In the context of Nigeria, where over half of the population has internet access, the prevalence of Internet Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (IFGBV) has become a concerning issue. The rise in social media usage, driven by platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, has inadvertently provided a breeding ground for various forms of online violence against women. Cyberbullying, doxxing, cyberstalking, non-consensual pornography, and trolling are among the common manifestations of IFGBV. This type of violence is particularly alarming due to the lack of adequate regulations and safeguards in online spaces, enabling perpetrators to often evade consequences for their actions.
Research indicates that gender-based violence, both traditional and online, is endemic in Nigeria. With at least one in three women having experienced some form of gender-based violence, the consequences extend beyond immediate harm, affecting health, productivity, and family stability. The advent of social media has introduced new dimensions to gender-based violence, with perpetrators using false identities and social engineering tactics to exploit victims. The notorious cases of individuals like Cynthia Osukogu and other victims highlight the tragic outcomes of IFGBV, where social media platforms serve as a medium for luring victims into dangerous situations.
The impact of IFGBV on survivors is profound and multi-faceted. Victims often endure psychological trauma, social isolation, economic setbacks, and, in extreme cases, physical harm. The ease with which explicit content can be disseminated online, coupled with the potential for revenge porn, further exacerbates the harm inflicted on survivors. The challenges faced by survivors in seeking support services, navigating legal frameworks, and dealing with victim-blaming underscore the urgent need for comprehensive interventions.
Identifying the strategies and tools used by perpetrators sheds light on the complex nature of IFGBV. Perpetrators exploit social networking sites, dating platforms, communication technology, and personal online accounts to target victims. Tactics such as doxing, hacking, threatening, image-based abuse, and gendertrolling are employed to intimidate and harm individuals. The cross-cutting nature of these strategies demonstrates the adaptability of perpetrators, emphasizing the importance of holistic approaches in combating IFGBV.
Legal and policy frameworks related to IFGBV in Nigeria, such as the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law, Cyber Crimes Act, and Digital Rights and Freedom bill, aim to address online privacy and protection. However, challenges persist, including low awareness among victims and weak implementation of these laws by the state. Efforts to strengthen legal frameworks, raise awareness, and enhance enforcement mechanisms are crucial to tackling IFGBV effectively.
In addressing IFGBV, the role of technology companies and social media platforms is pivotal. These entities must take proactive steps, including implementing and enforcing community standards, enhancing reporting systems, swiftly removing abusive content and accounts, supporting victims, and investing in research and development. By leveraging their influence and resources, technology companies can contribute to creating safer online spaces and combating the pervasive issue of Internet Facilitated Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria.