Bumble and lawmakers are fighting ‘Cyberflashing’

Payton Iheme’s extensive career took her from gathering military intelligence to advising the White House on science and technology. Working for a dating app is not the next most obvious move.

But as Bumble head of public policy for America for America, Iheme, 43, found the reasons that synthesize her past experiences, different as they are. She is leading several statewide efforts to pass legislation that penalizes “cybercrime.”

The term refers to the act of sending unwanted sexual images to another person via digital means – on a dating app or social media platform, but also through a text message or other file-sharing service such as AirDrop. (Apple, the maker of AirDrop, did not respond to a request for comment.) For many people of a certain age, especially women, cyberflashing has become another expense already available on the Internet.

This winter, while walking through a speculative Smithsonian show called “The Future,” Iheme said the focus of her work was to challenge the standard of online interaction.

“How do we want people to interact with the Internet?” He said. “Should you have a population that has experienced such brutal persecution?” About one-third of women under the age of 35 in the United States experience online sexual abuse, according to a Pew Research Center survey. This legislative work, Iheme said, “We draw a line in the sand, and can stand up and push back on all negativity and distraction.”. ”

Viktorya Vilk, director of PEN America’s Digital Security and Freedom of Expression program, says cyberflashing and other cyber-bullying strategies “are part of a deliberate attempt to push women and vulnerable voices out of the Internet, into their homelessness.”

A YouGov survey in the UK found that 40 per cent of millennial women received images of unprotected penises. For girls aged 12 to 18, that proportion is higher, according to academic reports funded by a number of universities and organizations in the UK. Three-quarters of the girls surveyed said they received sexually explicit images from men, and most explained that they did not want to.

Carrie Coyner, a Republican from the Virginia House of Representatives, said: “Everyone understands that it ‘s not appropriate for me to be out in public and someone to take off my shorts.’ “But for some reason, we do not realize that the same behavior is no different if it is sent to you on your device.” Working with Bumble, Virginia recently passed a law that allows recipients of a nasty, ugly photo for $ 500 in damages.

Iheme says that in terms of privacy and security, digital spaces are very similar to public spaces in the physical world, especially people who have been involved with the internet since childhood.

“The damage done by the internet is as real as it is offline,” Iheme said. “Elders go online for something. For the younger generation, the Internet is a ‘thing.’ “

In Wisconsin, State Senator Melissa Agard, a Democrat, worked with Bumble to introduce an anti-cyber bill in January. It was not voted on at this meeting, but she said she would push for the bill again in January. She said the bill was not just about punishing the perpetrators. “They give people the opportunity to talk about consent,” she said.

Vilk, from PEN America, says anti-cyberflashing laws are important, but they should not be used as an excuse by technology companies to shift users’ responsibilities to security. She noted that Bumble has combined its policy work with other efforts, including the installation of artificial intelligence software that detects and distorts blurry images. (Anyone who shares such images without consent can be blocked from the app.

Bumble, the first dating app for women, began pushing anti-cybercrime lawsuits in 2019 in Texas, where the company’s efforts helped pass a list that led to the submission of fake photos without the consent of a Class-C recipient. .

Iheme, who joined Bumble in 2021, said: “The lesson learned is that it is not an easy task to get these things through,” said Iheme, who joined Bumble in 2021. Since then, Bumble has collaborated with politicians in California, New York and Pennsylvania. Writing your own bills at various stages of the legislative process.

Getting support for anti-cyberflashing laws has been a battle up. With each state Bumble enters, Iheme and her team must introduce the concept of cyberflashing, explain what it means, find stakeholders to collaborate with, and find ways to create legislation for local voters.

Nima Elmi, who oversees public policy for Bumble in Europe, said the United States poses a particular challenge in getting the law passed. “The personality of the policy makers, the political affiliation, all of which means they can be separate countries in and of themselves,” she said of different states. Negotiating those differences, she said, requires people who are sensitive to nuance, and tenacious and nimble.

At lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill, one of her favorite restaurants in Washington, and a watering hole for the city’s energy broker, Iheme explained that working for the military helped him develop those abilities.

“Military personnel have definite signs and signals about someone’s seniority, their placement in the environment, whether they are friends or enemies,” she said. “If you walk into a room or drive into a place, you can immediately assess what the situation is. Now it’s people in T-shirts and suits, but it ‘s the same exercise.”

Iheme – nicknamed Nkechi; Payton was her middle name – enrolled in the Army for 17 years and staying there for two years before enrolling at the University of Texas at Arlington. Shortly before she graduated, the United States invaded Iraq.

“They gave me the size of my shoes and the size of my clothes while I was still in college,” she said. “It’s something no one can really help you with.” Only a generation has gone to war. It is not something we can see our parents and others in the community have The real answer for us. ”

As a detective, Iheme was placed in charge of dozens of people, and Manage equipment and budgets of millions of dollars. She ended two clashes when she was 29 years old.

She was with the Department of Defense for 21 years, and continued to work in humanitarian aid in Guyana and as part of relief efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. She eventually joined the US Economic Corridor as a member of Congress.

For two years, she worked at Capitol Hill while earning a master’s degree in law from George Washington University. She later joined the Pentagon, then moved to the White House of President Barack Obama, where she was a senior policy adviser on science and technology. The highlight of her time there was meeting Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who inspired the movie “Hidden Figures,” and taking her around the White House. Iheme’s last job before Bumble was in public policy on Facebook.

Throughout her career, she has often been the only black woman in the room. “I have to be in a lot, a lot of organizations where people are not like me,” she said. “It takes a lot of time you can build it internally and secondly – guess yourself.” Being in those areas, she sometimes “changes shape,” she said.

“Now that I am a leader, I have not changed,” she said.

And she is doing everything she can to make other champions who may not have the sense to speak for themselves.

“The Internet I want to see in the future is like the world I want to see in the future,” she said, “and that is where people will be free and able to exercise their rights in a way that does not harm others.”

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