Between April 2013 and June 2014, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) carried out multi-country research entitled “From impunity to justice” as part of its project End violence: Women's rights and safety online.


Research focus and objectives

The research explores the adequacy and effectiveness of domestic legal remedies and corporate policies to address the issue of technology-related violence against women (VAW).

The overarching goals of the research were to:

  • Gather evidence to increase understanding of the dynamics of technology-related VAW and to understand what works and what doesn’t in the fight against this form of violence.
  • Develop recommendations for effective evidence-based legal, civic and community-based response strategies that can be readily adopted by key stakeholders (primarily women, women’s rights advocates, public officials, legal professionals and corporate agents) to fight technology-related VAW.

The research was carried out across seven countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines. Additionally, the project explored recent legislative developments in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and United States in order to understand how other domestic legislatures are responding to increasing awareness of violence against women online.

About the methodology

The research involved the collection of case studies that highlight the voices and experiences of women from the global South who have faced technology-related VAW. The case studies examine:

  • in-depth women’s experiences of technology-related VAW
  • women's attempts to access justice
  • the corresponding availability and effectiveness of existing legal remedies corporate redress mechanisms for victims/survivors.
The data was gathered through a combination of desk review, interviewing, and focus group discussions. The research team prioritised the collection of qualitative data on challenges to and opportunities for legal and civic remedies but also sought to bring in quantitative data on the prevalence of technology-related VAW.

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Research methods

1. Case studies

Research teams first documented in-depth case studies on women’s and girls’ experiences of technology-related VAW and their attempts to access justice either through domestic legal remedies or by reporting the violation to corporate grievance mechanisms. A total of 24 case studies were documented across the seven countries through desk research and interviews with the victim/survivor, law enforcement and non-governmental organisations involved in the case.

2. Mapping

Simultaneously, teams mapped domestic legal remedies across the seven countries. This entailed identifying what constitutes harm brought about by technology-related VAW as recognised in different domestic laws and the processes, mechanisms, and institutions involved in providing remedies and affording women’s access to justice.

3. Corporate policies review

Teams then reviewed the corporate policies of the internet intermediaries implicated in the case studies or those with a large share of the national market. Each review highlighted provisions that could technically allow for the identification, reporting and rectification of instances of violence against women via the service that the intermediary provides. The policies of 22 companies were reviewed.

4. Interviews

Teams also sought interviews with public policy representatives of the same internet intermediaries to gain insight into the effectiveness of their implementation of policies and redress mechanisms in responding to VAW and to document creative initiatives that companies have undertaken to promote awareness on gender, sexuality, VAW and human rights.

5. Desk review

At the international level, we conducted a desk review of emerging laws addressing technology-related VAW and corporate policies of three transnational platforms: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The objective was to shed light on recent legislative trends and identify best and bad practices to help shape policy recommendations arising from the national-level research.

6. Quantitative analysis

We also conducted a quantitative analysis of the data collected using APC's online mapping tool from 2012 to mid-2014. Data gathered was used to support research findings from the main methods of in-depth interviews and desk review.

Analytical framework

The analysis of the availability and effectiveness of corporate policies in this research is guided by the Access to Justice framework developed by the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau – Philippines (WLB) as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Bringing these frameworks together, one output of the research was the creation of a checklist of key questions or indicators that were used for the review of corporate policies of three transnational platforms: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This checklist can be used by other organisations, advocates and activists to analyse compliance of internet intermediaries with the UN Guiding Principles, specifically with a focus on preventing VAW.


Although part of the research was conducted in Bosnian, French and Spanish, most of the analysis in mapping domestic legal remedies and case studies relied on the assumption that available English translations accurately reflected legislative documents in their original language and that case studies were faithfully translated.

While one of the main objectives of the research was to highlight women’s views and voices, some of the interview respondents were not survivors. In some cases, survivors were unavailable or did not consent to be interviewed, which limited the scope of personal experience. In these instances, the voices of survivors were mediated by service providers, social workers or advocates or the narratives are incomplete.

Despite repeated attempts to contact companies, most were unwilling to participate in the research or discuss the topic publicly. Out of 22 companies, only six gave interviews. This report therefore presents data available to research teams, while noting that the companies surveyed may be taking other steps that are not publicised.

The research does not aim to present an in-depth exploration of any company’s policies and practices, nor does it make an extensive comparative analysis across companies. Rather, this report summarises some of the common obstacles to resolving technology-related VAW within current corporate policy frameworks and uses examples of company policies in order to shed light on best practices for corporate accountability.

Read the full research design