Disinformation often reinforces gender stereotypes, deepening societal divides and hindering progress toward gender equality. Combatting this disinformation is essential to ensure fair treatment and opportunities for all genders.
“As a female artist and filmmaker, I’ve faced harassment both online and offline. I had the opportunity to interview with BBC, where I discussed the importance of multicultural societies in Europe. I emphasized the need for a culture and society where people from diverse backgrounds can feel a sense of belonging, safety, and the freedom to contribute to their communities and societies.
However, following the interview’s viral spread, it found its way to various racist websites and online chatrooms. What ensued was a disturbing campaign aimed at harassing and threatening me. These threats went beyond mere expressions of violence; they were profoundly gendered in nature. I was subjected to horrifying threats of sexual violence and abuse, making use of highly disrespectful language.”
In her own words, Deeyah Khan, a film director and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador shared her ordeal.
The latest report from UNESCO concerning global trends in online harassment against women journalists reveals a concerning reality. The report indicates that 73% of women journalists have been subjected to online violence, and one out of every five has faced physical attacks or abuse linked to online violence.
In the 2018 Global report by UNESCO, it was evident that reported attacks against women journalists online had been on the rise, driving some to completely withdraw from the digital space.
Recognizing the gravity of this issue, prominent voices from UNESCO, AMWIK, and the European Union joined forces to host a webinar. This virtual event aimed to engage in a dialogue, proposing strategies and solutions to combat gendered disinformation and hate speech online.
John Okande, a programs officer at UNESCO, defined gendered disinformation as false and manipulated information intended to cause harm to women or people of diverse genders and sexualities. He further elucidates that the impact of gendered misinformation is broad, affecting anyone, but its severity is pronounced for individuals targeted based on their gender identity.
“Everyone can be affected by gendered misinformation and hate speech, but the impact is severe on individuals targeted based on their gender identity. This includes women. Such misinformation and hate speech can harm their mental well-being and undermine their self-esteem, hence they could shy away from specific career fields.” He stated
“Their professional reputation could be damaged making them withdraw from practising their expertise,” he added
Kagwiria Mbogori, lawyer and women’s right advocate emphasized that gendered disinformation and hate speech has been exacerbated by the overdependence of digital gadgets in this era, but initiatives have been formulated to help curb the challenges.
“Disinformation and hate speech occur both offline and online. This digital era has given harmful messages a global reach on social media. Hence, the parliament of Kenya enacted the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act in 2018 precisely to fight cybercrime. The objective was to provide crime offences related to computer systems and to enable timely detection, prevention and investigation to facilitate the international cooperation in dealing with them.”
Jane Kinyanjui, the cybersecurity expert at the Communications Authority of Kenya, echoed Kagwiria’s sentiments emphasizing the importance of social media platforms and websites implementing effective reporting mechanisms to swiftly address gendered hate speech.
Hon. Naisula Lesuuda, M.P Samburu West explained that preserving human dignity is as important as everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
“We must create a digital world where all individuals regardless of their gender can participate in online discourses without fear. A safe and inclusive digital world is our duty. Creating an inclusive digital world lies with each one of us government, civil society, and media putting in some effort towards digital hygiene.”
“Each one of us is craving a world where information prevails, where empathy and respect triumphs over hatred, where the online sphere is an extension of our shared commitment to equality and justice.” She spoke.
In her closing remarks, she urged everyone to uphold human rights, spreading awareness, and generating ideas that build a united front against gendered disinformation and hate speech.
By Priscilla Kaigai, AMWIK Member.