by Willie Casas, Manila Standard, 22 April 2020
The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) warned on Tuesday against the rising “zoom-bombing” and online attacks against organizations that offer services amid lockdown and threats of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as its web seminar on violence against women was attacked by trolls and zoom-bombers last week.On Friday, the CWR, together with Gabriela National Alliance of Women, hosted a back-to-back online orientation on violence against women (VAW) and VAW legal clinic in response to the need of many women who are vulnerable to abuse during this pandemic COVID-19 lockdown.
CWR education and training coordinator Miriam Grafil was in the middle of her discussion on basic orientation on violence against women when unknown trolls started drawing vulgar images and words on the screen.“Continuing advocacy work in the time of COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly challenging especially for non-profit organizations like CWR. With little resources, we try to respond to the needs of women,” CWR executive director Jojo Guan said.
“The least we can do is to continue educating women and the public through online platform. It is disheartening that there are groups and individuals who attack organizations and peddle hate and disinformation,” Guan remarked.While zoom-bombing and online trolling happen in many other countries, online attacks in the country suggests a trend, it targets organizations and individuals critical of the government and its response to COVID-19.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine government has been notorious in creating and spreading fake news. They have reportedly launched smear campaigns against opposition and legitimate organizations,” Guan explained.According to various reports, the Philippines has become the epicenter of troll farms that churn out fake contents – news, narratives, photos – on various social media platform. In many instances, the Philippine government has been criticized for peddling fake news.“Online platforms, like social media and video conference applications are in danger of being weaponized in this critical time of lockdown. Since mobility is limited, the public has no choice but to rely on media, especially on social media,” Guan explained.“Thus, let us ensure that our right to accurate, truthful information is upheld. Likewise, we should fight for any attempts to curtail our rights to speak against the abuses of people in power,” Guan concluded.