Issues Affecting Digital Rights in Somalia: Online Harassment

The online users and access to internet have been getting momentum in Somalia and at the same time, the breaches of social media have been on the rise. People log in to their social media site and notice a string of posts or messages definitely not posted by them or they get a message that their account password has been changed without their knowledge.

In a small survey conducted by Bareedo Platform in Somalia in 2019 revealed that 49% of internet users said their online accounts have been hacked at least one time, while 29% reported they were hacked more than once. In a same survey, the strong privacy features needed to protect the online account have been listed down but 89% of the responders said they have not taken such measures with grounds of language barrier and limited awareness rising and literacy.

We have also noted that women are more vulnerable and suffer online harassment, and young women aged 18-24 are particularly vulnerable as they experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels.

When the personal accounts are hacked; hackers take the following oppressive actions against the owner:-

  • Password, phone and other personal information are changed immediately
  • Offensive messages are sent to the owner’s friends
  • Shocking posts are created within the hacked account
  • Some sensitive personal information of the owner are posted publically

These repressive actions force the owner of the account to be vulnerable and agree the demands offered by the hacker to return the account to the owner or not to reveal the owner’s personal data. These demands are always oppressive to the victims and lead them to accept unacceptable humiliations which are mainly exchange of sex, money or illicit actions.  

The online violence has subverted the original positive promise of the internet’s freedoms and could be threat to freedom of information and people’s trust to use social media networks safely and without fear. This issue was raised by the media and human rights activists but was not addressed or tried to find solution.

We have proposed that translation of the existing how-to guides of security and privacy settings of the social media networks and how to regain lost account into local language (Somali) in text and video will be innovative solution for this challenge and the internet users can secure their accounts and access the internet and social media networks safely and without fear.