Anti-cyberbullying website launched to protect women online

For Tara Farahani, being cyber-stalked was a suffocating experience, but now the 25 year old is part of the all-woman team behind Webbing With Wisdom, a website aimed at giving youth their autonomy back online.

Toronto website Webbing With Wisdom was launched for women by women

The Webbing With Wisdom site is broken up into help sections and personal stories written by people who experienced online harassment or cyber sexual violence (webwise.ca)

For Tara Farahani, being cyber-stalked was a suffocating experience. 

"No matter how many times you block them, they would create a new account. Then, when you delete your account, they message you on another platform."

Now the 25-year-old is part of the all-woman team behind Webbing With Wisdom, a website aimed at giving women their autonomy back online. 

Webbing With Wisdom connects social media users to social services and advice on everything from safe sexting to how to report online harassment. (webwise.ca)
"It doesn't matter what type of content you're posting. Just by virtue of being a woman online, that kind of stuff just follows you," said Farahani, who was part of a research team that listened to more than 300 young women across Toronto over two years.

The team used the insights from those women — and their experiences using social media.— to create Webbing With Wisdom.

It's the brainchild of three youth and anti-violence agencies in Toronto: St. Stephen's Community House, METRAC and East Metro Youth Services.

Other help resources were out of touch, teens say

Karen Arthurton said she didn't understand the scope of cyberbullying until she started speaking Toronto youth while developing the website. (PAUL BORKWOOD/CBC NEWS )

"So we started with basics," said Karen Arthurton, professor of social work at Ryerson University. "How do I stop somebody? How do I report them? Somebody's stalking me, what to I do? How do I safely 'sext' with somebody?"

Arthurton said cyberbullying has amplified since young people gravitate to selfie-driven social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

"Most of what was out there was geared toward parents," said Farahani, who would comb through paragraphs of web copy with youths to make sure they got the language right. "'Calm down on the slang,' they would tell us sometimes."

Reporter Ali Chiasson sits down with the people behind "Webbing with Wisdom," a website that helps young people deal with cyberbullying. 2:15

There are subheadings that read, "Bae wants to text, what should I do?" and "Leave me the frig alone, cyberbullying isn't funny business." The advice is written in a casual tone too but contributed by trained social workers and youth counsellors.

'What if I want to sext?' 

There is a section on the site that explains the risk factors around sending sexually explicit messages or photos of
The language throughout the website is casual including slang to establish comfort for the reader (webwise.ca)
yourself. It's followed up with advice on how to sext safely where advice is given to crop out one's face, tattoos, birthmarks, anything that could reveal your identity. 

While this can be seen as controversial advice, it's realistic, says Farahani. "We're a lot about harm reduction, but there is a young person out there who has already sent that sext or who wants to send that sext." 

Tara Farahani, 25, experienced cyber stalking across several social media platforms (PAUL BORKWOOD/CBC NEWS)

Throughout their work, the Webbing With Wisdom team has heard from many women who say they didn't know where to turn for help — a counsellor or the police. 

"There was one woman had shared with me that she told a police officer that someone tweeted her a death threat and the police officer said, 'What's a tweet?'" 

The Webbing With Wisdom site is aimed at bridging the gap. They are considering including a live-chat feature where people can ask questions and get immediate answers from trained social service workers.