Five things you didn’t know about gendered disinformation
Kristina Wilfore and Lucina Di Meco educate us on gendered disinformation
Kristina Wilfore and Lucina Di Meco are cofounders of #ShePersisted – a cross national initiative to tackle online attacks against female politicians and journalists. Kristina is a global democracy activist and works with political leaders and NGOs around the world to help improve the quality of elections and bring new voices into politics. Lucina is a women’s rights advocate and an expert on gender equality. Together they’re tackling gendered disinformation – the spread of deceptive or inaccurate information and imagery against women political leaders, journalists, and public figures. It’s a mouthful, and unfortunately it’s more present in social media today than we ever could have imagined. They are leading #ShePersisted to create a coalition of organizations and individuals invested in promoting women’s digital rights. Here’s what they want to make sure we all understand:
- Bots accelerate the spread – When it comes to gendered disinformation attacks, there are often armies of bots and online trolls launching these fake narratives onto the worldwide web. These bots accelerate the spread of politically motivated false stories.
- These are strategic attacks – In many instances, these digital attacks can be traced back to authoritarians or individuals in other positions of political power. The objective is to discredit the woman’s work and/or to draw attention away from the facts and toward a false narrative.
- Women are the primary targets – According to one study of female parliamentarians from around the world, more than 40% of the women had seen sexually charged or otherwise humiliating photos of themselves spread online.
- Social media is a tool – Social media is one of the reasons it is so easy for these false narratives and attacks against women to spread as quickly as they do. Algorithms often help to boost awareness of, and engagement with, these types of posts. That also means that social media companies can play an active role in ending gendered disinformation.
- There are societal consequences – Women think much longer and harder than men do before entering a public role such as working in government or journalism because of gendered disinformation and the risk it poses to their safety, credibility, and reputation. This means we are losing out on potentially great ideas and great leaders and innovators who could benefit societies across the globe. As Lucina put it, “we cannot afford to lose 50% of our talent pool” over these attacks.