Girls across the world have written an open letter to social media companies to intervene in what they described as the prolonged abuse and harassment that they are subjected to through the online platform.
According to a survey conducted by Plan International on 14, 071 girls across 31 countries in the world, one in five girls (19 percent) have left or significantly reduced the use of social media after being harassed.
The survey has also revealed that these attacks are most common on Facebook, where 39 percent say they have suffered harassment and also occur on every platform including Instagram (23 percent), WhatsApp (14 percent), Snapchat (10 percent), Twitter (9 percent) and TikTok (6 percent).
Country Director of Plan International Malawi, Phebe Kasonga, has said despite conducting the survey in different continents, the experiences of harassment and discrimination that girls face are similar.
“These attacks may not be physical, but they are often threatening, relentless, and limit girls’ freedom of expression. Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world, and damages their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders.
“Disappointingly, they are being left to deal with online violence on their own, with profound consequences for their internet access around the world, it is time for digital platforms to step up and protect their users,” she concluded.
Describing her experience of using social media as a young girl, one woman from Sudan, now 20, said: “I used to get a lot of messages from boys asking me to send nudes or blackmailing me about a picture that I posted that they’re going to share or edit it in a bad way and share it with everyone if I don’t do this or that. Or just generally talking, like saying bad words to me. At that young age it was, honestly horrible. So, it was the worst time in my life, using social media. Between the age of 9 and 14.” Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) also vowed to fight cybercrimes earlier this year. This was said by Macra’s Deputy Director of Legal Consumer Affairs Thokozani Chimbe during this year’s commemorations of Safer Internet Day in Malawi.
However, online harassment is still on the rise in the country as the laws against cyber bullying are not often emphasised to social media users.