To mark Safer Internet Day 2021, Facebook announced a series of local initiatives and efforts across the MENA region to promote a safer internet for all users.
In partnership with Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), a non-profit organization that works for the promotion and implementation of the open-source principles in Jordan, Facebook is producing a Digital Safety Guide and a Digital Safety Toolkit that can be utilized by users to better control unwanted, offensive or hurtful experiences on Facebook. The rise of the Covid19 pandemic has increased the use of technology, especially amongst young people, so never has a time been more vital to people how to stay safe online. With the guide and the toolkit, Facebook hopes to reduce instances of child exploitation, bullying, and harassment, Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images (NCSII) particularly around sextortion and revenge porn, and compromising of accounts of high-risk users, for instance, activists and human rights defenders.
The resources, available in Arabic and English, will also provide parents, caregivers, and educators with the resources they need to guide and support their teens in online safety. They will be available on the Facebook Safety Center and on the mini-site (https://amanraqami.com/) which has been developed by JOSA.
Speaking about the partnership, Shahed Al Hindi, Human Rights Public Policy Manager, MENA at Facebook said: “Keeping people safe on Facebook is really important to us. People come to Facebook to share their stories, thoughts, and feelings and people should feel safe to do so on all our apps. However, it is a sad reality that there will always be a small number of malicious people who are intent on harming others, online and offline. To be clear, we don’t allow that kind of behavior on Facebook and we take quick action when it’s flagged to us. This campaign and partnership with JOSA are not just a one-off moment, but a continuous process to drive awareness about online safety among MENA users and educate them about the various resources we have in place that they can use to protect themselves.”
IssaMahasneh, Executive Director, Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA) said: “JOSA cares deeply about digital safety. In 2020 alone, we trained more than 1,300 people on how to protect their lives and work online. From journalists to women, and students and teachers who had to cope with remote learning. With our partnership with Facebook, we aim to increase our reach, and raise awareness of simple steps people can take to protect their digital lives as well as familiarise themselves with common threats and how to report them.”
In Egypt, Facebook has announced a partnership with the National Council for Women (NCW) Egypt, that will see a launch of “Women’s Safety Resources”. These resources include materials such as GIFs, cartoons, and videos that are aimed at educating women users on Facebook on how to manage and adjust their privacy settings on the platform, as well as educating them about the ability to prohibit anyone from practicing any form of violence against them on social media.
To support the Arab journalism community from sexual exploitation and abuse, fraud, and corruption, and abuse of power within the media industry, Facebook has also partnered with Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalists (ARIJ) for their “I Will Not Stay Silent” project to train journalists to combat harassment. Besides ARIJ, Facebook is also working with ICFJ to roll out a Digital Security Six-Week Webinar Training Series in Arabic as part of the Social Media Solutions Training for Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa. This series will run from February to March and those who participate in all 6 live webinar sessions will receive a certificate from ICFJ and Facebook Journalism Project. Facebook will also be rolling out a “Journalist Safety Guide 2021” in English and Arabic which is a comprehensive 34-page document that explains how journalists can secure information and their social media accounts and protect their sources and contacts.
Facebook realizes that online safety and education is an ongoing challenge, hence its efforts to spread awareness about the topic will not be limited only to Safer Internet Day. Facebook has collaborated with experts to develop ‘Get Digital’—a new program that provides research-informed lessons, tips, and resources that will help parents, schools, and young people develop the skills they need to become wise, competent, and responsible digital citizens. The program is expected to be rolled out in MENA in the coming few months.