Bytes and bruises: tech-facilitated gender-based violence explained


“I think you want your parents to see those nudes you sent me.” Despite being in the 21st century, society still forces restrictive gender labels on us, echoing the mindset of the 1930s. In a way, it's even worse than it was a century ago as tech takes gender-based violence to another level.

Studies show that 58% of young women have experienced online gender-based violence, with women being 27 times more likely to experience this type of abuse.

Tech-facilitated gender-based violence (GBV) is an issue that has swept the internet over the past couple of years but has been an ongoing and vicious problem online. While women are most likely to experience this, any person can be a victim of technology-facilitated gender-based violence.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people experienced this type of online abuse, with a stark increase in online abuse occurring at this time.

Now that part of our lives is over, tech-facilitated GBV still exists in the digital domain.

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the term still lives online, infecting the lives of many people who experience it.

What is tech-facilitated gender-based violence?

This term describes violence that occurs through technological means, often toward a person based on their gender.

Most often, women are discriminated against in online spaces, with women 27 times more likely to experience tech-facilitated GBV.

There are many different forms of violence that come under the umbrella of tech-facilitated GBV. This can range from sextortion to doxxing – each violent act is done online, and these things could happen to anyone.

Sextortion

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released an alert warning parents and children of the rise of sextortion schemes.

Criminals will create illegitimate accounts on social media to coerce victims into sending explicit images or videos. The threat actor will then threaten the victim with the image, potentially asking for funds, or else the images will be shared with relatives or broadcast on social media.

While women are often at the forefront of this type of violence, this year has marked the rise in young boys falling victim to this heinous scheme. With the increased use of artificial intelligence, this type of extortion has never been easier.

In August 2023, Brandon Huu Le, 22, was sentenced to only 70 months in prison for a nationwide sextortion case that targeted over 270 girls using the popular social media platform Snapchat.

One attorney said that Huu Le’s actions were “nothing short of vile” as he manipulated the young girls into sending him explicit images otherwise, he would release the sexually charged messages they exchanged.

This is an example of his sextortion tactics:

“Either f-----g send the pic now or I’m not gonna give your [sic] anymore chances . . . I think you want me to mail to your house now . . . I think you want your parents to see those nudes you sent me . . . Maybe your sisters want to see what a good slut you are” and “[D]o you want me to post your nudes? Do you want to ruin your chances of ever going to a good college? Do you want to ruin your chances of getting a good job?”

Many of the man's victims were minors, which meant that the imagery he received was child pornography.

Unfortunately, younger people may not be privy to this kind of scheme, as the perpetrator's threats can feel very real.

The tactic of using sexually explicit imagery to blackmail, harass, or abuse victims is a common thread when looking at tech-facilitated GBV. Revenge porn is a common form of violence used to harass and humiliate victims.

Revenge porn

In 2023, a woman in Texas won her battle against her ex-boyfriend who shared sexually explicit images with her family and friends after they broke up, NBC reported.

The perpetrator, Marques Jamal Jackson, supposedly posted the images on various social media sites, in a publicly accessible Dropbox folder, and on an impersonation pornography site.

The man vowed that the victim would “spend the rest of (her) life trying and failing to wipe (herself) off the internet,” her lawyer and NBC reported.

Thankfully, this woman was successful in bringing her abuser to justice, and the man is expected to pay $1.2 million to her.

Revenge porn, referring to exposing sexually intimate or explicit images and videos without the victim's consent, spiked in 2023, as a SWGfl, an online safety platform, reported that calls to a revenge porn helpline increased by 106%.

Like that’s not enough, AI added fuel to the fire as spiteful exes rushed to AI tools to help them fake nasty images they could exploit later. Anyone - from Taylor Swift to teenage girls in New Jersey - can become a victim.

Doxxing: there’s nowhere to hide

A 22-year-old man called Mir Islam was sentenced to 24 months in prison back in 2016 for various crimes, including swatting (making a hoax phone call to emergency services to harass an individual), cyberstalking, and doxxing.

While all of these could be classified as tech-facilitated GBV, doxxing is one of the main forms of harassment that fall within this category.

Doxxing is the process of revealing a person’s personal information, such as their full name, phone number, home address, work address, and various other personally identifiable information (PII).

In this case, Islam and his co-conspirators posted the PII of at least 50 celebrities and state as well as federal officials on different websites, all sharing the same domain name, ‘exposed.’

“The natural, inevitable, and intended consequence of this publication of names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, credit reports, and the like was the use of that information by countless others to illicitly obtain credit cards and other finance-related accounts using the identities of the doxxing victims, causing many victims to suffer continuing credit issues. The publication of the victim’s personal identifying information also revealed to any other would-be harassers or assailants how and where to contact the victims.”

The United States Attorney’s Office.

This, like many of the other crimes discussed, has one sole purpose: to humiliate and cause harm.

So, how do you avoid this type of harassment online?

Steps to avoid online assault

While online assault can have some of the same psychological and emotional effects that a physical assault would have, it’s good to remember that the threat may not be as imminent as it seems.

Everyone wants to avoid online harassment, revenge porn, doxxing, and sextortion, so we recommend that you do the following:

tech-facilitated-gbv-list

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