Disinformation and online harassment disproportionately target women, and different minority groups, according to a new report from the non-profit organisation EU DisinfoLab.
Gender-based disinformation mainly targets women in positions of power and visibility, like journalists, activists, and politicians. The actions are often part of an organised campaign against a particular person aiming to silence them and even force them to leave the online space or activism altogether.
Few have missed the effort to discredit the Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin for dancing (!) earlier this fall. During recent national elections in France and Germany, female candidates were far more likely than men to be targeted by disinformation campaigns and abusive messages. In the 2021 Bundestag election in Germany, attacks against the Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock were deeply gendered, including sexualised image-based abuse, and often featured illegal hate speech that platforms failed to address.
Not only are these actions distressing for the women targeted, but the public platforming of gendered abuse will have a longstanding effect on democratic equity. Unfortunately, more often than not, coordinated disinformation campaigns successfully reach their goal of silencing the targets. Additionally, gender-based disinformation often legitimises and leads to offline violence.
Research has also shown that gender-based disinformation affects women and girls' political participation. Young women who witness systemic inaction in the face of misogynistic abuse are consequently discouraged from public-facing careers.
However, while a few practices of online harassment are illegal, many others are 'simply' harmful. Therefore, we immediately need new legislative measures to minimise direct harm to individuals and ensure well-functioning democracies, allowing us all to participate regardless of gender.
You can read the full report here: https://lnkd.in/dG4XXfZn