Free to be online: Girls and young women’s experiences of online harassment


Gender based Violence

Plan International State of the world’s girls report 2020

The 2020 report on girls’ experiences of being online on social media platforms is the third in a new series that each year will examine the behaviours, attitudes and beliefs that limit girls’ freedom and opportunities in specific environments or sectors.

Girls are harassed just for being girls and it gets worse if they speak up about issues they care about. Race, sexuality and disability are targeted too. Nowhere feels safe, and for many, online harassment that follows them into their homes, and invades their hearts and minds, is just as frightening, physically and emotionally, as street harassment. The two are interwoven – the result of underlying misogyny that is determined to keep girls and women “in their place.”
Perpetrators who threaten rape and physical violence, use abusive and sexist language, post manipulated photos and send pornographic pictures are able to remain anonymous and unconstrained; girls are often afraid, begin to restrict what they post and are forced to try and protect themselves. It is time for this to stop. Girls and young women are demanding change. Their experiences are not “normal” and girls should not have to put up with behaviour online which would be criminal on the streets. Governments and social media companies must take action.
Governments and society as a whole need to monitor this abuse rigorously and social media companies must use their technological skills and financial resources to put freedom online for girls and young women at the heart of their agenda.

Social media companies have to:

  • Create effective and accessible reporting mechanisms that target gender-based violence
  • Hold perpetrators to account
  • Collect disaggregated data that acknowledges girls’ intersecting identities and tracks the scale and size of the problem
  • Take this issue seriously

“Social media can be a really amazing place to, for example, speak out and share information…but also, it can be a horrible place where, I don’t know, crazy people can have an anonymous place to throw shade and hate…”
Young woman, 22, Chile

You can read the full Plan International Report here.

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