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Ending Online Abuse, One Byte at a Time

July 27, 2015

This week, the Safety Net project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV):

  • BRINGS TOGETHER 250 technologists, victim advocates, and justice professionals in San Francisco
  • UNVEILS an App Safety Center to help victims and their advocates navigate smartphone apps
  • ANNOUNCES a new initiative funded by the Digital Trust Foundation to create an online toolkit of criminal and civil remedies relating to technology-assisted abuse and stalking

Far too often, domestic violence offenders, stalkers, and trolls misuse technology tools to terrorize, track, and destroy their victim’s lives. In fact, in a 2014 survey, 97 percent of local victim service providers reported that the survivors they are working with experience harassment, monitoring, and threats by abusers through the misuse of technology.

Since 2000, the Safety Net project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has been dedicated to investigating, addressing, and understanding the intersections between technology and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Safety Net collaborates with victim advocates, police officers, and technologists to devise ways to protect survivors while helping them continue to harness the power of technology safely.

Today through Wednesday, NNEDV is convening its third annual Technology Summit. Over 200 advocates, law enforcement officers, and technology experts will converge on San Francisco to learn how to help victims of violence escape abusers who are misusing technology to stalk, harass, or harm.

With more than 30 sessions – including Revenge Porn: It’s Not About Revenge and It’s Not About Porn, Routers & Wireless Privacy Tips, and Mobile Apps for Survivors – the summit builds on 15 years of work by Safety Net, which has trained over 73,000 victim service providers, law enforcement officers, and others on perpetrators’ abuse of technology and on technology strategies to keep victims safe. Representatives from Facebook, Google, Verizon, Twitter, and others will be discussing their ongoing efforts to help survivors by enhancing safety, reducing isolation, and stopping online harassment.

“Our annual Technology Summit is a truly unique opportunity for advocates and law enforcement to learn from and interact directly with technology experts,” said Cindy Southworth, NNEDV Executive Vice President and founder of the Safety Net project. “We are incredibly grateful for the support of our three Presenting Sponsors: Facebook, Google, and Verizon – who not only support our work financially, but also substantively. They aren’t just sponsors; they are real partners in the work to make technology safe for all survivors.”

An increasing number of apps for smartphones and tablets are attempting to address the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking. Some apps are screening tools for survivors and professionals to recognize abuse and find resources. Other apps are meant to be a tool to contact help during an emergency.

“With an unprecedented number of safety-related apps, knowing which ones to use can be difficult. We constantly receive inquiries from local programs, companies, and individual survivors asking about a given app and whether it’s safe to use,” said Erica Olsen, Deputy Director of NNEDV’s Safety Net project. “When a survivor downloads an app on her phone, she needs to know it will deliver the safety strategies promised. We are pleased to partner with Verizon to launch this much needed App Safety Center, because we know that technology is a critical component in the national campaign to end and prevent domestic violence.”

After unveiling the new App Safety Center, NNEDV announced a new initiative in partnership with the Digital Trust Foundation to create an online toolkit of criminal and civil remedies relating to technology-assisted abuse and stalking.

“We often don’t need new laws to hold offenders accountable,” said Kaofeng Lee, Deputy Director of NNEDV’s Safety Net project. “We need police, attorneys, and others to know every existing law that might apply to newer technologies – for example, a state wire-tap law from the 1960s might be used to prosecute an abuser for installing a SpyApp on his victim’s phone.”

This planned three-year project will launch next month and will have a significant impact on the survivors and advocates seeking civil and criminal remedies to technology-assisted stalking, abuse, and harassment.