Behind the screens: Youth insights shaping approaches to technology-facilitated violence

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Law and technology
Technology-facilitated violence and abuse
Faculty member

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Professor Jane Bailey
The connectivity that typifies our digitally networked world brings with it widespread and persistent challenges.

Particularly concerning is the prevalence of technology-facilitated violence, a multifaceted phenomenon that challenges conventional perceptions of violence and demands urgent attention.

Traditionally, definitions of violence emphasize physical acts of aggression perpetrated by individuals. However, digital networks facilitate harms that go well beyond the physical. Tech-facilitated stalking, hate propagation, harassment, non-consensual dissemination of intimate images, deepfakes and doxxing also lead to psychological, emotional, cultural, social, and financial harms. Technology companies play a critical role in facilitating these harms by, for example, pushing controversial content to the top of search results in a bid to maximize user engagement.

Professor Jane Bailey works at the forefront of research on tech-facilitated violence, with a specific focus on its disproportionately negative impacts on members of gender-marginalized and other equality-seeking communities and the role that technology corporations play in its perpetration. Together with Professor Valerie Steeves, she co-leads the eQuality Project, a research initiative focused on young people's experiences in networked spaces, particularly with respect to privacy and equality. In this video, Professor Bailey explores the nature of tech-facilitated violence and explains how young people’s perspectives are key to finding meaningful, proactive ways to address its harms, and the underlying social and economic structures that incubate it. 

Headlines relating to the sometimes tragic consequences of tech-facilitated violence have contributed to growing collective awareness of this issue. But these tragic stories have also raised important questions about the applicability and efficacy of Canadian criminal law responses. While legislative measures have been introduced to address crimes such as non-consensual disclosure of intimate images, Professor Bailey’s research highlights the need to move beyond reactive individualized criminal responses toward comprehensive proactive regulatory, educational and social interventions. She works to advance our legal frameworks to ensure that those targeted by tech-facilitated violence receive adequate support and that those who seek to hold their perpetrators legally accountable are able to do so. Crucially, she also interrogates the roles that corporations and governments play in creating the kinds of online environments that perpetuate and promote different forms of online harm and abuse.

The eQuality Project is committed to supporting young people in articulating their own experiences, concerns and aspirations whether in schools, social settings or policymaking processes. By amplifying the voices of young people and fostering dialogue with partner organizations and policymakers, Professor Bailey and The eQuality Project hope to build a legacy of empowerment and advocacy. Through their collaborative efforts and creative approaches to knowledge-sharing, new perspectives are made available to policymakers with the ultimate goal of improving policies and practices and advancing a just social, legal and technological world that prioritizes rights over profits.