curb cybercrime, they will specifically think and come up with ways that will address cyber violence.

Stereotypical portrayal of women on the internet is another thing that stakeholders on the issue should discuss. A 2007 Gender Links’ study on Gender and Advertising in Southern Africa revealed that most advertisers use women’s physical attributes as a marketing ploy and internet advertisements are no exception, worse because it is an unregulated platform. This calls for gender integration into all prospective security measures and discussions on internet governance. It is encouraging to note therefore that safety of women, children and the vulnerable groups has been at the centre of this year’s Internet Governance Forum and hopefully issues affecting women on this matter will be fully looked into.
The Association for Progressive Communications has also been monitoring the sixth IGF in terms of gender balance and representation in IGF processes. The organisation has put forward a gender report card, which it describes as “a simple but strategic way to get a more accurate sense of women’s participation at the IGF.”

The Gender Report Card focuses on the following:
– How many women are participating in each IGF session?
– How many speakers of each IGF session are men or women?
– From which stakeholder groups are the women speakers?
– To what extent does each session incorporate a gendered analysis?

Participants were encouraged to complete these forms. We look forward to the results of the Gender Report Card.

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