Meedan has been announced as one of the grantees of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Knowledge for Action to End Violence Against Women and Violence Against Children Research Grant 2023 for its project titled Gendered disinformation: Deepening perspectives and designing responses. The focus of the study is to investigate online gendered disinformation in South Asia targeting women, trans and nonbinary people, as these disinformation campaigns use false, misogynistic and sexualized content to malign and discredit these groups.
Gendered disinformation silences women and other marginalized groups and makes it difficult for them to safely participate in public spaces and discourse. Cheap internet and an increase in smartphones over the years have led to making social media platforms very popular in rural India. But increased access has also led to greater vulnerability to rampant gendered disinformation. Most fact-checking technologies and research studies on disinformation focus on urban media settings and miss a gender lens. Interventions focusing on low-income, non-English-speaking, and underserved dark geographies are much needed.
“By highlighting these issues, we hope to change that. Our project will help advance understanding of the online spread of gendered disinformation and design responses to counter it in the region”, comments Meedan’s Sneha Alexander, Program Manager for the Asia-Pacific region.
Meedan has partnered with leaders in the fields of digital safety, fact-checking and feminist reporting, The Quint and Chambal Media in India, and Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan, to define, identify, document and annotate a high-quality dataset of gendered disinformation in online spaces and build case studies to develop a better understanding of the issue, build awareness, develop counter strategies, and apply machine learning techniques to identify gendered disinformation online.
“Currently, there is not a lot of work being done to address gendered disinformation in the region. The aim of our project is to build a high quality dataset and case studies of gendered disinformation in online spaces. We’ll also apply machine learning techniques to develop models to identify gendered disinformation online to further contribute to a healthier Internet”, explains Meedan’s Shalini Joshi, Program Director, Network and Training.
“Given the limited research around the topic in the region, I strongly feel this project will help in understanding and defining what constitutes gender based disinformation. By focusing on this, we intend to come up with strategies to not just mitigate it but also highlight the importance of providing safer public spaces (online and offline) to all genders,” confirms Kritika Goel, Deputy Editor, Fact-Check, The Quint.
“Due to a lack of systemic documentation and the ephemeral nature of digital spaces, we are unable to understand the process by which gendered disinformation is produced and disseminated. This project hopes to fill that gap through a collaborative and regional approach," comments Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation.
“We believe this project will leverage an established partnership between networks across borders and contribute to changes that make a safe and inclusive digital society where individuals can reap the benefits of technology," adds Priya Thuvassery, Director Chambal Media.
The Sexual Violence Reseach Initiative, is the world’s largest network on research on violence against women and violence against children. The SVRI received 312 proposals this year from Africa, Asia, East and Central Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean. The grant, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, contributes to the prevention and response of violence against women (VAW), violence against children (VAC) and other forms of violence driven by gender inequality in low and middle-income countries.
Watch the video announcement here.