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How Not to Write a Cyber Safety e-Book

In the article Cyber Safe Girl: How Not to Write a Cyber Safety e-Book, R Vaishno Bharati critiques a cyber safety e-booklet titled Cyber Safe Girl – Beti Bachao, Cyber Crime Se 3.0 that was written by a well-meaning cyber security expert and professor at the Sahyadri College of Engineering and Management and credits numerous IPS (Indian Police Service) and KSPS (Karnataka State Police Service) officers for their inputs. The author notes that the e-booklet:

uses the reductive albeit common patriarchal trope of framing women’s safety in terms of their relationships within the family, their identities constructed and understood in relation to the people around them. Furthermore, its messaging seems to be directed as much at family members — parents or guardians — who are purportedly responsible for the protection of their daughters, as women themselves. This is particularly notable given that the book credits a group of predominantly male police officers, thus foregrounding a male perspective on women’s safety while largely ignoring women’s voices and their lived experiences. In addition, the title of the book patronizingly uses the term ‘girl’ despite featuring sketches that include women of all ages. In fact, it does not address cyber safety issues experienced by children at all.

another comment from the author of this critique:

Many of the incidents mentioned in the book are not specific to women, and yet, the book seems to suggest that women need to take additional precautions to make themselves safe when accessing online spaces. This is not to say that women do not experience cybercrimes or a disproportionately more hostile online space on account of their gender and other intersecting social identities. However, some of the solutions offered by the book — such as installing and updating anti-virus software, creating strong passwords, and being wary of phishing emails and messages — are practices that all internet users need to be aware of, regardless of their gender identity.


The book presents steps and measures that women can take in order to avoid being in situations that lead to gender-based violence, harassment, trolling etc. The sketches warn women of the dangers of cyberspace, making the predominant tone of the book not one of empowerment but of fear and danger. It equates safety with caution — women will be safe if they do not put themselves in unsafe situations — and places the onus of safety, through self-policing, on women themselves. By calling people to action with its subtitle of ‘save the daughter’, the safety manual enlists families into this act of policing, thus adapting the patriarchal control and surveillance of women’s bodies in offline spaces for the digital age.

And one more excerpt:

the book’s narrative of fear and danger can significantly discourage women from using the internet, especially those who are new users of information and communication technologies (ICTs). In a country like India, where girls and women often find their access to digital spaces already restricted, the narrative of fear would spread faster than the access to technology.

Seems like quite a miss opportunity. 

The critique was published online from Bot Populi.

I have been participating in online communities since the 1990s. I was not targeted with online harassment until just a few years ago. I hesitate to share these stories because I'm afraid of scaring women away from participating online. We need MORE women online. We need MORE women taking up space, online and onsite. 

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