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60% of girls on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have been harassed

  • Published at 01:50 pm October 5th, 2020
Girl social media Facebook Twitter harassed
Teen girl bullied through social media Bigstock

Attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39% of girls polled said they had been harassed

Online abuse is driving girls to quit social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with nearly 60% experiencing harassment, a global study showed on Sunday.

One in five girls and young women has abandoned or cut down on using a social media platform after being targeted, with some saying 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 organisation's chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.

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 at a time when the Covid-19 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 harassment.

The study found reporting tools were ineffective in stopping the abuse, 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," 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.

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.

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

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.


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