Free To Be Online

Social media companies are listening

Girls around the world are physically threatened, racially abused, sexually harassed and body shamed online. And it gets worse when they raise their voices and share their opinions. Online violence is serious, it causes real harm, and it’s silencing girls’ voices.


With the support of more than 60,000 people around the globe, girl activists have taken their demands to the social media companies, and they are being heard!

Following the launch of our #FreeToBeOnline campaign, Instagram agreed to team up with young activists from around the world to address online harassment.

In November, we kicked off a series of listening sessions where girls and young women could have a direct conversation with Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. The listening sessions have given girls a say in how to make online safety a reality – which means stronger reporting mechanisms for violence that meet their needs and hold perpetrators to account. After all, they have first-hand experience of the problems.

Online violence is serious. It silences girls’ voices – and it causes real and lasting harm.

Girls are opting out of expressing themselves and their opinions for fear of retribution, and sometimes removing themselves from these platforms altogether.

As the charity for girls’ equality, Plan International Australia is declaring that enough is enough.


Join the campaign

Roadmap to a Safer Internet for Girls

  • The listening sessions kicked off on 18 November. The activists, allies and key representatives for Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp got to know each other and agreed on collective hopes and ambitions for the collaboration.
  • Between 10 – 20 December, the group of girl activists crowdsourced the views of girls from different regions among their networks to make sure diverse views were considered in their wish list.
  • On 19 January the group created a wish list for improving girls’ safety on Facebook Platforms – incorporating all insights from girls around the globe.
  • On 26 January the group and product and policy teams from Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp explored the wish list and other changes that could improve girls’ safety. Insights were documented and distributed to key stakeholders across Facebook platforms.
  • On Tuesday 27 April Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp will share their learnings and details of the safety commitments they are making for girls.

Meet the Activists

Ten girls and young women aged 15 – 22, and five young women civil society leaders, are engaging with Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

This diverse group of 15 change-makers, activists and advocates are bringing together their collective expertise and experience, and collecting the views of hundreds of girls in their networks.

The activists are sharing their insights and requests for concrete changes with the platforms to help make them safer for girls everywhere. The girls and young women are joined by powerful allies from civil society organisations, bringing experience and expertise in advocating for safety online to the Girls Get Equal Listening Sessions.


Girls won’t stop calling for change until they are #FreeToBeOnline.

Together we’re calling on all the major social media platforms to take urgent action so girls are safe to speak up online without fear.

If you haven’t already, please sign the girls’ open letter and amplify their voices.

Will you stand with girls around the world?

Free to Be Online

The Research

For this report we spoke to 14,000 girls across 32 countries around the world about their experiences online. This is the largest ever survey of its type. We learnt that more than half have been harassed and abused on social media.

In all 32 countries, girls had been exposed to explicit messages, pornographic photos, cyberstalking and other distressing forms of abuse.

Most commonly girls were targeted with abusive and insulting language, reported by more than half (59%) of girls, followed by deliberate embarrassment (41%), body shaming and threats of sexual violence (both 39%).

The social media platforms designed to connect us as a global community, are drastically failing girls and young women. Inadequate reporting mechanisms are allowing harmful abuse slip through the cracks.
Girls in all of their diversity, need to know that when they’re abused and threatened online, they can report it. That they’ll be listened to. That action will be taken, and that perpetrators will be held accountable.