Happy New year!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a well-deserved break.
Four years ago, Forest Gate North branch took a chance on a young 21 year old Labour activist and not only selected me to be their Labour Councillor candidate, but embraced me as a member of a supportive and hardworking family. Then less than a year later Forest Gate North residents elected me as one of their ward Councillors . I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and building relationships with residents across the ward. I know it sounds cheesy but honestly, it has been a real privilege to represent you and make positive changes to the ward and borough I grew up in.
Today I have written to the Procedures Secretary of the Newham Labour selection process to withdraw from the panel as I am no longer seeking re-selection.
It has been a humbling four years; I would especially like to thank Forest Gate North branch members and residents for supporting important campaigns and activities around youth safety, re-zoning of Maryland Station, helping set up a thriving community group in Maryland, regeneration of Thorogood Gardens and Muraland Public Arts project.
I also would like to say, it has been a pleasure working with all branch officers over the years. Thank you for helping to keep Forest Gate North an active and growing branch. I remember when our branch meetings were just about quorate and held in the smallest room, upstairs at Durning Hall. Door-knocking Sebert or Odessa Roads would take forever because there was a group of us. Now with a growing membership we’re in a much bigger meeting room, and out campaigning locally and in marginals as a big Labour squad #SquadGoals. From working with you all, I’ve learnt how important it is to champion the local Labour party, our message, and ensure that we not only have a presence locally but demonstrate good local leadership.
Thank you to Forest Gate North Safer Neighbourhood Police team, local housing associations, the Youth Zone, local businesses and Forest Gate Community Neighbourhood Officers. It’s been great (and fun) working in partnership with you.
Thank you to my colleagues on the council, especially members of Overview and Scrutiny over the years. We’ve produced really great recommendations, I’m particularly proud of our work on Domestic Violence.
Thank you to my lovely ward colleagues, past and present. Thank you, Rachel, Anam, and Ellie for all your encouragement, advice and grace.
Once again, warmest thanks to all Forest Gate North residents for the life-changing opportunity, and I wish you all the best.
A few months ago I was invited to be on the National Democratic Institute’s panel at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (shout out to Soraya for recommending me!)
Online violence against politically active women is an increasing threat to democracy particularly as we move political participation online, it deters young women aspiring to have a political career and attempts to silence women online.
Below is a copy of the speech I will be making tomorrow. You can watch via the IGF Live stream tomorrow, 2pm (UK time).
Thank you National Democratic Institute for inviting me to be part of this brilliant panel and hosting a very important discussion on a growing problem for 21st Century society and democracy. If I may I would like to first touch on the Freedom of expression point.
During our training workshops and events we are asked the same two questions “When does freedom of speech become hate speech?” and “Shouldn’t women expect robust debate in politics?”
For Glitch!UK the answer simple!
Online abuse is not about robust debate it’s about intentional harassment of women to get them to leave the internet particularly social media, modify their behaviour to please patriarchy and self-censorship.
There are some things that are just clearly hateful and do not belong in robust debate. Sending racist abuse, rape threats and sharing a video without someone’s consent are clear red lines. Once we tackle this, then we can turn our attention to the remarks that are not so clear cut.
Sadly, this is not happening.
Women aren’t allowed be free to express themselves, their opinion or even post a selfie. Women aren’t allowed be strong and confident in their opinion online and especially women of colour.
“Which STD will end your miserable life?”
“if all whites agreed that the best course of action would be to exterminate blacks, we could do it in a week.”
“This is why monkeys don’t belong here.” “I hope you get lynched.”
These are just some of the many messages I received in storm of abuse and harassment earlier this year. This was some time after a video of me making an intervention at the European Parliament went viral.
On one hand, the online world is merely a reflection of the state of our society; on the other hand the online world seems to be a comfortable place for those who know they cannot behave in such a way offline.
It is not just a video that attracts abuse or harassment
It’s a selfie with my head wrap and braids,
It’s proudly celebrating UK Black History Month,
When creating online events for people of colour to have a space to meet
Or when advocating for black people’s human rights to not be badly mistreated or die in police custody.
My experience is sadly not uncommon and is an indication of how far society has to go to achieve true equality.
