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Internet Self-Defense with The Wing

Originally published:|Last updated:|Joy Howard

In the offline world, women have established an oral tradition of sharing different ways to keep ourselves safe. At a young age, many women are taught to: walk with keys in-hand and pointed outwards; pretend to call a friend or significant other if they sense that someone might be following them; send texts while out on dates like “if you don’t hear from me by midnight, call to check in.” My own personal favorite move is to never wear shoes I can’t run in. When we discover ways to keep ourselves safe, we do them and we share them!

But to date, we haven't had an easy way to share similar tips that keep women safe in the online world. To fix that, we're launching Internet Self-Defense 101, to arm women with the basics that are easy to apply and share with friends. Today was the first of what we hope will be many online seminars, this one in partnership with The Wing.

As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to join companies doing work that has real social value. I joined Dashlane because of my desire to play a role in addressing what many of us have been feeling for years: the internet isn’t as… nice as it used to be. And for many, the internet was never great or friendly to begin with.

Which brings us to Internet Self-Defense 101. We decided to start by focusing on how people’s experiences online differ by gender identity. There are high-profile moments and individuals that have highlighted these discrepancies, such as Gamergate, Susan Fowler, and Leslie Jones, but these experiences are more pervasive among women than we tend to publicly acknowledge.

Even Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has said that women and girls face a “growing crisis” of online harms. According to a survey led by his foundation, half of young women have experienced violence online, including sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent. A separate 11-year analysis of online harassment cases found that women made up 72% of victims.

No company, product, executive, or team can solve this problem alone, but we all can do our part. And while it’d be nice to not put the onus on victims to protect ourselves, the digital mechanism to curtail bad actors would infringe on our fundamental rights to privacy and potentially cause more long-term problems. These solutions also aren’t available right now, so we wanted to develop something that could immediately address the problems of today.

This is the first of what we hope to be many internet self-defense courses, so stay tuned for the next installment.

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