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Online Abuse Driving Girls Off Social Media Platforms: Study

October 6, 2020, 04.05 PM

LONDON, – A global study found that online abuse is driving girls off social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Nearly 60 percent of girls have experienced harassment online thus pushed one in five girls and young women to abandon or cut down on using a social media platform after being targeted.

Some stated that they experienced online abuse when they were as young as eight years old, the survey by girls' rights group Plan International showed.

Read also: Cultural Norms Stall Deliberations of Indonesias Sexual Violence Bill

"Girls are being silenced by a toxic level of harassment," said the organization's chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.

Attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39 percent of girls polled said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram (23 percent), WhatsApp (14 percent), Snapchat (10 percent), Twitter (9 percent), and TikTok (6 percent).

The charity, which will share the report with social media companies and lawmakers around the world, said the online abuse was suppressing girls' voices at a time when the coronavirus pandemic was increasing the importance of communicating online.

It called on social media companies to take urgent action to address the issue and urged governments to pass laws to deal with online abuse and harassment.

Read also: TikTok Proposes Social Media Alliance to Remove Harmful Content

The study found reporting tools were ineffective in stopping online 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 poll. Many said the abuse took a mental toll, and a quarter felt physically unsafe.

"It is time for this to stop. Girls should not have to put up with behavior online which would be criminal on the streets," the report said.

Facebook and Instagram said they used artificial intelligence to look for bullying content, constantly monitored users' reports of abuse, and always removed rape threats.

"Keeping women safe on our apps is critical and we invest heavily in keeping abuse off our platforms," said Cindy Southworth, head of women's safety at Facebook.

Read also: The Netherlands to Penalize Groups Silent on Reporting Sexual Abuse


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