There is an increasing number of attempts to silence women and diverse groups online through various forms abuse, ranging from but not limited to revenge porn, doxing, harassment and mob-style trolling. There was one young girl in the UK who was subjected to online abuse, body shaming and harassment because she said “I hate hummus”.
Driving women out of public space is no new thing. But I agree with National Democratic Institute online abuse and harassment is a new challenge to democracy, digital inclusion, progress towards gender equality, as well as the integrity of the information space.
I cannot stand here without talking about Diane Abbott, the UK’s first black woman MP and current shadow Home secretary. Not only does Diane Abbott top the list of MPs for largest number of abusive tweets received, but she received ten times more abuse than any other woman MP.
Many women have contacted myself and Dianne Abbott telling us they are seriously re-thinking a career in politics because they see the abuse politicians that look similar to them receive.
So I founded Glitch! UK, an organisation aiming to end online hate speech and online violence against women and girls. The Cambridge Dictionary defines glitch as…
“a problem or fault that prevents something from being successful or working as well as it should”.
We believe this both sums up the current state of the internet and social media but is also a malfunction that can be fixed.
So Glitch! UK: Campaigns, Collaborates and Educates
We lobby social media companies and governments to do more to stop online abuse. We have developed a set of recommendations for social media platforms and deliver training workshops for young people, women who are in politics and those who aspire to have a career in public life.
We have 5 approaches to combating online violence which organisations and governments can also adopt and I’m happy to go in to some more detail during the Q&A..
- Raise awareness of online abuse, that it is a growing problem and it’s has a culminate impact.
- Amnesty International recently published a report on the impact of online abuse around the world. I’m proud to have been a media spokesperson for this report.
- 23% of the women surveyed said they had experienced online abuse or harassment at least once.
- 41% feared for their physical safety.
- More than 3/4 of women made some changes to the way they use social media platformsas a result of online abuse.
- Increasing knowledge and understanding of rights online.
Far too many women in politics are led to believe the misogyny and racist behavior online is part of the role.
- What has proven effective so far is raising awareness of rights online and identifying ways social media companies can address online abuse Women feel more confident to identify and report abuse, they understand the glitches have joined the movement to end online violence.
3. Lobby for transparency, better self-regulation of all social media companies
4. There is a significant problem with law enforcement across the world not taking reports of online violence seriously.
- I’m pleased that in April this year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the Online Hate Crime Hub. These key skills need to be shared with all police offices to help ensure women are not being prevented from reporting online abuse.
- For young people so they can better understand online abuse and how they can act as good online citizens
- For those who work with young people so they can spot the signs – rather than just issuing bans on phones and websites in schools.
- Training for women in politics and those aspiring to have career in public life.
- We must train online tech companies and those developing apps and social media platforms. They must learn from the mistakes and glitches of current social media.
As I draw to a close I’d like to talk about diversity and inclusion when combating online violence against women in politics.
When talking about the online abuse women and politically active women face we must be intersectional and look at women with multiple identities. I don’t just face misogyny I face racism too or as Academic Moya Bailey calls it
We need diversity within tech companies both of engineers and the moderators. When reporting online abuse users are faced with a very white male reporting system and response.
Finally, there is responsibility on women and men in politics to advocate and be inclusive of all women engaging with the online space. Yes these women are activists and politicians but they are also journalists, models, bloggers, mums, senior leaders in companies and the future generation. We must stand up for their right to be a woman online too.
Thank you for listening!
Last Saturday my friends and I joined the protest against the Slave Trade in Libya. We kept repeating ourselves in such disbelief “I can’t believe we are protesting about *this* in 2017”. Despite the weather reaching 0 degrees at some points the turnout and solidarity was warming. I will say this though, it was disappointing to see a real lack of diversity of people at the march. I’ve been on several marches, Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, Anti-Austerity and Student Fees and there was more diversity at those marches then on Saturday. Why? Now this *could* be down to lack of awareness or promotion (gives side eye). If so, we should question why this modern day slavery is not in mainstream news. However, the turnout to me symbolising a lack of genuine allieship/ solidarity when it comes to black issues- black issues or slogans that aren’t as “cool” as #BlackLivesMatter.
Slavery in countries like Libya is not a black issue nor is it an African issue, it’s a global issue and there should be a global outcry.
