The Problem

The Problem

Defining the Problem

All over the world, women in politics and journalism experience relentless volumes of online abuse, threats, and gendered disinformation campaigns on social media – and things are even worse for women facing intersectional discrimination and bias on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion and other factors. These campaigns are designed to discredit, devalue, and delegitimize women’s political standing, with the goal of ultimately undermining their ability to participate in civic life.

Because of online abuse and disinformation, many women decide against running for office, self-censor, or refrain from speaking out, while illiberal actors become bolder in their use of social media as a tool to silence opposition, roll back women’s rights, and erode democratic institutions.

Sexism on the campaign trail is sadly nothing new – yet the way digital platforms are designed exponentially increases misogyny to the point of weakening social norms of inclusion and civil discourse, and normalizing abuse and impunity for its perpetrators.

Social media algorithms change behavior by incentivizing fake and sensationalized content – over-supplying it to users in the name of profit. This makes it much easier for gendered disinformation campaigns against women to be organized, amplified, and cheaply financed, reaching millions of people and changing the course of history.