Saturday, 4 June 2016

EgaFem Evaluation – UN Cyberviolence Report Pt.1

Author: Blaise Wilson

Articles in this Series:

Evaluation Criteria:
UN Cyberviolence Report pt.1: This article
UN Cyberviolence Report pt 2:


This is an analyses of the UN Broadband Commission for digital development working group on broadband and gender’s report on Combatting Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls, 2015.

This report is SO BAD that the Broadband Commission has revoked it!

Revised version due here:

However it is still available on the UN’s website here: – to check it’s the same version I used – scroll to page 51, the 5th bullet down should read “Halder, Debarati & K. Jaishankar (2015). Harassment via WHATsAPP in Urban & Rural India. A Baseline Survey Report (2015) file:///C:/Users/owner/Downloads/CCVCresearchreport2015.pdf” – yes this is the infamous ‘link to the authors hard drive’ report.

For anyone writing academic papers, this is a great example of what not to do.

It will be marked against the evaluation criteria and given a mark out of ten for each section. The total possible marks are 100.

For anyone as insane as I am who wants to subject themselves to an details analysis of this report, please put your breakdown scores in the comments (below), tweet us (@EgaFem) or tell us on facebook ( )

Have clear aims and boundary

This was the reports biggest failing. This is the foundation of a report on which everything else is based.

On page 6 the report claims “this report serves to address a critical issue in determining whether the gender goals of the Broadband Commission are achieved.” Then on page 10-11 it claims “the main objectives of this paper are to:
  • Situate the growing threat of cyber VAWG within the broader context and challenge of cyber-crime, internet growth and governance, and human rights;
  • Define key priority areas of action that address the 5Ps of Due Diligence, through public sensitization, compliance of safeguards and the implementation of sanctions”
One of the few consistent themes was Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). For a report entitled ‘cyber-violence’ it wasn’t well bounded and had inconsistent aims which allowed the report to shift about all over the place.

Also, it wasn’t clear which countries were included, it implied globally and used data from a range of countries.

Mark: 2/10

Have clearly defined consistent terms, tone and use of language

Page 6 defines cyber violence as including “hate speech (publishing a blasphemous libel), hacking (intercepting private communications), identity theft, online stalking (criminal harassment) and uttering threats. It can entail convincing a target to end their lives.”

On page 21 it defines cyber as “the different ways that the Internet exacerbates, magnifies or broadcasts the abuse” of VAWG, which is defined by the UN as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

Then on page 22 it defines cyber-VAWG to include hacking, impersonation, surveillance/tracking, harassment/spamming, recruitment (lure potential victims into violence situations), and malicious distribution (including using technology as a propaganda tool to promote violence against women).

Each of these definitions are different, especially when you consider each element e.g. online stalking is kind of similar to surveillance and tracking – but then the report demands on page 48 that “political and governmental bodies need to use their licensing prerogative to ensure that only those Telecoms and search engines are allowed to connect with the public that supervise content and its dissemination” i.e. use surveillance.

So, not only are the terms inconsistent but they include solutions that could be deemed as cyber-violence.

There were numerous words not defined, or defined very late e.g. ‘netizen’ is used on page 7 but not defined till page 21. Specialist terms like ‘cyber-touch’ [p48] isn’t defined at all – other than being equally as harmful as physical touch. What about ‘gender-friendly’ on page 36 – what does it mean?

Around page 41 ‘victims’ suddenly become ‘survivors’, it also around this time that ‘cyber-violence’ morphs into ‘cyber-crime’.

Part 4 of the report’s tone is very different, using a whiny ‘voice’ on page 40, “While complicated to pursue, this is not an excuse for them not to manage cyber-violence risks.”

Then there is the biased language trying to tell the reader how to react, such as, “WhatsApp excuses” [p34], “misogynist images” [p23] and “supposedly humorous context” [p31]

It does define some terms such as ‘revenge porn’ on page 22 being defined as ‘non-consensual pornography’ but then confuses it by moving straight onto ‘sexting’ and sending naked pictures.

Mark: 3/10

Provide evidence on Main Argument

Evidence? Don’t make me laugh. This report was riddled with assertions. However, to be fair, there were some citations here and there. Whether those citations support their statement is not covered here.

Here is a list of some of the assertions with no citation:
  • “The respect for and security of girls and women must at all times be front and centre of those in charge of producing and providing the content, technical backbone and enabling environment of our digital society.” [p2]
  • The spread of the internet will automatically cause behaviour of a “global pandemic with significant negative consequences for all societies in general and irreparable damage for girls and women in particular” [p6-7]
  • "An emerging set of anti-social, aggressive and violent content and behaviours are available to anyone who logs on to the internet, regardless of age, gender, culture or values… - with children as young as 5 or 6 years of age now exposed to cyber bulling and online pornography – sometimes of the most extreme kind. In some contexts online culture represents the worst form of gang violence”. [p7]
  • “There is a well-worn statistic that 30% of all Internet traffic constitutes porn” [p7]
  • “The communication tools offered by new technologies are being misused by both men and women to assert dominance, to manipulate, to terrorize, to humiliate, and to silence.” [p9]
  • "Underlying this is the perpetuation of negative and harmful stereotypes of girls and women as well as negative notions of masculinity.” [p10]
  • “The potential to broadcast cyber-violence and hate crimes against women is particularly noticeable; it is exponential, unprecedented and at times corrosive and vitriolic, and it represents the very worst of mob mentality and perceived ‘safety in numbers’ by the perpetrators. Online harassment has become, in part, a team sport, with posters vying to outdo each other.” [p10]
  • “links to the core roots of the problem are very much in evidence and cannot be overlooked” [p48]
Need I go on…? There are plenty more to pick from!

