Twitter campaign to help women fight cyber bullying

Social media giant partners local groups to hold workshops on Internet safety, empowerment

With more women and girls suffering online bullying and harassment in recent years, Twitter Singapore launched a campaign to help them fight back yesterday.

#PositionOfStrength will include a series of workshops on Internet safety and empowerment in partnership with the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) and Young Women's Leadership Connection (YWLC).

These will teach women how to respond to, and protect themselves from, online harassment and abuse, among other things.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu was guest of honour at the campaign's launch at Twitter Singapore's Raffles Place office yesterday.

Noting how data released by a local cyber-wellness research company last year showed a 4 per cent increase in cyber-bullying encounters among girls aged 13 to 15 from 2013, she said such behaviour can cause "great stress, fear, loss of self-esteem and sadly, even loss of lives".

"We can find more ways to make the Web women-friendly (and) we can find more ways to make the world women-friendly," she added.

The free 90-minute workshops will be conducted in May, August, and October and it is hoped that between 70 and 150 women will attend each one. It is the first time that the Twitter workshops have been introduced in South-east Asia. Similar ones have been held in Australia, Dublin, Dubai and India.

"Twitter and other social media platforms surface the reality of the human condition that we don't always see, and I noticed a lot of misogyny coming through," said Ms Julie Inman-Grant, 47, Twitter's director of public policy for Australia and South-East Asia. "We really need to find a way for our users to be able to deal with negativity when they encounter it."

She added that Twitter has been improving online tools that can protect users' safety. For example, a mute function was introduced in 2014, allowing a user to hide another's abusive tweets.

Film-maker Tan Siok Siok, 44, who spoke in a panel discussion at last night's launch, said social media can also be used as a tool for women to create positive identities. "Women are often depicted as passive objects on social media - of cyber bullying, harassment and sexual fantasy," she said. "But social media enforces an equal opportunity (for women) to become dynamic subjects who can shape and invent their own identities online."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Twitter campaign to help women fight cyber bullying'. Print Edition | Subscribe