As the world celebrates International Women's Day, its important to reflect on the unique challenges faced by women in the digital age. One of the most insidious threats to woman's equality is the spread of disinformation, which can undermine progress toward gender equality and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
Disinformation is the deliberate spread of false or misleading information with the intention of manipulating public opinion. Its an old but growing problem in our increasingly digital world, where social media and other online platforms can amplify false narratives and conspiracy theories. and, unfortunately women are often the targets.
One of the most common forms of gender based disinformation is the spread of false information about women's health and bodies. For example, there are countless rumours and conspiracy theories about vaccines, birth control and reproductive health that are designed to sow fear and confusion. These myths can have real world consequences, discouraging women from seeking medical care and making informed decisions about their bodies.
Disinformation can also be used to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women's roles and abilities, For example, false information about women in leadership positions can be used to discredit their achievements and promote the idea that women are less capable than men. Similarly, disinformation about women's roles in society can be used to justify discrimination and perpetuate gender-based violence.
'Many today still believe the myth that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute when there is no evidence that she was anything but a very devout follower of Jesus Christ and perhaps even the sole female apostle. But a pope described her as a “sinful woman” in the year 591 and this falsehood spread throughout the Christian world.' - Friends of Europe
Buts its not just the spread of disinformation that's a problem. Women are also disproportionately affected by online harassment and abuse, which can be used as a tool to silence their voices and undermine their credibility, This can be especially damaging for women who are already underrepresented in fields like politics, science and technology.
“I would never ever, ever subject myself to that again. It has damaged my mental health. It has made me fear for the safety of my family. It has made me fear for my safety,” - former tv anchor and political candidate Tamara Taggart (via CIGI)
So, what can we so to combat gender-based disinformation? First, its important to be critical consumers of information, especially on social media. Before sharing a story or article, take a moment to fact-check and make sure information is accurate and reliable. Its also important to be aware of your own biases and to seek out diverse perspectives and sources of information. At TITAN our AI-enabled conversational agent is being co-created to help guide people through critical thinking processes so they can come to their own logical conclusions about content accuracy.
Secondly, TITAN is aware that combating disinformation needs a multipronged approach, and as well as empowering people to better spot disinformation, we all need to hold social media companies more accountable for their role in spreading disinformation. This means advocating for stronger policies and regulations to prevent the spread of false information, as well as supporting efforts to combat online harassment and abuse.
Finally, we all have a collective responsibility to support women's voices and ensure they have a seat at the table in shaping the narratives that define our world. This means promoting women's leadership and representation in all fields, from politics to technology, to the arts.
On this International Women's Day lets commit to fighting gender based disinformation and build a world where women's voices are just as heard. respected and empowered as men's.