Mark: 4/10

Avoid logical fallacies

There were multiple logical fallacies throughout the report, but the most common was Assumption of Causation, Appeal to Emotion (which is unsurprising as a stated objective of the report was sensitization), and Bandwaggoning. There were many others but these three are particularly evident.

Assumption of causation was strong because the report failed to provide evidence for, discuss or even demonstrate logical links. For example on the very first page and then repeated on page 5 “millions of women and girls around the world are subjected to deliberate violence because of their gender,” (emphasis mine).

This fallacy is throughout, trying to link a statement to a cause, or a cause to a solution. Some more examples include:
  • “In the last ten years, some American and European pornography producers have moved to places such as Budapest, Hungary because of the availability of cheap actors from Eastern and Central Europe. Budapest is also a destination and transit city for women trafficked from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, Romania, and countries of the former Yugoslavia. The city is also now the biggest center for pornography production in Europe, eclipsing traditional centres such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen.”[p23]
  • “Boys aged 12- 17 are the largest consumer group of Internet porn. This suggests that the first images and information surrounding sex that a young boy is exposed to would include violence towards a woman.” [p8]
  • “More women-friendly content would drive women online.” [p32]
  • “Safe, respectful and empowering space for women and girls, and by extension, for boys and men.” [p2]
"Millions of women and girls” page 1 and 5 – this is also an appeal to emotion. This not only includes appeals to emotion but often leads to over exaggeration, without evidence of course. Here are some more examples:
  • “the impact of violence, trauma and loss that women, girls and children are routinely exposed to… is a problem of pandemic proportion.” [p2]
  • “Failure to address and solve cyber VAWG could significantly impede the digital inclusion of women everywhere, putting women at increasing disadvantage for being excluded from enjoying the benefits if ICTs and the Internet.” [p3]
  • “The systematic targeting of girls and women is also a tactic used in war and conflict.” [p5]
  • “Non-fatal acts of violence take a particular toll on women and children. One in four children has been physically abused’ one in five girls has been sexually abused, and one in three women has been a victim of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in her lifetime” [p14] – remember this report is entitled CYBER-violence
The Bandwaggon fallacy centres on the appeal to the popular – that if lots of people do it then it must be right! What is really curious is the report condemns it when a woman is the victim of large scale bandwaggoning VAWG, but condones it when the victim of the bandwagon is a perceived perpetrator of VAWG:
  • “Following public outrage, the main aggressor lost his high paying job at a public corporation” [p1-2] – doxing and mob mentally = good!
  • The time to act is now, why? Because “the issue has been brought to the fore by heightened public awareness promoted by media sensationalism, high-profile stories.” [p9]
  • “only after fifteen companies… threatened to pull their advertising” [p31] – mob mentally is good, it got us what we wanted!
  • Zoe Quinn -“A target of Gamergate, suffered harassment, including doxing” [p24] – doxing and mob mentally = evil!
  • “it represents the very worst of mob mentality and perceived ‘safety in numbers’ by the perpetrators” [p10] – mob mentality is evil!
There were numerous other logical fallacies through the report, however the stated goal of using appeal to emotion as a tactic certainly losses the report a lot of marks.

Mark: 3/10

Link Main Argument to wider topics and context

This is arguably the reports second biggest strength (after looking pretty).

Because the report was so broad it discussed a lot of interconnecting topics.

It attempted to place cyber-VAWG within the context of both cyber-crime and physical VAWG, including how cyber-VAWG can impact daily lives offline such as getting people fired. It discussed how women not being in decision making positions in technology has an impact on priorities of cyber-VAWG. It talked about how technology could be used to reduce VAWG. It linked the social status, economic challenges, and the agency of women. Freedom of speech is mentioned several times. It even covers women’s access to and understanding of technology – and more besides!

It touched on a lot of interrelated subjects – however it loses points by failing to link them coherently. After reading the report I still have no idea how the topics interrelate.

Mark: 6/10

Provide a counter-argument to premise and explore alternative views

One issues is the premise of the report is unclear. However, for each point main I would expect a counter point and then a discussion.

Although it was a bit of a stretch I did find some counter points:
  • “The use of WhatsApp instant messaging , for example, has become, according to some reports [no citation], the latest harassment tool of choice in countries like India and Malaysia, and increasingly around the world [no citation]. Pornographic imagery produced in one country now lands in the hands of anyone anywhere. This is not to say that WhatsApp is not a positive and useful tool. Many women and men use the app for activism – and netizens use it simple to communicate.” [p7] – the counter point is ‘it isn’t all bad on WhatsApp, it can be positive!’ And yes, that is a quote – that is how the sentence in the report reads.
  • “18.3 per cent have been unaware of the fact they have been victimized” [p17] – not a good counter but does show that the definition of cyber-violence is open to interpretation, not all victims think they are victims
  • “The counter-evidence shows that 70 per cent of Internet users consider the Internet to be ‘liberating’” [p18] - this is counter to the data that the internet is not safe for expression or allows greater freedoms
  • “a California lawyer had his Facebook account hacked,” [p35] - counter to the main premise of the scope that women suffer or suffer to a greater extent than men.
And that’s it… as you can see I REALLY tried to find some – accepting anything looking closely like a counter point.

Mark: 1/10

Next time: I’ll finish my marking and produce my final verdict!

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