This is why I’m so pleased to see the Libya Slave Trade petition to the UK Government exceeded the requirement to not only receive a formal response from the Government but for there to be a debate. There will be a Westminster Hall debate on Monday 18th 4:30pm.
I’ll be honest I wasn’t that impressed with Government’s response this morning. I may come back to this in another post. However, we have four days to put pressure on MPs, Minsters, political advisers to listen to our outcry.
Here is what you can do right now to ensure the debate at Westminster Hall is meaningful and will hold the UK Government to account:
1. Write/tweet/email to your Member of Parliament asking them if they will be attending the debate on Monday.
I’ve spoke to my MP for West Ham who is intending to not only be at the debate but speak. Below is a template email you can send. Here’s how you can find out who your MP is.
2. Ask your MP how they plan to keep the UK Government accountable.
Those in stuck in slavery don’t need 650 MPs sharing how sad and disgusted they are. They need action and they need it now.
3. Attend the debate
Attend the debate on behalf of those we are advocating for. Let Parliament and the press know this is a huge issue, that we are watching and we want action. (I unfortunately will be in Geneva preparing to speak at the UN about online abuse but will be watching online and tweeting loads.)
(Shout out to a great friend of mine Audrey. We had a discussion about what we can do to support those stuck in slavery including writing to our MPs. Audrey then sent a wicked (good wicked) email so I’ve based this template email on one sent on Sunday)
Dear [insert MPs name],
I hope you are well.
My name is ____ and I live ___ and I’m writing about the recent coverage of the Libya slave trade.
Like many, I was shocked and upset to see the plight of many human beings that are being sold into a slave trade in 2017. I attended the recent demonstration march outside of the Libyan Embassy and was struck by how many people, just like me were disgusted by the treatment of human beings in Libya and wanted to do something.
I have since found out that there is a debate in parliament on the 18th December at 4.30pm and was hoping that you would be attending to stand up and condemn what is currently happening. I would also like to find out, in light of what is going on, what the British government will be doing to pressure the Libyan government to take action.
It is not lost on me, that as shocking as this new revelation is, modern slavery still very much exists all over the world and I would really like see this debate shine a light on this and more importantly what we as a nation are doing to safeguard the vulnerable and punish the employers that are profiting from this practice.
It would be great to have a further conversation about what your party are doing in particular to address modern slavery in the U.K.
I look forward to your response.
One of Glitch!UK’s fundamental principles and ways of working is partnership. We believe working in partnership with great organisations, activists and survivors is key to amplifying our collective voice, increasing our impact and to avoid duplicating work.
Shout out to Slay in Your Lane for recommending Glitch!UK to Dr Charlotte Webb Chief Leopard of the Feminist Internet. Feminist Internet began as a UAL Futures studio, and the participants have developed a fantastic Feminist Internet manifesto. Check out their brilliant new short video that explains more about them and all the great work they do.
One of their manifesto directives is about eradicating online violence, and it was through discussions of online violence that synergies between us developed. There was a particular resonance around viewing online violence as something that is wrong with the internet but that can be solved. For the Feminist Internet online abuse is seen as a virus; for Glitch!UK we see it as a temporary malfunction, an online glitch.
We recently collaborated on the Feminist Internet Digital Clinic, an event and panel discussion at Somerset House Studios on 4th December. We sold out tickets a week before the night, which shows how much interest there is in this topic! The Feminist Internet Digital Clinic was about helping to fight back and initiate a healing process. Discussions focused on empowering attendees to become antibodies to take actions that can neutralise the infection of online harassment.
Before the panel discussion and Q&A there were presentations from UAL students and New York artist Caroline Sinders on different forms of online abuse, as well as their causes and impact.
Panelists: Travis Alabanza, Azmina Dhrodia from Amnesty International, myself Seyi representing Glitch!UK and Dr Charlotte Webb from Feminist Internet as Chair. This was by far one of the most diverse group of panelists I’ve been involved with.
Glitch!UK had its first interactive stall where antibodies (attendees) could sign pledges and provide recommendations to how social media platforms can fix the glitch.
It was clear during and after The Feminist Internet Digital Clinic that there was a real need to discuss this topic further and continue empowering people to become antibodies and fixers.
