The Violence Intervention and Prevention Center held a “Tech Like a Boss” event on how to stay safe from digital harassment last Thursday hosted by a cybersecurity and harassment expert.

Adam Dodge, founder of the nonprofit End Technology-Enabled Abuse, hosted the hour-long virtual presentation to give Creighton students tips on how to stay safe online and recognize technology-based harassment.

“Digital abuse and digital safety are as important as our physical safety and emotional safety,” Dodge said.

Abbey Collins, assistant director of the VIP Center, said that this event was especially important to offer because COVID-19 has moved even more things online.

“Tech-enabled harassment has increased through COVID, just because so many people are online, [so] we felt like [the presentation] was really relevant right now,” Collins said.

Dodge reiterated that online abuse has been happening well before the pandemic and has only been exacerbated by it.

According to Dodge, the year before the pandemic, the National Domestic Violence hotline reported a 101% increase in digital abuse calls.

Dodge gave some examples of what tech-based harassment can look like including “revenge porn” or nonconsensual pornography and online “stalking” behavior which includes checking a partner’s phone, search history or creating fake profiles to monitor a partner.

Dodge said that digital abuse is easier to commit and can be more harmful to those affected by it.

“When we get harmed online, we feel it offline,” Dodge said. “There’s no distinction between our online and offline lives anymore.”

Dodge defined digital safety as having access to technology freely, control over devices and accounts and the ability to exist online without limitation or fear.

“If all three aren’t met, then you’re not digitally safe,” he said.

In order to stay safe online, Dodge warned against shared accounts or devices. He also warned that strangers can learn a lot from backgrounds in photos or videos and that people should be cautious in sharing these.

Dodge recommended always updating passwords (especially after getting out of a relationship) and utilizing password managers in order to maintain many powerful and unique passwords at once.

Dodge also gave examples of how some emerging technology, including deep fakes and apps that will digitally “remove” clothing from photos, are threatening online safety even more.

“Artificial intelligence is being used to create image-based abuse,” he said.

Throughout his presentation, Dodge stressed that digital safety should be prioritized in the same way that physical safety is.

“I believe that if you’re being harmed through your technology or you don’t feel comfortable going online or are having difficulty using your technology because of abuse or harassment, that this is a human rights violation,” Dodge said.

As an example, Dodge said that a few years ago the U.N. condemned internet access disruption as a human rights violation.

“The U.N. considers [online safety] a human right and we should too.”

Anyone dealing with abuse (online or offline) can contact the VIP Center via email at vipcenter@creighton.edu or call 402-280-3794.

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