A new study reveals that nearly 60% of women and girls using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have experienced abuse.
According to a new global study, online abuse drives girls away from social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and nearly 60% of them experience harassment.
One in five girls and young women have given up or reduced their use of a social media platform after being targeted, with some saying the harassment started when they were as young as eight, the survey finds of the girls’ equality group Plan International.
“The girls are being silenced by a toxic level of harassment,” the organization’s chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, said on Sunday.
Attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39% of girls surveyed said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok (6 %) .
The charity, which will share the report with social media companies and lawmakers around the world, said the abuse is suppressing girls’ voices at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the importance of communication in line.
He called on social media companies to take urgent action to address the problem and urged governments to pass laws to tackle online harassment.
The study found that reporting tools were ineffective in stopping abuse, which included explicit messages, pornographic photos and cyberstalking.
Nearly half of the girls targeted had been threatened with physical or sexual violence, according to the survey. Many said the abuse had taken a mental toll and a quarter felt physically unsafe.
“It is time for this to stop. Girls should not have to put up with online behavior that would be criminal on the streets,” the report says.
Girls and young women around the world are calling for urgent action from the world’s major social media platforms as abuse and harassment drive them off Facebook, Instagram and Twitter #FreeToBeOnlinehttps://t.co/F7HOCDA9BV
— Plan International (@PlanGlobal) October 4, 2020
Facebook and Instagram said they used artificial intelligence to find intimidating content, continuously monitored user reports of abuse, and always removed rape threats.
Twitter said it was also using technology to detect abusive content and launched tools to improve user control over their conversations.
The survey interviewed 14,000 girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25 in 22 countries, including Brazil, India, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand and the United States.
Albrectsen said activists, including those advocating for gender equality and LGBT+ issues, were often targeted in particularly vicious ways and had their lives and families put at risk.
“Chasing girls away from online spaces is extremely disempowering in an increasingly digital world and harms their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders,” she added.
In an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, girls around the world called on social media companies to create more effective ways to report abuse.
“We are using [your platforms] not just to connect with friends, but to lead and create change. But they are not safe for us. We are harassed and abused over them. All. Only. day,” they wrote.
“As this global pandemic shifts our lives online, we are at greater risk than ever.”
Plan International has also urged companies to do more to hold those responsible for the abuse to account and to collect data on the scale of the problem.