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Understanding Online Harassment

Understanding Online Harassment


Picture this. A female media personality critics the President of Kenya for being indecisive and in the same breath laments the lack of a better possible alternative to the President. The article goes viral. A blogger miffed by the insinuation that his candidate of choice has been taunted inadequate goes on a revenge mission. In part he wrote: “…She thrives on shallow penetration and below the belt operation. Don’t ask me to expound. That’s why despite regular penetration by P akiaang’oa, she couldn’t give birth…” This and more examples are what constitute online harassment and hate speech.

Women Journalist’s Digital Security’, a report published in May 2016 by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) in partnership with Article 19 defines online harassment as the use of cyber space to intentionally intimidate and embarrass an individual or groups of people. It includes but is not limited to, receiving any threats or being insulted using the new media/social media.

The report highlights the prevalence of online harassment meted on journalists on the different social media platforms. Facebook led with 39.7 percent of online harassment, WhatsApp with 19.1 percent, blogs-16.3 percent and Twitter with 10.3 percent.

Smear campaigns against women arise from gender insensitivity, ethnicity, perceived political affiliations and sensitive subjects that cause disputes. Njoki Chege, a female Kenyan columnist has received brutal reactions from social media platforms for her often candid and controversial articles. In one of her articles she likens political bloggers to call girls. This did not augur well with the bloggers community who went on a rampage and lynched her online. In a rebuttal tweet, one person posts a picture in which young boys are holding machetes and calls for talks with the writer.

Society has also become tolerant of online abuses. Name calling, disparaging remarks and insulting comments have been accepted as the norm, hence crying foul over such incidences may show one as being ‘petty’ and too sensitive. It is not uncommon for sparks to be kindled online and become consuming fires after sometime. With hashtags and sharing mechanisms on social media people get caught up in the moment and the mob mentality fuels greater discord and hatred online. In the midst of such, it is important to find the sobering voice that will call out the madness for what it really is. We need sober voices that will propagate peace for our own good.

Sadly enough, prosecution of cybercrimes on social media platforms faces the challenge of jurisdiction because of the borderless nature of the internet. Within the national border different laws are applied, hence it is difficult to prosecute attackers from different borders. The organization of police units and their capacity to handle these crimes at county level are some of the issues that hinder timely reporting. A respondent from the research said that after reporting a case to the District Criminal Investigations Officer (DCIO) he was told that the issue was to be handled by the Cybercrime Unit which was in the capital, yet he stayed in Kisumu.

Getting justice for cybercrimes may prove a herculean task, but nonetheless we should speak up against online harassment and only then will people start taking notice and before we know it our society will be more informed on the issue. Then we will have better policies and implementation mechanisms.

