Women and Online Harassment


  • Salil Tripathi




The promise of social media platforms on the internet was the creation of a level playing field that would enable users equal access to express themselves online. However, the experience of women journalists and human rights defenders has shown that while they are able to use the medium, they are attacked for expressing unpopular views and threatened with physical violence. This paper looks at cases from the UK, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, and examines other instances where organised groups have attempted to intimidate women into silence by forcing some to leave social media platforms, and in certain cases to leave the countries where they live. The paper also notes research by Amnesty International and other civil society groups that have shown how toxic the online environment has become. There is also a continuum between online threats and offline violence. Women are also being driven away from other kinds of activity on the internet, including gaming. The paper concludes with a call on social media platforms to regulate the platforms more effectively so that the medium does what it was intended to do – offer space to all voices.


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Author Biography

Salil Tripathi

Salil Tripathi is a writer based in New York, who has earlier lived in Mumbai, Singapore, Hong Kong and London. Born in India, he has worked as a foreign correspondent and an award-winning journalist, and he is the author of three works of non-fiction. From 2015 to 2021 he chaired PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee and is presently a member of its board. He is also senior adviser for global issues at the Institute for Human Rights and Business. He was educated at the University of Bombay and later, at Dartmouth College in the US.

[Untitled] (Date unknown) by Houria Niati