DEVON, England, Oct. 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Online abuse against women and young girls is putting democracy at risk, according to a leading legal expert in the field of image-based sexual abuse, honorary KC Clare McGlynn.
Clare McGlynn is advising the online safety charity South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL), on the development of their new online platform, Minerva, which is intended to equip women with the tools, knowledge and resources they need to find safety and regain control.
Her comments come as the passage through parliament of The Online Safety Bill has paused as the government amends parts that it fears will impact on free speech.
Professor McGlynn said: "In my view the Online Safety Bill actually enhances democratic rights. In safeguarding women and young girls at risk of violent and hateful acts, it enables their democratic participation in society."
Minerva will be a 24/7 secure platform that will aim to ease the reporting of online abuse, report crimes and help women re-build their lives. Minerva is working with experts, from the law, police, and tech platforms, to offer combined support and resources to counter online abuse.
A Professor of Law at Durham University, Clare McGlynn has helped shape new criminal laws on image based sexual abuse. She said: "All of our public lives become adversely impacted because there is less a diversity of voices. Online abuse pushes you offline. Which of course at one level is exactly what misogynistic online abuse is designed to do."
A 2020 UNESCO global study found 73% of female journalists experienced online abuse.
Professor McGlynn added: "The Online Safety Bill, alongside platforms like Minerva, represent a step-change in how we tackle online abuse."
SWGfL runs the Revenge Porn Helpline which has seen caseloads increase year-on-year. Since 2015, the charity has removed over 270,000 images of intimate image abuse.
Research from the University of Suffolk found 55.9% of those surveyed stopped or reduced online interactions, 47.5% stopped or reduced use of social media, and 39% expressed themselves less online. Online public shaming was related to self-isolation and expressing themselves less in real life.
The report stated: "This chilling effect on women's expression and ability to access to public spaces underlines the silencing effect of online abuse."
Minerva is being developed in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), funded by the Tampon Tax Fund. It will be launched in March 2023.