WOMEN

Her Stories: What Will Facebook Do When Asked To Protect Women In India Who Call Out Sexual Abuse?

Plus: What we can learn from matriarchal societies.
A defamation case pitting a powerful artist against an Instagram account could strip away a prized protection for survivors o
A defamation case pitting a powerful artist against an Instagram account could strip away a prized protection for survivors of assault.

Dear readers,

A defamation case in India is pitting a powerful man against an anonymous Instagram account that shared the stories of sexual assault. The ensuing legal battle could strip away one of the most important things for women who want to speak out about abuse: anonymity.

Last month, the Indian Supreme Court ordered Facebook, which owns Instagram, to reveal identifying details behind the person running the @HerdSceneAnd account. The account had published anonymous stories accusing influential sculptor and painter Subodh Gupta of sexual misconduct amid India’s reckoning with the Me Too movement.

“Anonymity can be a powerful tool in protecting free speech,” said HuffPost India technology editor Gopal Sathe, who reported on the contentious case with audience and engagement editor Nehmat Kaur. 

The case is addressing many complicated issues, including data privacy, survivor advocacy and government intervention in tech. 

People around the world are watching the case closely to see how Facebook will respond. The U.S., U.K., Australia and other governments have been pressuring the company to make it easier for law enforcement to identify its users, and now this case against a group of daring Indian women might just make that possible.

“Although companies like Facebook and Twitter often position themselves as enabling social movements, what we know is that the big tech companies are all harvesting and analyzing the most minute details about each of us, and this puts us all at risk the moment they decide that complying with a government order to invade privacy makes good business sense,” Gopal said.

Without a guarantee of anonymity, abuse survivors who want to warn other people about a perpetrator’s behavior may be less likely to speak out.

“In India, thousands of women implicitly trusted Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with their stories of harassment and assault,” Nehmat said. “Now they’re in a position where they’re relying on a profit-seeking, technically amoral corporation to act in ideological and ethical ways to protect their identities.” 

The ruling has left many young women, including students and new professionals who may have little social or economic capital, in a vulnerable position, Nehmat said.

Stay with us as we follow the next hearing set for November to see how Facebook handles the request to reveal who is behind @HerdSceneAnd.  

“What happens then is going to basically shape how women use social media for sexual harassment and assault accusations going forward,” Nehmat explained.

What are your thoughts? Do you think social media platforms should be responsible for protecting the identities of possible abuse victims? Let us know

Thanks for reading,

Aurora

 

Read more from Gopal here. Follow Nehmat on Twitter (@nehmatks) for more on the Me Too movement, pop culture and her dog. 

And a note: We’re in the process of making some technical changes to our newsletters, so we’ll be taking off next week. We’ll be back on Oct. 26! 

 

Members of Nepal's Newar community take part in a procession to mark Jyapu Day celebrations in Kathmandu on Dec. 13, 2016. Jy
Members of Nepal's Newar community take part in a procession to mark Jyapu Day celebrations in Kathmandu on Dec. 13, 2016. Jyapu Day marks the end of the harvest season.

German feminist and philosopher Heide Goettner-Abendroth has traveled the world for over three decades to study matriarchies and learn what makes them different from male-dominated societies of the West. Rather than being just an inverted image of patriarchy, she says they are fundamentally about equality. In an interview with HuffPost France, she talks about her visit to indigenous communities in Mexico, her time in Indonesia, and her thoughts on how people from all backgrounds can draw inspiration from societies where respecting women is not optional.

 

"Joker" actor Zazie Beetz at the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9. 
"Joker" actor Zazie Beetz at the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9. 

Director Todd Phillips’ latest film, a reimagining of the origin story of the “Batman” villain Joker, has sparked fierce discussion. The film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as aspiring comic Arthur Fleck, has received both criticism and praise for its portrayal of mental illness. But HuffPost U.S. senior culture reporter Zeba Blay zeroes in on a different, less talked about theme in the movie: the ubiquitous presence of Black women as supporting characters. As Blay writes, “This is all worth thinking about, especially in a film that seems to be trying (but ultimately fails) to make some sort of commentary on the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.” (Disclaimer: Her piece contains spoilers for “Joker”!)

 

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