Having A Strong Password May Not Guarantee Online Safety

Having A Strong Password May Not Guarantee Online Safety

So, you are one of those elitist types that stopped using their middle name and birth date as a password. Since you’re not a total technoramus, you always opt for complicated passwords with numerals, unique jumble of letters and symbols which you memorize and never write down. ‘Smart’, you think restraining yourself from giving your back a congratulatory pat. However, recent insights by security experts warn that the arduous task of inventing strong passwords may give us a false sense of security.
Keylogging or keyboard capturing might be one of the overlooked potential threats. With the keylogging software a hacker is able to decrypt even the strongest passwords by recording all key strokes from ones PC. The software which is deposited on a PC by a virus sends the information to a remote location oblivious to the user. The software enables the hacker to keep track of your every move on the PC without your knowledge and have access to a wide range of your data. A good antivirus may detect and block the software, but there is no guarantee that it will get everything.
Only last month a hotel employee at San Antonio hotel in the United States was arrested and his computer confiscated by the FBI, that they noticed he had videos and photos of people engaged in consensual sex acts. Apparently, he had installed keylogger software on guests’ computers without their knowledge and had free access to their emails and other personal information including video and photo accounts of sexual imagery. One of the vital information we give during SKIRTS trainings is to sensitize users against uploading or having sensitive information on their PC or phone. Keeping nude photos and videos of yourself on your gadgets is a complete no, no, unless you wouldn’t mind if they were shared with the world ad infinitum.
Keyloggers can be one of the most dangerous forms of malware as it goes undetected if running properly. They hide in the background and can capture data for as long as they can avoid detection. Take caution what you download and run, and use solid antivirus programs that will hopefully prevent keyloggers from running. If you are using a desktop, ensure that you are conversant with your normal cables and before switching on your computer make sure that there are no foreign cables attached.
Apart from keylogging there are many other potential risks to your personal information and while a strong password may not always be the way out, it does eliminate you as an obvious victim. Using two-tiered notification when possible, helps so that when one password is discovered it would not be enough to log into other accounts. It also sets up notifications so that when one logs into any of your accounts from a new device or location, you will receive an email. In the meantime, ensure that you change your passwords every three months and do not use one password for multiple accounts. Every account should have its own unique mumble jumble password.
SKIRTS CONF POSTERSKIRTS will be hosting a conference on August 6 to create awareness on online harassment of women and girls, with a core purpose of offering digital security training so as to enhance online protection.

FRIDA Fund visit to S.K.I.R.T.S

FRIDA Fund visit to S.K.I.R.T.S

At SKIRTS we are always happy to have visitors in our space. Last week we had the pleasure of hosting Rudo warrior, a consultant for the FRIDA Fund (Flexibility, Resources, Inclusivity, Diversity and Action). FRIDA engages with groups directly to enable them to define their own strengths, weaknesses, and to develop their capacities through experiences.

Outreach and capacity building were key subjects during the meeting. Present during the visit were SKIRTS team, who gave their first hand experience in capacity development, Resource mobilization and knowledge building not forgetting our monitoring and learning evaluation process.

During the course of the meeting we shared our successes and the stumbling blocks that we have encountered in our cause of creating awareness around the matters on on-line violence and harassment, provision of training on digital security and creating of evidence on on-line violence and harassment in the society.

We also learn a lot from Rudo and FRIDA at large for it is not very so often, that  somebody comes along and says something so honest, so inspiring, so mind-explodingly wise, that there’s nothing left to do except stare at them unblinkingly, that was our experience from the meeting. We were happy to host you in our space, and we re looking forward to your next visit.

Yesterday, FRIDA featured SKIRTS on their social media pages you can see more about that here.

Digital Security Training at Multimedia University

Digital Security Training at Multimedia University

On 27th of May, we kicked off our #SafeSpace Digital Security training, campus edition at Multimedia University of Kenya, through the faculty of Computing information Technology.

Multimedia was the first university to receive this intensive training, since SKIRTS started this program targeting young people, since they are the ones who fall victim and some as perpetrators of on-line violence. The program is currently running though out the year, sessions are offered at no cost to participants and is suitable for all young people.

We held a whole day training with the aim of creating awareness around cyber-crime vices, what the law says and above all what we can do to ensure that we protect ourselves against harm via the tech, and also on understanding gender parity in tech and how social media works for inclusion of all.

Speaking at the opening of the training, Mr. Kariuki a lecturer at the university said that the training is a very good initiative and it will provide the students with the skills and knowledge on how to protect themselves on the on-line space as they carry on with their activities.

The training attracted students from all the faculties in the institution. In the course of the training, Participants were asked to come up with solutions that could help eradicate on-line violence and harassment.

It was such an exciting activity, as the participants came up with very innovative ideas that can be implemented to bring change to this kind of problem. The ideas ranged from:

  • Mobile apps,
  • Network security infrastructure and;
  • Legislations that should be put in place to to punish the perpetrators of on-line violence.

Speaking on behalf of the University, Mr.Kariuki, welcomed SKIRTS back for more trainings to their students come next semester, as they would love more of their students to be impacted with skills and knowledge on cyber-security at large.