Engendering Hate: The contours of state-aligned gendered disinformation online

Monday, October 26, 2020

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As part of a National Endowment for Democracy program, NDI commissioned Demos to undertake a study on state-aligned gendered disinformation.  Demos' report - Engendering Hate - was launched in October 2020.  In this first major study into the threat to democracy caused by state-aligned gendered disinformation, the report outlines a new framework for understanding how disinformation is being used online to manipulate perceptions of women's political leadership thereby excluding, silencing or trivialising their potential and their contribution. Using an analysis of Twitter data, the two case studies for this report were Poland and the Philippines. The research found evidence of disinformation campaigns which attacked women in politics and used gendered narratives to undermine women who oppose or criticise the state. Part of the study's findings include that online spaces are being systematically weaponised against women in politics and public life. Attacks on women which use hateful language, rumour and gendered stereotypes manage to combine personal attacks with political motivations, making online spaces dangerous places for women. Left unchecked, this phenomenon of gendered disinformation, spread by state and non-state actors, poses a serious threat to women’s equal political participation and through what NDI has termed "the gateway effect", can cross-over from the online space to cause lethal and sometimes fatal physical outcomes for politically-active women.  

Commenting on the report, Moira Whelan, Director for Democracy and Technology at NDI, said:

“Gendered disinformation is an extension of violence against women. To participate in public life, women face the weaponization of information that directly impacts their opportunities for leadership and participation. If the digital ecosystem is not safe for women, it is not safe for democracy. The evidence has shown us that empowering women to have a level playing field in the digital landscape can benefit countries and communities. That’s why NDI has been on the forefront of research and practical approaches to overcoming violence as one of the barriers to women’s equal and active political participation and empowerment.”

NDI is currently working on guidance for monitoring, mitigating and countering the impact of state-aligned gendered disinformation online.




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