"I Thought I Was Being Strong with a Complicated Person": The Tales of Intimate Gender-Based Online Abuse in the Global South

Note: Presentation times are in Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Tuesday, February 02, 2021 - 11:20 am11:50 am

Sofía Celi, Cloudflare


This is a tale of a personal experience; but also one that is well-known to people identifying as women that have suffered from intimate gender-based digital violence. It is a personal tale because this research started from a personal experience of usage of digital tools in the hands of an ex-partner to censor, harass, and police behavior. Fueled by this, we launched research on how digital tools are used to enhance intimate gender-based abuse in the Global South.

Frequently, it is often thought that intimate gender-based online abuse is a problem from the Global North, a problem that only certain countries with high access to technology have, or that it is only done with the usage of stalkerware or some kind of malware. But these presumptions limit the experiences that regions from the Global South face, as it underestimates the tales from those regions. In this talk, we provide a deep dive into which methods abusers in the Global South (specifically, in Latin America) use to increase gender-based abuse, by providing clear definitions and experiences of them. We will also explore the societal aspects that support the usage of online tools to enhance abuse, and emphasize the little or no help given from a legal or policy perspective in those regions.

This talk will also highlight the importance of looking at experiences from different places around the world, as the solutions that we give are, oftentimes, only focused on a Global North perspective. In the specific case of intimate gender-based online abuse, the tales and experiences that come from the Global South show us that there is still work to be done to support them (from a technical perspective) and to further understand them.

Sofía Celi, Cloudflare

Sofía Celi is a cryptography researcher and implementer at Cloudflare. She also currently leads the design and development of version 4 of the Off-the-Record (OTR) messaging protocol. She is very involved in helping end gender-based violence that uses digital tools in the Global South. She is interested in programming languages, compilers, usable security and privacy by design, post-quantum cryptography, and real-world applications of cryptography.

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@conference {264124,
author = {Sofia Celi},
title = {"I Thought I Was Being Strong with a Complicated Person": The Tales of Intimate {Gender-Based} Online Abuse in the Global South},
year = {2021},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb

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