Ahead of World Internet Day on October 29th, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) released today a new report on “Interventions to End Online Violence Against Women in Politics.” The report details a list of 26 interventions that technology platforms, governments, civil society organizations and the media can take to make meaningful progress towards ending online violence against women in politics.
"NDI has focused on supporting an open and inclusive internet as a necessary building block for democratic integrity and renewal, which requires the equal and active participation of women and girls in all their diversity in politics and public life,” said Sandra Pepera, Senior Associate and Director of Gender, Women and Democracy at NDI. “Equitable participation and empowerment of women in politics is essential to building and sustaining democracy,” she added.
Women in politics are often targeted with threats, harassment, hate speech, and other forms of violence and abuse online, and the effect of this violence is that women desist from participating in politics, the report found. This is not an accident, it is intentional. “Authoritarians and illiberal actors increasingly use online violence – including gendered disinformation – deliberately as a political tactic to silence the voice and undermine the agency of those women and girls who are intent on being politically active,” Pepera said.
World Internet Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance of creating an internet that is safe for all users. “For democracy to thrive, politicians – and all people – must feel they have the ability to engage politically without fear of violence,” said Moira Whelan, Director of Democracy and Technology at NDI. “This is not just a problem for women, this is a problem for democracy,” she said.
To compile the interventions, NDI gathered feedback through roundtables in seven countries (Brazil, Colombia, Georgia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Ukraine) with over 90 women in politics and public life. The roundtables were led in partnership with civil society organizations around the world who are focusing on this issue, and with contributions from Meedan, a global technology not-for-profit, on the interventions for technology platforms.
“Meedan’s work on building infrastructure to help journalists and platforms respond to violence and political events at scale has made it clear how critical the online safety of women is for creating greater equity in politics. This report sets up a pathway to reduce the spread of violent content against women in politics globally,” said Meedan Program Manager and Content Moderation Lead Kat Lo.
The interventions list provides a menu of solutions that can be tailored to fit each country’s unique political and legal context. The report will be released in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Ukrainian.
NDI has been studying and countering gendered disinformation campaigns against political women since 2016 with the launch of the #NotTheCost campaign. Many women are told that harassment, threats, psychological abuse (in person and online), physical and sexual assault are “the cost of doing politics.” Since the campaign’s launch, NDI has been working to challenge this claim by raising awareness of the violence that politically-active women face, collecting data on it, and building capacity among partners to mitigate its impact and hold perpetrators accountable.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.