In Latin America there are over 430 million internet users. Regarding specific platforms used in the region, in 2020 the market share of Facebook and Pinterest mostly decreased in the region, while Instagram, Twitter, and especially YouTube increased. In that context, the country with the highest percentage of its population on social media is Chile, where more than 90 percent of people are on social media, and the country with the most social media users is Brazil, with approximately 160 million internet users as of January 2021. With regard to Brazil, it is interesting to note that it is also the country with the lowest social media penetration rate at 70.3 percent.
In regards to online violence, women are at the head of a ranking of the victims of online violence: 95% of aggressive behaviours of harassment, interference, psychological persecution and profanity with words and images in online spaces are directed at women and come from of male partners or former partners. In addition, there is a large number of communication systems that are used to exercise violence against women, among which are spyware, wireless technology for listening, visual surveillance (with hidden cameras and webcams), tracking with wireless devices in cars, cell phones, among others.
A study of the United Nations, in cooperation with ADC and various civil society organizations (Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), Coding Rights, Derechos Digitales, Hiperderecho, Fundación Karisma, InternetLab, IPANDETEC, Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D), TEDIC, & Paz) in the Americas, indicates that online violence is institutionalized in the Americas at different levels, and it worsens when considering the intersectionality of variables such as ethnicity, social class, age and place of residence.
Thus, technology has become an enabling tool for gender-based violence extending the offline attacks to the virtual space. Women are vulnerable in both spheres. There are multiple forms of online gender based violence attacks against women used in the Americas, including disinformation, cyberstalking and cyber extortion. According to Acoso.online (2021), the dissemination of intimate content without consent is the most widespread type of online gender-based violence in the Americas. To analyze online gender-based violence we must also consider that each country has its own sociopolitical and informational systems, moreover certain groups are most affected by this type of violence based on the intersection of vulnerabilities, particularly in the Americas, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, language and disability.
In recent years, various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have begun a gradual recognition of online violence against women and have updated their legal framework to deal with it, including the enactment of specific laws on grooming and cyberbullying.
Particularly, due largely to the attention paid by the media and the demands of public opinion, throughout Latin America and Caribbean there have been important legislative advances regarding the non-consensual distribution of intimate or sexually explicit images (Neris et al., 2018). In recent years, progress has been seen in several countries in the formation of police bodies specialized in cybercrime, which can investigate acts of online violence against women.
However, with the pandemic this situation had a boost, as many of the social interactions went digital, violence both at home and online increased.
- Women’s Observatory Against Disinformation and Fake News (initiative of Fundacion Multitudes): Two studies which showed that 96.8% of women parliamentarians and 64.1% of women members of the Constitutional Convention in Chile said they have been victims of disinformation as a form of online gender-based violence. These findings prove that disinformation campaigns nullify the civic and political rights of women, and affect their livelihoods. Thus, disinformation poisons the public environment and results in low female political participation as women feel endangered by false and harmful content online.
- Proyecto Amaranta: A study in 2019 which showed that 73.8% of the women surveyed (cis, trans, non-binary), stated they had experienced violence in digital spaces. The most reported attacks were verbal violence, harassment and/or stalking, sending videos or pictures of penises without consent, defamation of women, account loss or non-consensual access by third parties, account suspensions due to mass complaints, identity theft, doxing, use of their body or face to create humiliating images, and disclosure of intimate images without consent.
- Covid-19 and the increase of domestic violence against women in Latin America: A study by Derechos Digitales showing that Latin America and the Caribbean have particularly experienced a high increase in violence against women and girls. According to CEPAL and UN Women Latin America has the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world, with Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador and Bolivia representing 81% of all cases.
- Acoso.online study on telework: According to this study in Chile, México, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, España, El Salvador and Uruguay, 32% of respondents identify the telework place as a space for domestic violence. In particular, 83% have been victims of violence in this environment and 17% identify that they know a person that has been a victim of this type of violence. In addition, 41 % of the respondents to the survey have experienced gender-based cyberbullying in the telework space.