Resource: Technology Facilitated Coercive Control

An article recently published in the Feminist Media Studies journal highlights the role technology plays in coercive control. The article's authors, Drs. Molly DragiewiczAriadna Matamoros-FernandezMichael Salter, Nicolas P. SuzorDelanie Woodlock, and Bridget Harris, are based out of Australia, but their research and insights on this issue are applicable across the globe. One of the article's authors recently shared "Technology Facilitated Coercive Control: Domestic Violence and the Competing Roles of Digital Media Platforms" online and we thought it was a particularly useful resource to share. The journal article is helpful for understanding the role of online misogyny "within the broader context of domestic violence" and explores how abusers utilize digital technologies to "exacerbate" and "to mediate and coordinate violence" against their victims. The article itself can be requested from the authors here, but below are some highlights.

To begin, the authors define technology facilitated coercive control (TFCC) as "the technological and relational aspects of abuse in the specific context of coercive and controlling intimate relationships. TFCC refers to violence and abuse by current or former intimate partners, facilitated by digital media. It includes such behaviours as harassment on social media,  stalking using GPS data, clandestine and suspicious audio and visual recording, threats via SMS, monitoring email, accessing accounts without permission, impersonating a partner, and publishing private information (doxxing) or sexualized content without consent." [1]

The article explores current research on TFCC, including the role platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) can play to "engender counter-misogynistic discourse" and act to protect victims through "regulation and governance of online abuse." [2] Long before widespread use of digital platforms existed, coercive control was utilized by abusers to entrap and dominate their victims, even at times when they were not physically present. With technological advancements and the near ubiquitous use of smartphones and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc., opportunities for abusers to access information and/or "persistently intrude on their targets regardless of location" have only increased. [3]

For technology creators, addressing this problem will be vitally important. This article may be particularly helpful for its discussion of challenges for platform governance and complications digital platforms face in protecting users against those who utilize their products to coordinate abuse. The authors propose four key issues which must be addressed to tackle the problem of  TFCC [4]:

  • lack of clarity on what platforms are currently doing to combat abuse
  • develop a shared understanding of what platforms ought to be doing to combat abuse
  • regulators must decide the extent to which responsibility is delegated to platform providers to combat abuse and develop effective laws where necessary
  • international consensus must be established regarding regulation of and expectations for transnational platforms

If you have an interest in the role of technology in coercive control, this is a must-read!

Written by Abigail Hazlett

[1] Dragiewicz, M., Burgess, J., Matamoros-Fernández, A., Salter, M., Suzor, N. P., Woodlock, D., & Harris, B. (2018). Technology facilitated coercive control: domestic violence and the competing roles of digital media platforms. Feminist Media Studies, 3.
[2] p. 4
[3] p. 5
[4] p. 20-21