HomeNetsafe CEOIt’s Safer Internet Day and that means Every Space a Safe Space

It’s Safer Internet Day and that means Every Space a Safe Space

We need to be safe and secure in our physical and virtual worlds.


For the 20th consecutive year, the world is coming together for Safer Internet Day. The annual event is marked globally to promote the safe and responsible use of the internet and digital technologies.

Netsafe is hosting the day for New Zealand which theme is ‘Every Space a Safe Space.’ The aim of the day is to raise awareness among users of the potential risks and dangers of the online world and encourage everyone to act in a responsible and safe manner online.

This year’s campaign took its inspiration from the blurring between our physical and online worlds. With New Zealand’s recent increase in crime, digital crime has dropped off people’s radar, making it even more dangerous. We are doing our part to ensure everyone should feel safe in the real world and the virtual.

Safer Internet Day happens to fall near to the start of Auckland’s Pride month 1 -26 February https://aucklandpride.org.nz. It’s also ahead of the Wellington’s Pride Festival in March https://www.wellingtonpridefestival.com.

That’s timely for us to take a moment to think about our LGBTTQIA+ communities this Safer Internet Day. We need to stand up for our physical and digital worlds being welcoming and free from discrimination, phobic slurs, violence and persecution. 

In order to create a truly inclusive and safe environment for LGBTTQIA+ individuals, every space should strive to be a safe space throughout the year.

Netsafe Research regarding LGBTTQIA+ communities experiences of online harm

Netsafe’s 2020 research found higher rates of abuse online for non-heterosexual people than their heterosexual counterparts. 

We found:

  • A 22% rise (14% in 2019 compared to 36% in 2020) in reported cases between 2019 and 2020 in non-heterosexual participants saying they were the victims of someone online trying to bully or humiliate them
  • A 9% rise in reported cases between 2019 and 2020 in non-heterosexual participants saying they were the victims of being threatened with physical violence (12% in 2019 compared to 21% in 2020).

For non-heterosexual participants in our research, their sexuality was the main reason for their online abuse. 

We further found:

  • 68% of non-heterosexual participants received unwanted digital communications during/after the nationwide COVID 19 lockdown in 2020 (compared to 38% of heterosexual participants)
  • 10% of non-heterosexual Kiwis had intimate material shared online without their permission (compared with 3% of heterosexual participants).

Safe spaces are spaces where everyone is accepted for who they are, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other aspect of their identity. They are places where people can feel comfortable being themselves, free from hurt, judgment and discrimination.

Creating safe spaces begins with education and understanding. It is essential to educate ourselves and others about the experiences and challenges faced by LGBTTQIA+ communities.

This includes:

  • Learning about the different identities and experiences within the community, as well as the unique challenges and obstacles faced, such as hate crimes, employment discrimination, and acceptance.
  • It is also important to understand the effects of microaggressions and how they can impact the mental and emotional well-being of LGBTTQIA+ individuals.

Actions we can take to create safe spaces for LGBTTQIA+ communities

This Safer Internet Day Netsafe encourages folks to think about every space being a safe space and how society can foster an inclusive and accepting atmosphere.  

For LGBTTQIA+ communities that means:

  • thinking about using gender-neutral language, 
  • displaying supportive and inclusive signage, 
  • providing accessible and inclusive facilities 
  • connecting online and expanding the number of safe and inclusive spaces and 
  • actively listening to and engaging with the LGBTTQIA+ communities to seek feedback and suggestions to further improve online and offline spaces. 

One practical way organisations can show their support is to join with Netsafe and others to become a Safe Space Alliance supporter, donor or partner  https://safespacealliance.com

In 2021 Netsafe became an allied partner of the Safe Space Alliance (SSA). SSA is another non-profit organisation that works to promote and support safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTTQIA+ communities.

SSA provides training, resources, and support to organisations and individuals to help them create safe spaces and address incidents of discrimination, harassment, and violence. 

The organisation focuses on issues related to social justice, equity, and human rights, and seeks to empower individuals and organisations to take action towards creating a safer and more inclusive world. 

Anyone from around New Zealand can submit spaces from around the country for consideration by the SSA as a safe space for LGBTTQIA+ communities. Listing is free and says to someone they are welcome here.

You can list a:

  • Physical space: this is a space people physically visit at a street address. For example, a retail store, cafe, or community center.
  • Mobile space: this is a space that moves around a lot and is not tied to a specific street address. For example, a consultant, taxi service, or entertainer.
  • Digital space: this is a space that exists in the digital and/or online realm and is not tied to a specific street address. For example, a website, app, or software.
  • Heritage space: this is a safe space of historical history significance to LGBTTQIA+ communities from the recent or distant past. 

We all need to keep our safe spaces visible. Showcasing safe spaces, whether physical and/or digital, can help to reduce anxiety, depression, and suicide in the LGBTTQIA+ communities who often face issues of loneliness, harassment and bullying and non-acceptance. 

Safer Internet Day and Pride celebrations provide an opportunity for people to come together to celebrate our spaces for being safe and inclusive and stand in solidarity with them. By creating safe spaces, we can work towards a world where everyone is accepted and valued for who they are.

Seen harm online? Report it to Netsafe

For any member of the LGBTTQIA+ communities experiencing online  harassment or harm Netsafe is a service helping to resolve issues by contacting the person responsible for the abuse or the hosting organisation to try and make online abuse stop and  remove harmful digital communications material. If unsuccessful, free escalation of a matter to the District Court is available and an individual can seek civil remedies. 

Those wishing to access Netsafe’s support can text “Netsafe” to 4282, call 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), email [email protected] or visit netsafe.org.nz/report.  For LGBTTQIA+  and Harmful Digital Communication Act  resources visit https://netsafe.org.nz/lgbtqia-info/

Brent Carey
Brent Carey
Joined Netsafe as the CEO in early May 2022 after previously serving as New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission. Prior to that Brent held senior positions at the Australian Telecommunications Ombudsman and the Victorian Department of Justice.

Must Read

What’s in store with the online world for 2023?

Our senior experts make their predictions about the online world. Significant advancements in technology make it difficult to predict what will happen in the online...