SHE study reveals majority of online users have experienced online harms
SHE study reveals majority of online users have experienced online harms, calls for more action
SINGAPORE, 22 SEPTEMBER 2023 - Independent non-profit organisation SG Her Empowerment (SHE), which in January 2023 launched SHECARES@SCWO,
the nation’s first support centre for targets of online harms, has released topline findings from an online harms study. The findings will also be discussed at the
Online Harms Symposium jointly organised by the Ministry of Law and SMU’s Yong Pung How School of Law held from 25 to 27 September.
SHE’s Online Harms Study - Topline Findings
The study, conducted with 1,056 Singaporeans, sought to understand the prevalence and impact of online harms on Singapore’s population, the helpseeking behaviours by victims and survivors, and how these factors may differ across population segments.
This study focuses on nine categories of online harms commonly perpetrated by bad actors against others online, whose targets could be expected to approach a
service such as SHECARES@SCWO for help. Unlike other forms of harm such as online scams and terrorism content which have come under increased scrutiny by
law enforcement and lawmakers in recent years, these nine categories of harms have not been the main focus of recent legal reforms but deserve specific attention
Findings revealed the extent of the problem in Singapore with the majority of respondents having encountered online harms and exhibiting a general lack of
trust in the civility of the online space. It also noted that a number may have adopted an attitude that the prevalence of online harms is “normal”. The majority
of those surveyed also want to see swift and permanent avenues of recourse.
a) Three in five of the respondents (58 percent) have personally experienced and or knew others who faced online harms.
b) A larger proportion of the younger segment aged 15 to 44 reported (i) personally experiencing online harms and (ii) witnessing online harms.
c) Female youths are twice as likely to report experiencing sexual harassment compared to males.
d) Three in four are uncomfortable expressing their personal views on potentially controversial topics. Many self-censor (66 percent) or disengage (68 percent) from their online activities.
e) Two in five victims reported experiencing at least one severe form of impacts such as physical and mental health issues, and suicidal ideation.
f) One in five victims were unaffected by their online harm experience.
g) The key barrier to reporting online harms to platforms or taking legal action, was cited to be a low perceived severity of the online harms experience.
h) More than 80 percent prefer measures that involve the swift and permanent removal of online harms.
The full report is enclosed at Annex A.
Recommendations from SHE
In addition to highlighting the findings from the Online Harms Study at the Symposium, which will see key stakeholders and experts gather to discuss the
pressing issue, speakers from SHE will also participate in discussions on three different panels on the topic, laying out some recommendations for consideration:
• Raise awareness of online harms, particularly amongst vulnerable groups such as youths and females
• Build trust in online space and encourage positive norms of civility online
• Improve support resources, such as through the SHECARES@SCWO centre
• Improve modes of recourse by raising awareness of in-app reporting and supporting public agencies in developing legal recourse measures
• Further research on short- and long-term individual and societal impact of online harms, and how they may affect gender equality or social norms in both the online and real worlds
Chew Han Ei, Board Member, SHE and Senior Research Fellow, IPS, said “It is worrying that people have started to normalise online harms and disengage from the Internet as a way of coping with the risks online. A significant number of Singaporeans have experienced online harms and we know that this can have severe impact on one’s mental and physical health. This is concerning and certainly not the direction that we want society to head towards. We hope that these findings will spur awareness and action, so that we can better protect survivors of online harms and create a safe digital space for all.”
SHECARES@SCWO - Helping targets of Online Harms
Since SHECARE@SCWO opened in January 2023, more than 110 counselling sessions and 20 legal clinics have been held. Harms commonly seen at the centre include sexual harassment, defamation, image-based sexual abuse, cyberstalking, hate speech, doxxing and sextortion.
The centre also assists with in-app reports which is a unique feature of the SHECARES centre. SHE is a community partner of LinkedIn and Snap and has worked closely with Internet/video platforms such as Google/YouTube, Meta, TikTok and X to partner on their respective priority flagger/trusted flagger programmes. Such programmes cater for better user recourse, as they allow inapp reports made by SHE and the SHECARES@SCWO centre to be expedited or prioritised as needed.
Two SHECARES@SCWO clients will be sharing their experience of online harms and how they sought help at the centre, at the afternoon panel on Day One of the
To raise awareness on online harms and its impact on survivors, SHE has also partnered G.H.Y Culture & Media to release a four-episode miniseries featuring
local talent such as Tay Ping Hui. The miniseries trailer will be featured at the Symposium.
Simran Toor, CEO SHE, said “Gender equality and safety should be enjoyed in both the real world and online world. Online harms greatly impact individuals and society, and– if left unchecked – can set new social norms of behaviour. At SHE, we take a multi-pronged approach to help shape a healthier environment for all. Not only do we directly supporting those affected, we also work with partners and Government to find solutions whilst undertaking outreach to prevent issues from escalating. Everyone has the right to be safe, both online and offline.”
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SG Her Empowerment (SHE) is an independent non-profit organisation, with Institution of Public Character status, that strives to empower girls and women through community engagements and partnerships. SHE engages and listens to women and men across the community, and from all age groups and walks of life. SHE facilitates research and gathers data to clearly frame the issues and identify the needs, in order to shape strategies that will make a positive impact. SHE also collaborates with community stakeholders from different interest groups, civil society organisations, corporates and the Government. Through these efforts, SHE advocates for change and champions a more equal society. For more info, please visit she.org.sg.
SHECARES@SCWO is Singapore’s first support centre for targets of online harms. Launched in collaboration with the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), the centre provides holistic support and a safe space for targets of online harms, particularly girls and women, to turn to when they encounter harmful behaviour on the internet.
The centre will have a particular focus on girls and women because, while both men and women are affected by online harms, we believe that women are disproportionately targeted, for example via sexual harassment, stalking, and non-consensual intimate image sharing. Surveys have also shown that women feel less safe online and are not aware of the resources and assistance available to them. For more info, please visit she.org.sg/shecares-scwo.