Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, is a day marked by the UN to bring awareness to the alarming statistic that one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime and to mobilise people to bring about change.
Online hate speech and violence targeted at women and girls has a significant impact on many young girls’ lives. 26% of women aged 18-24 have been stalked online and 25% have faced online sexual harassment. Young women and girls also find themselves targets of ‘revenge porn’ where sexually explicit content of a current or former partner is uploaded to the internet as form of revenge.
From our own research, Creating a Better Internet for All, we know that online hate substantially affects girls, with 85% of girls aged 13-17 years saying they had been exposed to online. Of those, 36% said this online hate was targeted at women and girls. Hate speech in itself is a form of violence and we know that online hate speech is often used as means to silence women and girls and to drive them out of digital spaces.
Making the internet a safer and positive place for girls
Our research suggested that girls would particularly benefit from being empowered with skills, knowledge and confidence to take positive actions – from reporting abuse online to proactively creating a kinder internet – by helping them to understand their rights and the law online.
As one participant, aged 13, said: “I think that youth should be informed about the laws and rules of online hate. Also we should be taught what to do. Everyone sees online hate everyday but nobody speaks openly about so it carries on and doesn’t get stopped.”
65% of girls said they wouldn’t know when online hate breaks the law. Educating and empowering girls to know their rights is one important step in the right direction. Even if gender-based online hate speech does not break the law, many online platforms include gender in their policies against hate speech. Childnet, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, have a useful guide on how to report for a variety of different online platforms.
Girls may also benefit from further opportunities to share their concerns about online hate and the impact it can have both in terms of emotional reaction and how it may be altering how they choose to express themselves online. 41% of girls said that they felt upset or sad when exposed to online hate, and our research found that many did take some kind of action with 20% saying they had spoken to a friend while 20% reported to a service provider.
We hope by having more direct conversations with girls – and all internet users – about hate speech and violence online that they will feel empowered to not only report but also be part of the change to make the internet a better place for all.