Instagram teams up with girl activists to address online harassment

10 OCTOBER 2020

Social media platform to work with girls’ rights organisation Plan International to kick off a series of listening sessions with girl activists around the world, which will inform work across Facebook platforms.

Girls will share their lived experiences on social media, so companies can continue to invest in protecting them from bullying and harassment.
Girls will share their lived experiences on social media, so companies can continue to invest in protecting them from bullying and harassment.

Instagram will hear from a global panel of girl activists on how the platform can address online harassment in collaboration with Plan International.

Insights will also be shared with Facebook and WhatsApp as part of this initiative.

The Girls Get Equal Listening Sessions, which are being announced on International Day of the Girl [October 11, 2020], will feature a diverse group of 15 youth activists.

Listening sessions with girl activists

The Listening Sessions will give policy and product teams from Instagram, as well as other Facebook platforms, an opportunity to hear directly from girls about their lived experiences on social media, creating a dialogue about more ways the companies can continue to invest in protecting girls from bullying and harassment.

The panellists will consult a broad network of girls and civil society organisations to offer insights from thousands of girls and young women worldwide.

It comes after a landmark survey by Plan International of 14,000 girls in 22 countries, including the USA, Brazil, Benin, and India, revealed more than half (58%) have been harassed or abused on social media.

Social media companies top the list of power holders girls want to take action to tackle abuse, above governments, police and civil society organisations.

The research was carried out as part of Girls Get Equal, Plan International’s global campaign for a world where girls and young women, in all their diversity, have the power to be leaders and shape the world around them.

Majority of girls experience online abuse

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said “Harassment and abuse have no place in any aspect of our lives and yet a majority of girls have told us that explicit messages, racial slurs, body shaming and violent threats are what they experience on social media.”

“When harassment does occur, it’s crucial that there are effective ways to report it. The Girls Get Equal Listening Sessions will give those who know the problem best, girls themselves, a say in how to make this a reality.”

“By engaging in this dialogue, Instagram has demonstrated that they are listening to girls’ calls to make its platform safer. This is an important step towards making social media a space where girls are empowered and free to express themselves without fear.”

Commitment to improving safety

Cindy Southworth, Head of Women’s Safety at Facebook, said “Abuse of women on the internet is a serious problem, one we tackle in a variety of ways, through technology that identifies and removes potentially abusive content, by enforcing strict policies and by talking with experts and people experiencing harassment or abuse.”

“We know this is a particular challenge and really value the opportunity to work with Plan International and hear directly from young women affected by these issues so we can improve and ensure we are a platform where women feel safe.”

The group, which is made up of 10 activists from Plan International’s Global Youth Networks and five representatives from civil society organisations, will include girls from Japan, Brazil, India, UK, US, Spain, Germany, Benin, Kenya and the Philippines.

As part of the Girls Get Equal campaign, Plan International is also asking governments worldwide to implement specific laws to deal with online gender-based violence and ensure girls who suffer it have access to justice.