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Gender and cyber security: understanding the rise of online gendered attacks

Online violence is emerging as a global issue that particularly affects women and LGBTQI+ communities. There is emerging evidence that female and LGBTQI+ internet users are frequently subjected to harassment, hate speech, and censorship. A 2015 report by the United Nations revealed that close to three-quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence. LGBTQI+ communities around the Global South say they also suffer from violence, surveillance, and censorship online, but survey data is limited.

As connectivity has given rise to online gender-based attacks and threats to freedom of expression, the intersecting topics of gender and digital security are becoming increasingly relevant in the developing world. Moreover, given the intersectional nature of this topic, the issues affecting women in the Global South also affect LGBTQI+ communities. However, research on human rights online (digital rights) for both communities is limited, and there is little empirical work that provides verified data on the scope, scale, and type of censorship and discrimination occurring in these communities. There is a need to examine the unique elements affecting both populations.

This project seeks to help fill that gap by increasing the research capacity of Global South-based research communities and by developing greater empirical knowledge on gender and digital security issues. These objectives will be achieved through two main avenues: the University of Toronto’s annual Citizen Lab Summer Institute, which has proven effective for research collaboration and knowledge transfer; and through a targeted research project exploring threats to freedom of expression online that affect LGBTQI+ communities in the Global South.

Project ID
Project Status
30 months
IDRC Officer
Ruhiya Seward
Total Funding
CA$ 355,950.00
Institution Country
Project Leader
Ronald Deibert
The Governing Council of the University of Toronto

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