Published: 2021-10-09 15:53
Last Updated: 2021-10-21 14:40
Globally, false information online has left one in five girls (20 percent) feeling physically unsafe, according to The Truth Gap, a report released by a development and humanitarian organization, Plan International.
The research includes a landmark survey of over 26,000 girls and young women from 26 countries, including Jordan, which also found that exposure to lies and mistruths are having a profound impact on how they engage with issues ranging from the pandemic to politics.
Plan International, which says the findings lay bare the ‘real life consequences’ of misinformation and disinformation on girls and young women, is calling on governments to educate children and young people in digital literacy.
In the first large-scale global study to examine the gendered impact of misinformation and disinformation online, it was found that nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) of girls and young women think it has had a negative impact on their lives. In Jordan, eight out of 10 girls and young women said that misinformation and/or disinformation had a negative effect on them, with 90 percent of respondents admitting to being influenced by online information.
As a result, Jordanian survey results showed that misinformation and disinformation online has exposed young girls and women to mental health implications, with 41 percent saying they felt sad, depressed, stressed, worried or anxious, and 11 percent felt physically unsafe.
In-depth interviews carried out by Plan International suggest that girls are feeling unsafe because online exchanges are increasing social tensions within communities.
Others reported concerns about bogus events advertised on social media placing them at physical risk, or unreliable medical advice that could harm their health.
More than a quarter (28 percent) of those surveyed globally have been led to believe a myth or ‘fake fact’ about COVID-19, and one in four (25 percent) have questioned whether to get vaccinated against the virus. In Jordan, online information was especially important to girls and young women during the pandemic, with 26 percent saying it has changed how they behaved during the coronavirus crisis, and 28 percent saying that online information has influenced their decision on whether to get the vaccine. Jordanian young women and girls said the topic they have seen misinformation and/or disinformation on is COVID-19 (56 percent), followed by climate change (35 percent) and news and current affairs (31 percent).
Globally, there was no online source that the majority of those surveyed trusted to provide reliable information, with survey results in Jordan following suit. The most trusted source in Jordan, which was educational institutions, had less than half of the respondents’ trust at 46 percent.
Moreover, young women and girls in Jordan believed that social media platforms have the most misinformation and disinformation, at 50 percent, with the majority (52 percent) believing that Facebook and TikTok (39 percent) have the most misinformation and disinformation.
Muna Abbas, the Country Director of Plan Jordan said “The internet molds girls’ opinions about themselves, the issues they hold close and the way they view society around them. Our research makes it evident that online misinformation and disinformation has serious consequences. It is dangerous, it affects girls’ mental health, and is yet another setback that impacts their ability to properly, and safely, engage in public life.”
“Day in and day out, girls and young women are exposed to lies and stereotypes on the internet about who they are, how they look and how they should behave. Images and videos are distorted to objectify and shame them while setting dangerously unrealistic standards. Rumors are a weapon that are wielded against girls, and in this day and age serve as a form of abuse.”
As part of its Girls Get Equal campaign, Plan International is supporting girls worldwide in calling on governments to take immediate action to increase children and young people’s digital literacy, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to identify false information and engage confidently in online spaces.
The organization's survey found that seven out of 10 girls and young women (67 percent) have never been taught how to spot misinformation or disinformation at school. In Jordan, less than half (48 percent) of the surveyed girls and young women feel able to spot misinformation or disinformation.
Abbas continued “The truth is crucial for girls to make safe decisions and to have power and control over their lives. But right now, girls remain wary about what to believe, who to trust and where to find the truth.
“We must equip girls and all children for an increasingly digitalized world. That’s why we are backing girls’ calls for media and digital literacy to be included in their education.”
The girls’ petition can be signed at this link: https://plan-international.org/sign-girls-petition