The Internet has become a powerful tool for connection and community building, allowing us to mobilize in times of civic importance, elections, crises and the pursuit of human rights. However, gendered disinformation remains a significant barrier particularly for women and marginalized communities, impeding their ability to harness the Internet efficiently. 

Gendered disinformation has many definitions, but in essence it can be understood as the creation and dissemination of content that contains gender-based attacks or weaponizes gender narratives to fulfill political, social or economic goals. 

Maria Ressa, a Meedan board member, Rappler's CEO and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is intimately acquainted with gendered disinformation. In the Philippines, she faces relentless assaults on multiple fronts—targeted for her journalism, her gender, the complexion of her skin, her American identity, and her sexuality. An exhaustive forensic examination spanning five years (2016-2021) delved into the deluge of social media attacks she endured.

In the backdrop of the 2016 US presidential election, a Russian troll farm orchestrated a sophisticated disinformation campaign targeting Hillary Clinton on social media. This insidious effort involved disseminating false narratives regarding her health, personal life and qualifications for office. The impact of the Internet Research Agency's (IRA) manipulation was palpable, significantly influencing the course of the election (Source).

There is sadly no shortage of examples.

Meedan’s latest initiative “Understanding trends in Gendered Disinformation during elections," seeks to unravel the pervasive harassment faced by women specifically during elections. 

Our objective is to conduct cross-regional analysis to identify common threads, patterns and approaches to gendered disinformation, enabling a comprehensive understanding of this pressing issue. This effort involves collating data from messaging tiplines hosted on our Check platform to develop in-depth case studies across diverse countries and languages.

We’re collaborating with three partner civil society organizations including Ecofeminita in Argentina, the Africa Women Journalism Project in partnership with TogoCheck in Togo and Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan, and investigating the gendered disinformation content collected in the months surrounding elections in these countries. 

The partners have now launched their bots, hosted on Meedan’s Check platform, all with the purpose of tracking, documenting and fact-checking gender disinformation content online and offline during their respective elections. Africa Women Journalism Project in partnership with TogoCheck launched Naka, a Facebook messaging bot, Digital Rights Foundation is documenting instances of gendered disinformation through their Whatsapp tipline and their bot Mithu, and Ecofeminita launched their WhatsApp tipline ECOFEMIBOT right in time for their elections in November 2023. Audiences are encouraged to send in instances of gender disinformation they come across to the bots. The data is then collated and analyzed for trends which may transcend languages and countries. 

The Digital Rights Foundation is also collaborating on Check with longtime Meedan partners in India Chambal Media and The Quint to collect and annotate instances of gendered disinformation, which will result in a report on trends across South Asia

In addition to providing technology support, Meedan’s team is offering the partners workshops and training sessions covering topics such as Digital Security, and Strategies for Maintaining Mental Well-being when confronted with harmful content.

Learn more about our partners

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy NGO focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes, and digital governance. 

Ecofeminita – Feminist Economy Civil Association – is an interdisciplinary organization created and led by women in Argentina, focused on making gender inequalities visible in their different forms. 

The Africa Women Journalism Project is a pan-African initiative that empowers women journalists to produce high-quality, data-driven journalism on underreported issues affecting women and marginalized groups across the continent. 

Togocheck is an independent, non-partisan and autonomous fact-checking media organization, based in Lomé, Togo. Its editorial policy is based on strict principles of fact-checking and accuracy of information.

Tags
Elections
Gender Disinformation
Tipline
Check
Women In Politics
Larger World
Check Global
IMRF

Footnotes

  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.

References

Authors

Words by

No items found.
No items found.
Words by
Organization
Published on
December 20, 2023