Portraits: Girl Activists and Global Influencers Talk About What Freedom Online Means to Them
Girls and young women worldwide wrote an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter calling on them to create stronger and more effective ways to report abuse and harassment after a landmark survey has revealed more than half (58%) have been harassed or abused online.
Attacks are most common on Facebook, where 39% say they have suffered harassment, but occur on every platform included in the global study including Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok(6%).
The research by Plan International, a leading girls’ rights organisation, is based on a survey of 14,000 girls aged 15-25 in 22 countries, including Brazil, Benin, the USA and India, and a series of in-depth interviews.
The largest study of its kind, it found girls who use social media in high and low-income countries alike are routinely subjected to explicit messages, pornographic photos, cyberstalking and other distressing forms of abuse, and reporting tools are ineffective in stopping it.
Online violence has led to nearly one in five (19%) of those who have been harassed stopping or significantly reducing their use of the platform on which it happened, while another one in ten (12%) have changed the way they express themselves.
Harassment takes a profound toll on girls’ confidence and wellbeing, with 39% of those surveyed saying it lowers self-esteem, 38% saying it creates mental and emotional stress and 18% saying it can cause problems at school.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said: “Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world, and damages their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders.”
“Disappointingly, they are being left to deal with online violence on their own, with profound consequences for their confidence and wellbeing. With COVID-19 driving more of our lives online and with internet access around the world improving, it is time for digital platforms to step up and protect their users.”