Seyi Akiwowo’s ‘How to Stay Safe Online: the first intersectional digital self-care toolkit for developing online resilience and allyship’ is a must-read for all.
Seyi Akiwowo is the Founder of Glitch, a UK charity campaigning to make digital spaces safe for all by ending online abuse. In 2014, Seyi was elected the youngest Black female Councillor in East London at age 23. In 2017, a video of Seyi addressing MEPs went viral. Overnight, she became a victim of horrific online abuse. She has since dedicated her time to campaigning for increased awareness of the problem of online abuse, influencing policies and championing digital citizenship. Seyi is a graduate from the London School of Economics and Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme.
How to Stay Safe Online is the first go-to guide on how to spot, respond to and protect yourself and those you care about from online abuse. In it, Seyi addresses the experiences of black women, non-binary people and other minorities who face higher levels of online abuse.
With a blend of practical advice, Seyi’s personal experiences and interviews with Jameela Jamil, Hera Hussain, Gabby Jahanshahi-Edlin, Laura Bates, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Luciana Berger and more.
Read an exclusive extract below:
One of my biggest pet peeves is victim-blaming language. Perhaps this stems from unresolved trauma that I need to add to my growing list of ‘topics to take to therapy’. But phrases like ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ and ‘Just ignore it’ are irritating and so incredibly unhelpful.
On Christmas Eve in 2018, I was reporting an online stalker to the police shortly after publishing an article about Meghan Markle and – ironically – online abuse. Do you know what the officer then said to me? ‘Well, if you made your account private and didn’t write these things, this wouldn’t happen.’ Um, thanks?!
It saddens me, because it absolves the people in power of actually having to do anything. All the responsibility is piled on women and other vulnerable people to make themselves safe and avoid online abuse. Which is bollocks. I’d bet you my entire collection of Adele merchandise that even the most careful women minding their own business are still abused. Black, bold, proud women being themselves are forced to battle an onslaught of abuse just because of their profile pictures. New mothers posting about their experiences of motherhood on forums or even on their own social media accounts have been painfully attacked. Women can post on almost any topic – animal rights, climate change, healthcare – and abuse usually follows.
As a result, women are ‘advised’ not to talk about controversial topics. At best that’s a subjective and unhelpful piece of advice that means we are apparently supposed to avoid talking about bodily autonomy, period equity or the gender pay gap. Yet a man can discuss these things on social media and be adored and avoid the abusive terrain women have to traverse. At worst, this ‘advice’ is a heteronormative silencing tool around the topics of the liberation of marginalized communities and social justice. And any topic discussed as *insert minoritized identity* is seen as controversial by virtue of the person being from *insert minoritized community*. This isn’t right, but it is the reality and it’s why this book is needed.
It’s time we start countering this narrative that it’s a woman’s fault she’s experiencing online abuse. Or a trans person’s. Or a disabled person’s. It’s not the victim’s fault, and it’s also not their sole responsibility to make the necessary changes to eradicate the abuse. It’s everyone’s responsibility.