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Women Techmakers expands online safety education

A photo of Rana Abdelhamid, Women Techmakers Global Marketing and Partnerships Lead, and Alana of Jigsaw Partnerships introducing the Women Techmakers online safety education module

Online violence against women goes beyond the internet. It impacts society and the economy at large. It leads to damaging economic repercussions, due to increased medical costs and lost income for victims. It impacts the offline world, with seven percent of women changing jobs due to online violence, and one in ten experiencing physical harm due to online threats, according to Google-supported research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2020.

That’s why the Women Techmakers program, which provides visibility, community and resources for women in technology, supports online safety education for women and allies. Google community manager Merve Isler, who lives in Turkey and leads Women Techmakers efforts in Turkey, Central Asia and the Caucasus region, organized the first-ever women’s online safety hackathon in Turkey in 2020, which expanded to a full week of trainings and ideathons in 2021. Google community manager and Women Techmakers manager Hufsa Manawar brought online safety training to Pakistan in early 2022.

Now, Women Techmakers is providing a more structured way for women around the world to learn about online safety, in the form of a free online learning module, launched in April 2022, in honor of International Women’s Day. To create this module, I worked with my co-host Alana Fromm from Jigsaw and our teams to create a series of videos covering different topics related to women’s online safety. Jigsaw is a unit within Google that explores threats to open society and builds technological solutions.

In the online training, we begin by defining online violence and walking through the ways negative actors threaten women online, which include misinformation and defamation, cyberharassment and hate speech. Regardless of the tactic, the goal remains the same: to threaten and harass women into silence. We break down the groups of people involved in online harassment and the importance of surrounding oneself with allies.

In one of the videos in the series, Women Techmakers Ambassador Esrae Abdelnaby Hassan shares her story of online abuse. She was exploring learning cybersecurity when a mentor she trusted gave her USB drives with courses and reading material that were infected with viruses and allowed him to take control of her computer and record videos. Then, he blackmailed her, using the videos he’d taken as threats. She felt afraid and isolated, and relied on her family for support as she addressed the harassment.

The learning module provides two codelabs, one on steps you can take to protect yourself online, and one on Perspective API, a free, open-source product built by Jigsaw and the Counter Abuse security team at Google. The first codelab provides practical guidance, and the second codelab walks viewers through the process of installing Perspective API, which uses machine learning to identify toxic comments.

We look forward to seeing the impact of our new, easy-to-access online training, as well as what our ambassadors are able to accomplish offline as the year progresses.

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