Resources offer tips for staying safe online during pandemic

Online connectivity comes with risks, the federal eSafety Commissioner states.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner’s website has a range of resources for women, parents/carers, young people, seniors, diverse groups and educators, developed in response to the pandemic. These include how to protect the personal information you store on your devices and in the apps you use and dealing with online abuse.

The potential for online harassment rises with the increased online activity occurring during the pandemic, Gender Equity Victoria’s Enhancing Online Safety for Women project leaders Jesse Tu and Caitlin McGrane wrote for Women’s Agenda during the nationwide lockdown in 2020.

“Online environments, especially social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok are rife with examples of misinformation and gendered or racist harassment,” they wrote, and commented that there was a serious lack of leadership from online platforms to address these issues.

Federation advises members to exercise extreme caution and vigilance with social media as public sector employees who are subject to a level of public scrutiny over and above most others. If you require assistance, please contact Professional Support on 1300 654 367.

More protections from 2022

In June this year, amid much public debate, the Australian Government enacted the Online Safety Act 2021, which will take effect in January 2022. According to the eSafety Commissioner it will include a “new adult cyber abuse scheme to finally give Australian adults who are the victims of seriously harmful online abuse, somewhere to turn when the platforms fail to act.”

UN Women’s Online and ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls during COVID-19 brief, highlights the effect of the pandemic in “a reality shaped by a gender digital divide”, where women are disproportionately targeted by online and information and communications technology (ICT) facilitated violence and suffer serious consequences as a result. The publication reported more than half of the world’s population was under lockdown conditions by early April 2020 and internet usage had increased 50–70 percent. The research outlines some of the strategies and practices put in place around the world to prevent and respond to online violence against women and girls. It also made recommendations to be considered by governments, women’s rights organisations, civil society organisations, internet intermediaries, and other practitioners committed to enhancing online safety for women and girls.

Useful links