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Harassment and Abuse is Driving Girls to Quit Social Media Platforms

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Harassment and Abuse is Driving Girls to Quit Social Media Platforms

A resent global study by a human rights group has found that harassment and abuse is driving girls to quit social media platforms. Young girls have quit using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, because nearly 60% experiencing harassment.

One in five girls or young women have abandoned or cut down on using a social media platform after being harassed. Some girls say the harassment started when they were as young as eight, the survey by girls’ rights group Plan International showed.

“Girls are being silenced by a toxic level of harassment,” said the organizations chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen. The attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39% of girls polled 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 was suppressing girls’ voices. Especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was increasing the importance of communicating online.

Young girls faced threats of physical or sexual violence

It also called on social media companies to take urgent action. Above all to address the issue and urged governments to pass laws to deal with online harassment. The study also found reporting tools were ineffective in stopping the abuse. Abuses which included explicit messages, pornographic photos and cyberstalking.

Nearly half of 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 behaviour online which would be criminal on the streets,” Reuters reported.

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

Twitter said it also used technology to catch abusive content and has launched tools to improve users’ control over their conversations.

The survey polled 14,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 25 in 22 countries. Including Brazil, India, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand and the United States.

Social Media companies need to better protect girls

Albrectsen said activists, including those campaigning for gender equality and on LGBT+ issues, were often targeted particularly viciously, and their lives and families threatened.

“Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world. It damages a girls ability to be seen, heard and become leaders,” she added.

In an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, girls from around the world called on social media companies to create more effective ways to report abuse.

“We use (your platforms) not just to connect with friends, but to lead and create change. But they are not safe for us. We get harassed and abused on them. Every. Single. Day,” they wrote.

“As this global pandemic moves our lives online, we are more at risk than ever.”

Plan International also urged the companies to do more to hold to account those behind such abuse. Also to collect data on the scale of the problem.

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