How Facebook is working to create online safety for African women

No doubt, technology and social media platforms in general are some of the best things to have happened to mankind. With increased connectivity, ‘likes’ and ‘follows’, have shaped the world into a global village of virtual communication. But even so, there are the certain disadvantages of these genius innovations; these include issues like bullying, harassment and trolling, many of which have ended tragically. For this reason, foremost social networking site, Facebook, is working to create a harassment-free online environment in Africa.

Last week, the social networking site hosted a Women’s Safety round table discussion in Kenya with participants from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), women’s rights groups, safety organisations and academia from across sub-Saharan Africa. The event, whose purpose was to highlight ways in which communities can work together to create a safe online environment, was the maiden edition to be followed by others in the US, Ireland, India, and the Middle East. The meeting also coincided with the world’s Safer Internet Day.

At the round table, Antigone Davis, Head of Global Safety for Facebook, said that the safety is at the core of how their products are built. “We have a community of nearly 1.6 billion people and we work hard to develop global policies that focus on safety, encouraging online respect and honoring the cultural diversity of our platform,” said Davis.

The meeting was to help assure women of their security in society and was attended by representatives from 30 organisations from several African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Ghana and Zambia, amongst others. At the meeting, Ebele Okobi, the Head of Public Policy for Facebook Africa, emphasized the importance of organised meetings with Facebook’s partners saying it helps the company make informed decisions during policy development and their mission to educate the public, particularly women, on safety.

“Facebook is an important way for people in Africa to connect and share. We are committed to working with our partners to ensure our community, especially women, feel safe when they use our platform,” Okobi said. “We look forward to continuing the conversation in order to better reflect our community and develop the right policies.”

In line with the theme of Safer Internet Day 2016 – Play Your Part for a Better Internet – Facebook is working with their partners across Africa to ensure that communities are educated on internet safety and the needs of vulnerable people are addressed accordingly.

Facebook is one of Africa’s most engaging and interactive social media platforms to have witnessed unprecedented growth on the continent with a large amount of users in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. A report, late last year, showed that there were over 7 million daily active social network users in SA and Nigeria respectively. Hence it only makes sense for Africa to kick off the Women’s Safety initiative of the social network since the continent plays a significant role in the company’s growth.

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