The website WTFFF!? focuses on the stories of five young people who have experienced online sexual abuse. On the initiative of our tech for good venture Hack The Planet, we built an interactive platform together with Fonds Slachtofferhulp (Victim Support Fund), design agency Morrow and affected young people to explain online sexual harassment, but also to offer professional help and the opportunity to share own experiences.
The dark side of the web
Besides many beautiful things, the web also has a dark side. Every year, more than 100,000 Dutch children and young people are victims of online sexual abuse. This concerns sextortion (extortion with sexually tinted images), grooming (online lure of children) or shame sexting (the unwanted distribution of sexually tinted images). Varieties and numbers are growing, and the threshold to ask for help is high. Victims struggle with guilt and shame and often don't dare to say anything. The fear that their nude images will resurface somewhere haunts them. Moreover, online sexual abuse is often accompanied by physical sexual violence.
How do you depict sexual abuse?
The concept of doing something about this arose with our tech for good venture Hack The Planet. As a digital product studio we have a lot of experience in creating innovative (storytelling) websites, such as The Garden of Earthly Delights. And in Uganda, we brought together two rival tribes thanks to virtual reality. But creating a digital product around such a heavy and poignant subject was something we had never done before. Because how do you depict sexual abuse? What is the message you want to convey?
To help young people understand and/or process online sexually transgressive behavior, we joined forces with Fonds Slachtofferhulp and design agency Morrow. Together we wanted to create awareness, destigmatize the subject and lower the threshold to help in a way that fully reflects the experience of the Gen-Z generation. The generation that grew up with the internet and smartphones. Based on research into this generation and intensive involvement of the target group, we came up with the idea to focus on the stories of the victims themselves. It turned out that this target group was not interested in fancy concepts, gamification and catchy campaigns. The youngsters wanted the raw stories in a simple way that is vivid and appeals to the imagination. Exactly what the name expresses: WTFFF!?
Creating an experience on the web
We have therefore created an interactive illustration in which you, as a visitor, can get lost in poignant events in the lives of young people. The animated artwork consists of five stories that are told by the young people themselves. To give users the feeling of really diving into the illustration, we have devised a kind of camera that automatically zooms in on specific parts of the illustration. This makes it possible not only to pan and zoom with one finger, without pinching or scrolling. With this technical solution, we also managed to maintain performance, despite the fact that we used complex animations and thus pushed the boundaries of the web.
Technology at the service of the bigger story
The technology is therefore dominated by the information needs of young people. Involving the target group in the development, creation and realization appears to be one of the biggest success factors. Since it went live in early 2022, many tens of thousands of people have visited the bilingual platform. And more than a hundred anonymous stories have been shared about (online) sexual abuse. In addition, the platform also offers help: it refers to the Sexual Violence Center, Helpwanted.nl and Fier, where specially trained professionals are available for young people. With this platform we hope to prevent new victims of sexual abuse while raising awareness for the dark side of the web.
"There should be more initiatives like WTFFF!? You don't go looking for help yourself. Help has to come to you in some way. In a way that appeals."
Myriam, one of the main characters on WTFFF!?
Shortly after its launch, WTFFF!? was nominated for the Dutch Interactive Awards, the prizes for the very best interactive online work by Dutch agencies. Although the platform ultimately did not win, it did receive an honorable mention from the jury for its clear concept and focus.
"The jury was silent for a moment: the emotions are very prominent. Not only was the pitch impressive, the project itself is also very beautiful. The platform and design are very conceptual: everything is one thing, one concept. It's really different."
Jury report Dutch Interactive Awards 2022
But later that year WTFFF!? won both a SpinAward, a Dutch Design Award 2022 and a Lovie Award! A bronze SpinAward was won in the Design - Website category, the Lovies awarded the jury and public prize in the Charitable Organizations & Non-Profit category, and the interactive youth platform received a Dutch Design Award in the Best Commissioning category.
"Incredibly clever how WTFFF!? reaches young people and opens up a loaded topic for discussion. [...] The design and production are of the highest quality at all levels, from sound design to motion graphics. The result is a context and visual language that hit the mark."
Jury report Dutch Design Awards 2022