We want to continue the Glitch!UK and Feminist Internet collaboration and The Feminist Internet Digital Clinic on tour around the UK and particularly around Universities. We’re also keen to develop a concept that allows those that haven’t experienced online abuse and harassment to see, feel what it’s like, maybe through virtual reality.
If you’re interested in supporting this collaboration and or booking The Feminist Internet Digital Clinic please do get in touch.
Misogynoir: How social media abuse exposes longstanding prejudices against black women- Newstatesman Article
Written by Journalist Maya Goodfellow in The Newstateman
“Which STD will end your miserable life?” “This is why monkeys don’t belong here.” “I hope you get lynched”. These are just some of the many messages Seyi Akiwowo, a Labour councillor in Newham, told me she has been sent over the past three weeks. Akiwowo has received reams of violent and racist abuse after a video of her suggesting former empires pay reparations to countries they once colonised (and whose resources they still continue to plunder) went viral. She doesn’t expect everyone to agree with her, she said, but people seem to think they’re entitled to hurl abuse at her because she’s a black woman.
The particular intensity of misogyny directed at black women is so commonplace that it was given a name by academic Moya Bailey: misogynoir. This was highlighted recently when Diane Abbott, the country’s first and most-well known black woman MP and current shadow Home secretary, spoke out about the violent messages she’s received and continues to receive. The messages are so serious that Abbott’s staff often fear for her safety. There is an implicit point in abuse like this: women of colour, in particular black women, should know their place. If they dare to share their opinions, they’ll be attacked for it… Read more here
We ask The Conservative Party, The Labour Party, The Liberal Democrats, The Green Party and the Women’s Equality Party to recognise online abuse & harassment as a form of violence against women and demand better self-regulation from social media companies. Who will say yes first?
On the 16th and final day of commemorating the international campaign to Eliminate Violence Against Women, the UK Government and UK political parties should lead the way in treating online violence against women and girls in the same way as physical violence.
We urge the political parties to include educational training workshops as part of their manifesto commitments.
We need training for young people so they can understand what online abuse means and how they can act as good citizens. This should be extended for those who work with young people so they can spot the signs – rather than just issuing bans on phones and websites in schools.
We must train online tech companies and those developing apps and social media platforms. They must learn from the mistakes of current social media companies. There are current attempts to fix the online abuse glitch but new platforms should not have these glitches in the first place.
Finally, but by no means least, all political parties must demand that social media companies be more accountable and be more transparent with how they enforce their own rules.
Sign one of these pledges, share this on social media and encourage at least three of your friends to do the same:
“Social media has been a powerful ally for women in the past month. The online outcry about sexual harassment shocked the world into seeing abuse towards women as distressingly commonplace. In this instance, Twitter served as an empowering space – it provided solidarity and an encouraging environment where women could break their silence. It can achieve a tremendous amount of good.
We must not forget, however, that social media is also a toxic enabler. The inequality and violence that women still face in our society is often replicated within these online communities. Charlie Brooker may have exaggerated the deadly power of Twitter in a horrifying episode of Black Mirror but the capability of social media to enable violence is a frighteningly real issue.”
…”By allowing online abuse to continue on this scale, we risk a generation of women who refuse to challenge the status quo in order to preserve their mental health. Criado Perez urges women subject to online abuse to try their best to keep going.
“These threats come from a place of fear. These men are scared of our voices. The only way to get over this is to keep speaking up until women speaking in the public sphere is so normal, it’s no longer seen as a threat.”
… “East London politician Seyi Akiwowo had a similar experience of unsolicited abuse in response to an online video of her speech at the European Parliament. She explains the emotional impact of the misogynistic and racial abuse.
“I was so overwhelmed by it all. Looking back, even though I went into fighter mode, wellbeing wise – I wasn’t okay. It was obvious that the harassment affected me which is surprising because I have always been a big believer in the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ This is so not true. Words hurt and hateful words lead to hateful action,” she says.
In 2011, Copenhagen student Emma Holten awoke to her private naked photos and personal information uploaded onto the internet for the world to see. The images were distributed across multiple websites and she received hundreds of sexually explicit threats. Holten tells The Overtake about her mental health following the distressing experience.”