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On International Women’s Day, Women Deserve Accurate Information

Khadija Boufous Khadija Boufous
8th March 2023
On International Women’s Day, Women Deserve Accurate Information
Fact-checking can help women safely navigate the web (Getty)

On International Women’s Day, people acknowledge women’s efforts in different fields, civil rights groups take to the street, calling for more rights, and NGOs denounce violence against women in many places, including homes and workplaces. Meanwhile, with the rise of technology’s use, women became subject to online violence, including online harassment and misinformation.

As social media became increasingly available to facilitate the participation of women in politics and other fields, women face numerous difficulties while navigating the digital world, from online harassment and abuse to media bias to gendered misinformation.

Gendered misinformation has significant implications for women withdrawing from public life, offline and online. This issue may have a silencing effect on women when they can not freely express themselves online. Furthermore, misinformation triggers concerns about gender equality and women’s equal rights to participate in public life.

As many women use the internet, not only to connect with their loved ones, but also to learn, get informed, and get recipes and tutorials, they need accurate information from credible sources.

Women Are Negatively Impacted by Online Misinformation

A previous report by girls’ rights organization Plan International Canada, in collaboration with IBM Canada, highlighted misinformation’s impact on women. According to the research, exposure to false information online is taking its toll on girls and young women in Canada and worldwide.

This global research called “The Truth Gap” included a landmark survey of more than 26,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 24 from 26 countries and revealed that exposure to misinformation has a profound impact on how they engage with issues ranging from COVID-19 to politics.

According to this survey, globally, 20 percent of surveyed girls and young women feel physically unsafe because of false information online, and 87 percent said misinformation and disinformation have had a negative impact on their lives. Meanwhile, 67 percent have never been taught how to spot misinformation or disinformation.

The research found that one in surveyed three girls and young women reported false information affecting their mental health, leaving them stressed, worried, and anxious, while others cited concerns about fake events advertised on social media that could place them at physical risk and about unreliable medical advice that could harm their health.

According to Saadya Hamdani, Director of Gender Equality at Plan International Canada, these findings demonstrate the consequences of false information on girls and young women, as the pandemic has shifted most of our interactions online. 

“They are bombarded with lies that fuel discrimination, proliferate harmful stereotypes, and derail their pathways to leadership and realizing their rights. This impacts their self-esteem and mental and physical health,” says Saadya Hamdani.

The report suggests that digital literacy is an indispensable tool for women’s participation in civic life, particularly as it relates to fields where they are underrepresented.

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How Can Misinformation Target Women?

Misinformation can target women through different kinds of content. False and misleading narratives can also focus on strategies and tactics based on hate speech or gendered information. Such harmful content can be available on all platforms, especially the social media Apps. 

According to American reports, gendered and racialized disinformation are disproportionately used against women politicians. Despite the significant work by advocates to highlight this problem, “policymakers have yet to grapple with disinformation targeted toward women from racial, ethnic, religious or other minority groups who are engaged in politics.”

Researches proved that misinformation and gendered disinformation is a serious issue for women who want to engage in politics. Other studies also indicated that women of color are more likely to face high levels of consistent online abuse, and online abuse can also include misinformation and hate speech.

As many companies use social media platforms for advertisement, some ads can sexualize the image of women based on unproven theories and information. Women without fact-checking knowledge and critical thinking skills may also fall prey to online scientific misinformation, which makes fact-checking part of the solution to tackle online misinformation targeting women and help them preserve their digital rights by making the internet a safe place for all users, regardless of their gender.

According to Ahmad Hegab, a Regional digital safety specialist, many women have lost their money, their work, and their privacy because of clicking on a malicious link, having a conversation with an impersonator, or sometimes because of sharing their personal information.

For Mr. Hegab, misinformation’s impact on women may include withdrawing from cyberspace and using pseudonyms instead of real names to protect themselves. Moreover, misinformation may also cause psychological anxiety about sharing online and lack of participation in political discussions and public work, in addition to reinforcing the stereotype promoting unproven ideas about “women’s limited skills and unvalued opinions,” unlike men, especially in times of crisis.

Fact-Checking Is Part of the Remedy

Combating misinformation is a joint responsibility of global citizens, governmental institutions, tech and media companies, and other stakeholders. As individuals in many regions get their daily dose of news through navigating floods of information on social media, these platforms become a fertile area for the spread of misinformation that can negatively impact vulnerable groups and communities. 

Although many experts confirmed that good education could help counter misinformation, other media analysts found that education alone is insufficient to combat misinformation since educational interventions have several limitations.

Meanwhile, to counter misinformation, fact-checking is part of the strategy. Media literacy and developing critical thinking can also prevent the spread of misinformation. In the current digital age, empowering women needs to be based on developing soft skills like fact-checking and other reporting harm legally as well as on social platforms.

Misbar’s Sources:


Plan International Canada

Center for Democracy and Technology