Social media platforms are working with Plan International Australia – the charity for girls’ equality – to address the issue of harassment of girls online.
Ahead of International Day of the Girl (today – 11 October), the charity and its youth activists met with local representatives from Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.
The social media companies have responded positively to Plan International’s campaign to address online violence and have expressed a commitment to working together with young women and girls on addressing issues raised in Plan International’s global report: Free to Be Online?
Globally, Instagram is working with Plan International’s head office in the UK to kick off a series of listening sessions with girl activists around the world, which will inform work across Facebook platforms. Here in Australia, Plan will be working with local social media companies, including Instagram and Facebook, to address the problems associated with online harassment of girls.
Instagram will hear from a global panel of girl activists on how the platform can address online harassment in collaboration with Plan International. Insights will also be shared with Facebook and WhatsApp as part of this initiative.
The Listening Sessions, which are being announced on International Day of the Girl [October 11, 2020], will feature a diverse group of 15 youth activists.
The Listening Sessions will give policy and product teams from Instagram – as well as other Facebook platforms – an opportunity to hear directly from girls about their lived experiences on social media, creating a dialogue about more ways the companies can continue to invest in protecting girls from bullying and harassment.
The panellists will consult a broad network of girls and civil society organisations to offer insights from thousands of girls and young women worldwide.
It comes after a landmark survey by Plan International of 14,000 girls in 22 countries, including the USA, Brazil, Benin, and India, revealed more than half (58%) have been harassed or abused on social media.
Social media companies top the list of power-holders girls want to take action to tackle abuse, above governments, police and civil society organisations.
Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia, said: “Harassment and abuse have no place in any aspect of our lives, and yet a majority of girls have told us that explicit messages, racial slurs, body-shaming and violent threats are what they experience on social media.
“When harassment does occur, it’s crucial that there are effective ways to report it. These collaborations and listening sessions will give those who know the problem best – girls themselves – a say in how to make this a reality.
“By engaging in this dialogue, Instagram has demonstrated that they are listening to girls’ calls to make its platform safer. This is an important step towards making social media a space where girls are empowered and free to express themselves without fear.”
Cindy Southworth, Head of Women’s Safety at Facebook, said: “Abuse of women on the internet is a serious problem, one we tackle in a variety of ways – through technology that identifies and removes potentially abusive content, by enforcing strict policies and by talking with experts and people experiencing harassment or abuse.
“We know this is a particular challenge and really value the opportunity to work with Plan International and hear directly from young women affected by these issues so we can improve and ensure we are a platform where women feel safe.”
Plan International is also asking governments worldwide to implement specific laws to deal with online gender-based violence and ensure girls who suffer it have access to justice.