Fighting misinformation and cyberbullying against women in public sphere: Call for gender equality and online safety

Women in politics face a unique set of challenges that are not experienced by men. They are often subjected to sexist attacks, gender-based discrimination, and harassment both in the physical world and online.

Misinformation and cyberbullying are the two biggest problems that women in politics and women in the public sphere face today. Many of the cases we have seen on the internet show that women in public receive enormous hate speech because of organised misinformation distribution more than men. While many politicians were forced to resign, some cases led to violence, robbery, and even murder.

Addressing the misinformation and cyberbullying

Often, this misinformation and hate speech is impossible to stop at its peak, and the platforms like Facebook or Twitter do not provide an effective way of dealing with this or correcting the misinformation. These issues have serious consequences and can harm women’s reputations, affect their careers, and even threaten their safety.

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Several countries face these issues, and female politicians across the globe have resigned from their roles due to organised misinformation and cyberattacks. This has happened in Brazil, the UK, and many other countries. In my country, Mongolia, for example, I have resigned from my government role as a result of organised political attacks on social media.

From my own experience, I joined the Government as a Chairwoman of the Communications and Information Technology Authority at the age of 27 with a mission to digitise Mongolia’s government and public service.

As soon as I joined, we started the E-Mongolia platform and launched it on 1 October 2020. By the time I resigned, we had digitised over 2,000 government services and gained over two million users, which is 90 per cent of the adult population of Mongolia.

Since digital transformation has been growing very actively, we established a Ministry of Digital Development and Communications of Mongolia. I was first appointed as a State Secretary and soon promoted to Deputy Minister. My vision has been to transition Mongolia to a Digital Nation.

In late 2022, videos of me speaking at a conference in Saudi Arabia the year before were cut, mistranslated, and spread on social media. This led to hate speech directed at me as a woman and as a young leader, with my family also at the receiving end of some attacks. My case was not the first case and will not be the last.

Working towards creating a more equitable and just society

Globally, there has not been any efficient way of monitoring misinformation and its harm. Even though some countries have taken action to regulate it through privacy laws, we have yet to see a  positive impact.

Therefore, regulating oligopolies in social media and, given the nature of the internet, these efforts have also proved to be problematic. To address these issues, we need a coordinated government, civil society, and social media companies.

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Governments can enact legislation that protects women in politics from harassment and discrimination. Civil society can work to raise awareness about these issues and advocate for better policies and monitor actual implementation. Tech companies can take a more proactive approach to monitor and remove harmful content that targets women in politics.

It is very important to create an equal environment in politics for our future. Therefore, we should create a system that provides legal support and training on how to navigate online harassment. It is also important to create a safe space for women in politics to share their experiences and connect with each other, such as through women’s political networks and NGOs.

Ultimately, it is crucial that we work towards creating a more equitable and just society where women in politics are not subjected to gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence. This requires a collective effort from the government, civil society, tech companies, and individuals to challenge patriarchal norms and promote gender equality in all spheres of life.

Only by working together can we create a world where women in politics can thrive and make actual contributions to society without fear of harassment and retaliation.

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